FLW Walleye Tour Championship Begins Today on Leech Lake in Walker, MN
September 22, 2010
It’s the first day of the FLW Walleye Tour’s Championship event on Leech Lake in Walker, MN and the 40 championship qualifiers from the Eastern and Western divisions blasted off to near perfect conditions this morning. Fishing Leech Lake for the second year in a row, and according to many of the anglers, this event should be a lot tougher than it was last June. June is the prime month to catch Walleye on this body of water and the bite has been made tougher by the amount of forage in the system after a season of growth. “It’s a full moon this week too, so what I think is happening is that the fish are just gorging themselves at night and by morning they are stuffed and not biting early in the day”, said Toby Kvalevog of Brainerd, MN. Obeying a slot limit with restrictions on fish from 18-26 inches, anglers are targeting fish just under that 18 inch mark and over 26 inches. Each angler will be allowed one fish over 26 inches per day, so the perfect basket would be three small fish and two big fish. But, the word on the street is that the big fish are hard to come by at this time of year.
Covering over 111,527 acres and 230 miles of shoreline, this lake reaches a maximum depth of 150 feet, but 80% of the lake is less than 35 feet deep. The lake is surrounded by the Chippewa National Forest and features many large and diverse bays that anglers can fish. Rigging live bait, such as Red Tail Chubs, crawlers, or leeches will be the most popular presentation, but we should also see some people jigging, or trolling crankbaits or spinners too. What will be the winning presentation? We’ll find out on Saturday afternoon at the end of the tournament!
The entire field will fish the first two days, and then they will cut to the top ten Pros and top ten Co Anglers for day three. At the end of weigh in on day three the Co Angler Champion for 2010 will be awarded $5,000.00 and up to $12,000.00 if he or she qualifies for contingency bonuses. The Pros will fish a final day on Saturday and the winning Pro is guaranteed a cash prize of $20,000.00 and up to $40,000.00 if he qualifies for any contingency bonus awards.
Conditions at take off this morning were:
Temp: 45 degrees
Humidity: 100 %
Wind Speed: Calm
Dewpoint: 43 °F (6 °C)
Visibility: 10.00 mi.
Forecast for the rest of the week:
Today: Isolated sprinkles after 4pm. Partly sunny, with a high near 59. East wind between 5 and 10 mph.
Tonight: Isolated showers, then showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm after 1am. Some of the storms could produce heavy rainfall. Cloudy, with a low around 48. East wind between 10 and 15 mph, with gusts as high as 15 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Thursday: Showers and possibly a thunderstorm. Some of the storms could produce heavy rainfall. High near 54. East wind between 15 and 20 mph, with gusts as high as 42 mph. Chance of precipitation is 90%.
Thursday Night: Showers likely and possibly a thunderstorm. Cloudy, with a low around 45. North wind around 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph. Chance of precipitation is 60%.
Friday: Mostly cloudy, with a high near 57. North wind between 5 and 15 mph, with gusts as high as 25 mph.
Friday Night: A 30 percent chance of showers. Mostly cloudy, with a low around 46.
Saturday: A slight chance of showers. Mostly sunny, with a high near 62.
I spoke with several of the Pros last night at the rules meeting to ask them how many days they were able to prefish for this event, and how their prefishing went for them. I also asked a few what their game plans were, and here were their responses in no particular order:
Jason Przekurat: We actually came here a little early. I got here Wednesday of last week, so I got almost a full week of practice in. I’m taking this one pretty serious (he chuckles). I need to win one of these championships, or at least get a top three. It’s been a pretty good week for us. I’ve had a good practice and figured some things out. But, every day it changes with the weather here, so it’s good to have plenty of spots to move to when the weather changes. After 6 days of practice I’m ready to get this thing under way. (Smiles)
Juls: How has the bite been for you? Can I ask?
Jason: Last year we were here in June, and June is the best month to be here. The fishing was phenomenal last June and even then you have a hard time getting the “overs’…you know, it’s hard anywhere you go, but now, this time of year, the big transition time of year, the water temps down in the 50’s.
Juls: Has it turned over already?
Jason: You know what? I’m not that knowledgeable about this system, but there’s no thermocline here. I couldn’t find any anywhere.
Juls: So, if you had to guess, you would say, “yes”?
Jason: I would say there’s nothing going on, and if this lake does not ever have a thermocline then there was no turn over to begin with. If it did, it’s done. The water is done mixing and the water is good and ready to go. But, catching those “overs” right now is going to be tough, just because it’s that time of the year when the transition happens.
Juls: And, there’s a full moon….
Jason: Yeah, there’s always that to deal with. Ideally, right now I’m looking for 17 ½ inch “unders” and I think I can catch 5 of those a day. And, if I can do that for four days, I think a guy would end up in the top 5 if he can catch 17 ½ inch fish four days in a row.
Juls: Normally, in a regular season event, you get three days to fish and try to make the cut. This time you only get two days. How does that figure into your game plan? What is your game plan?
