Walleye Central Lake Erie Get-Together
November 4-8,1998  Huron,OH

By Sheila Ryan

Reefer on Erie

The Gull Motel in Huron, Ohio was like “walleye combat headquarters” where the majority of fishermen converged for Rick LaCourse’s Fishing Extravaganza this past weekend. It was also Walleye Central’s first big fish-together. I couldn’t wait to go there on Thursday to hear about the fishing action and meet others I’d come to know well on the best walleye web site on the internet.

Bruce DeShano, Gary Engberg, Greg Horoky and Mike Jensen (all walleye pros) were busy getting their boats cleaned up and plugged in after their day on Erie. More fishermen continued to pour in from the lake. It was a buzzing atmosphere filled with excitement as coolers of large Lake Erie walleyes were displayed. Everyone was meeting everyone. George Fredins’ group arrived with some mighty huge fish they caught fishing with guide Rocco Pappindrea. I asked Rocco where they caught them. He said “it’s a trade secret” with a wink. “Come on Rocco! That’s a big lake out there” I teased him. Then I asked George what they planned to do with all those walleyes. “We’re going to eat them! Come on out to our fish fry at Camp Perry.” I was kind of taken back. Those fish were practically mounters! This is Erie and like anywhere, feasting on one’s own fresh catch is a great tribute to its bounty.

Outside of comparing notes on presentations and depths, there was a lot of talk going around about the Bionic Minnow. What is the darn thing, and why can’t we try it out ahead of time? Renosky Lures was sponsoring a tournament on Saturday and giving the new lure to all the participants to use. How cool - a free tournament for great fishermen (both pros and amateurs from all over the country), and a chance to win some money while field testing a new lure developed by the guy that created the Banjo Minnow. This added an interesting twist to Walleye Central’s first big fishing get-together. We all knew this was the “first annual” whatever and it was totally exciting to be here.

Friday started with breakfast at Berardi’s. About 20 of us were lined up at 6:30a.m. when they finally opened the door to let us in. “Bigfoot” Rick LaCourse came in shortly after. Typical of Rick’s knowledge and generosity, he strolled over to Mike Jensen (my day’s fishing partner), put his arm around him and said “6 ½ miles out, about 35 feet down and you’ll catch ‘em deep Mike.”  At the next table over, “Reefer” Rick Cole also volunteered to show us some action areas. I went over to Reefer to wish him good luck and muttered sort of low “let’s catch some 12 pounders."

It was a brisk day heading out on Lake Erie. Once out of the protection of the Huron River, the waves were in full force.  Mike hammered it anyway in his Ranger. All I could do was duck to avoid a constant splash of cold water. In true “trooper” form, I loved it! Every so often I’d look up to check Jerry and Mike and laugh as the spray slapped them repeatedly in the face. I got a good glimpse of “Just Look’N” Bob Keeney roaring out behind us in his Thompson. “Check it out guys, Just Look’N’s coming! At least he’s got a top on.” We were all simply pounding. Normal people would think we were maniacs. Well, I guess when it comes to walleye fishing we really are maniacs!

About 7 miles out on Lake Erie I thought we were on our way to Canada. We shut down and rigged up some live bait spinners spreading them out with four Off Shore Tackle planer boards. An hour or so later, Mike got out the cell phone to call Ric Smith. No answer. Then the phone rang. It was Harry Stiles calling from South Dakota. Mike says “No Harry haven’t caught anything yet. It’s rough and it’s snowing…” Blasts of fish catches kept coming over the marine radio, “another one on the black & silver…”  I talked Mike into switching to big cranks, so we got to work setting out a mixture of various types and colors. Mike also dropped down a leadcore line. We caught a couple of smaller walleyes and traveled quite far on our troll. Deciding to pick up and make another pounding ride back a couple miles, I guess we chomped one of Reefer’s board lines - a cardinal sin in fishing. We never saw it Reefer. Sorry about that! Next long troll finally put us on top of a heard. One big one after another and we worked up a sweat. Nothing like huge 8-9 pound Erie walleyes to get your adrenaline flowing. Now I know why I came to the outing!

Just Look'N-Bob Keeney

Back at headquarters - the Gull - exhilaration was the predominant feeling. Lots of guys were standing around a big cooler. “Let’s have a look. WOW!!!” I