Jason: It doesn’t really change anything or how we’re thinking. It’s really just two tournaments in one. If you make the finals, you kind of change your game plan and you become a little more aggressive. If you’re keeping those 16 ½’s the first two days, you might throw those back the third day or fourth day, just trying to catch a bigger one. So, there are a lot of rules we need to follow this week, like going from keeping 7 fish early in the tournament, to later on in the tournament, if we make the finals, you can only keep four even if you have a co angler. We can cull up until we put the 7th fish in the box, but there’s a lot of stuff we have to think about as far as what we’re going to do.
Pete Harsh: I think I’ve been here 5 days. The fishing has been horrible for me. I think I’ve caught 5 big fish and none over 26 inches. I haven’t even caught a limit of slot fish yet. My friends are calling me from all over asking me what I think my chances are and what I think and I tell them, “Well, you know me…I’m never confident before a tournament, and this tournament I’ve got good reason not to be”! (Laughs) How’s that for the truth? (Laughs heartily) It’s a tough bite. It is for me. Somebody always gets them. Somebody will be on them. What I thought would be working for me is an occasional fish and I really felt I needed about 20 fish between 22 and 26 to get one or two over 26. I needed to do those kinds of numbers. I’ve been here five days and I’ve caught about a quarter of that in 5 days. I think one day we had a 23 and a 25, but I’m really having trouble even finding fish, reading them on my depth finder, or getting more than one fish off a spot. It’s just really difficult.
Juls: Do you think that the full moon and the amount of forage in the system is a reason why? Think maybe they just have full bellies during the day and are off resting someplace out of the way?
Pete: Possibly. This is not a lake that is known for producing this time of year. I’ve had a number of locals, including the guides say, “”Why are you guys here? This is not the time to come here”. So, once again, we’re on good water, but we’re just here at the wrong time. I love Leech Lake. I’ve made a $100,000.00 on it during different tournaments, but it’s all be June or maybe even early July. And, right now, to all the guys who got it figured out, all I can say is, “Hats off to you”.
Mark Courts: I’ve been here a week. It has been a tough practice. We definitely had different conditions every day, so that’s moved some things around. One of the things we had is this cold weather, and the water getting stirred up every day. So, one of the things we’re faced with is the dropping temperatures every day.
When we first got here some of the areas were 62-63 and now we’re down to 52-54, so you’re seeing a drastic temperature change over the last few days. Even last week, it had dropped even more, so it’s made the fishing difficult and you really had to stay on them. The fish are moving around and hopefully, we think we found something, so we’ll find out. We’ve got lots of spots we can go and cover a lot of water, and the fish should be there.
Dan Stier: Oh, 5 or 6 days. The fishing was marginal to slow. We covered a lot of different water and a lot of different depths. I never sat anywhere too long, so I don’t know exactly how it will produce, but there are fish around.
Juls: The last time the FLW was at Leech Lake was last June, and I believe you won that event, how is this bite compared to the bite in June?
Dan: The bite isn’t really good yet, but it’s going to get better. The fish are in transition right now. There is a lot more forage in this body of water right now, so the baitfish population is way high compared to the spring when the fishing was just getting started, so there’s much more of a variety to eat from. Compared to the spring when it’s basically just your minnow bite, or just starting a crawler bite last year. Now they’ve got minnows, leeches, bugs, grasshoppers, everything, you name it…they’re eating everything! So, the fish are just transitioning, coming from deep water up to shallow water, so they’re everywhere. The wind dictates a lot and you just need to land on the right pocket of fish.
Juls: Well, I hear it’s going to be windy here later this week…
Dan: That’s good. Wind is good here. (Laughs) But, you can go to a spot and just rip them up one day and the wind switches and you can’t even buy a fish there, so you have to stay on your game and keep moving around. Look for the active fish and hopefully run into them.
Tom Keenan: I got 4 ½ days of prefishing in. It was pretty good. The fishing is a lot tougher than it was last year, obviously. A lot of things have changed. I put together a pattern pretty well actually and I’m pretty excited to fish! I think I can catch them any way the wind blows, or doesn’t blow, I think I can catch them. I’m expecting a really good championship to be honest with you.
Juls: Awesome! You’re the first I’ve spoken to with that kind of confidence in this bite here.
Tom: I’ve caught a big fish or two every day and I’m really excited to get fishing to be honest with you. I could be wrong, because you still have to get lucky and get the right bite, but I do believe we’re doing the right thing to win this tournament. I have a really good chance to win this thing. I might not, but I have a good chance. I’m on the right pattern.
To find out what kind of bite the Pros experienced today, join us here on Walleye Central’s Live Leader Board at www.liveleaderboard.com as we bring you up to the minute results as the anglers weigh in.
The weigh in held today and tomorrow will be at the Walker City Park beginning at 4 p.m. Central Time. The weigh in for Friday and Saturday will be held at the Northern Lights Casino parking lot located at 6800 Y Frontage Road NW in Walker starting at 4 p.m.
Beginning Friday afternoon from 1 to 4 p.m FLW Outdoors is holding the “Family Fun Zone” at the Northern Lights Casino. It’s open to the public and FREE to attend. There you can find the National Guard obstacle course and rock climbing wall, a Ranger Boat simulator, where you can feel what it’s like to drive one of the best boats on the market today, and chat with several of the Pros who will be in attendance if they didn’t make the top ten cut this weekend. It’s an opportunity to pick their brains or just grab an autograph.
For more information on fishing or attending an FLW Walleye Tour event please visit their site at www.flwoutdoors.com.
FLW Outdoors released the 2011 season schedule at the rules meeting last night. Here are the dates and locations:
May 5-7 Lake Erie Port Clinton, Ohio
June 9-11 Leech Lake Walker, Minn.
July 21-23 Green Bay Oconto, Wis.
Aug. 25-27 Lake Oahe Pierre, S.D.
FLW Walleye Tour Championship
Sept. 22-25 Missouri River Bismarck, N.D.
“We are excited about the 2011 Walleye Tour and what it will offer our anglers and we think our excitement has been displayed with the increase in the purse for the 2010 championship,” said Kathy Fennel, President of FLW Outdoors Operations Division. “The four events will lead to a stronger and more competitive season culminating with the championship. We are also confident anglers will be excited with the announcements regarding the tour that we will release in the near future.”
At last night’s rules meeting the 2010 Angler of the Year for the Eastern and Western Divisions, along with the over all 2010 FLW Walleye Tour Angler of the Year were awarded their trophies.
Winner of the Eastern Division AOY title is Tom Keenan of Hatley, WI.
Winner of the Western Division AOY title is Bill Shimota of Lonsdale, MN
Winner of the Over all FLW Walleye Tour AOY is Paul Meleen of Isle, MN
After receiving his award, Paul shared a few thoughts with the crowd last night. Here is what he said:
“First off, I want to thank Jimmy and Matt, who tied lots of line, and abused me to keep me focused, and I wouldn’t be up here if it wasn’t for them. And, probably the emotional part for me today is, when I was a kid I had an uncle that lived in Michigan. He would spend his whole summer vacations back in Minnesota and he always took me fishing. And he’s a true military guy, and a Vet, and he was supposed to get his new pace maker put in today. I don’t know how he got it done, but he got his pace maker put in over the weekend, so he could be here today, and that means the world to me, and that’s my Uncle Jim in the back. (Applause)
And, I have two quick things…I would not be standing here if it weren’t for the equipment I run, and many of you run the same equipment, and I want to take the time to thank Frank, George, and Troy from Ranger. I’ve been running those boats since the 600 series first came out, and I don’t need to tell you about them, because you all run them…that’s simply said.
I want to thank Tim Price for his investment in me with Humminbird and Minn-Kota.
I want to thank Krista Heidgerken for the phenomenal opportunity that was given to me, representing the “E-Team” this year, which was a tremendous experience for me. And, I encourage all the Walleye people…I had the opportunity to go to the Bass Master Classic and the FLW Tour Cup, and it’s amazing how in those vast venues they talk about Walleye fishermen and Walleye, and there is a lot of curiosity and intrigue, and believe it or not, they pay attention to us Walleye anglers. So, I encourage you to reach out to them and engage them. I think it will be good for all of us in this sport.
If it wasn’t for those focal people and the equipment that I use, I wouldn’t be standing here. So, I thank them as my “team” of sponsors of the products that I use. I think it’s made a huge difference for my fishing ability this season.
Two more things, and that is…as you guys and gals know…when the season is over here and you’re up in your tree stand, or you do a little fall fishing, or you get ready for ice fishing, and things of that nature…all of the sponsors have invested a tremendous amount of dollars, so we can all chase our dreams and do this, and if we can all put in a little effort into selling a motor, and I don’t care what motor you run, or what brand electronics you run, it’s all one big “family”, but if you could make an effort in selling a few more products I think that would bode well for our circuit, our fishing, and our future. Like I said, with the investment they’ve made in us, we need to generate sales for them, so they can continue to support us and the FLW. I think that’s important.
And, the last thing is, I’ve got to tell you, my daughter has prefished with me in 9 events this year, and in 5 of those 9 events I made the cut, including Winnebago this year, which was a very difficult tournament. So, I talked to my wife and we are going to home school our daughter, so look out boys, because I’m sure she’s going to be prefishing with me at all of the events! (Crowd roars with laughter) You have to take advantage of those opportunities any way you can! (Laughs)
In closing, and most importantly is, and this means a lot to me… I remember standing here and listening to several of the previous AOY’s…Chris Gilman, and Jason Przekurat, and the people that have won the AOY before…(he does a shout out saying, “Thanks for not fishing the west this year, Keenan!”…more laughter) They have all stood up here and stated how important it was for the base of the family and the support and this and that, and there was a period of a time where my businesses, and I’m not making excuses, but I had a lot going on , and I didn’t fish very well… last year, my wife’s business slowed down and before the championship she said, “You know, I’m going to pick up the slack at your businesses…you go focus on fishing”. From the championship last year, through the championship this year, the results speak for themselves. To my wife, (he’s saying through choked back tears), I thank you!”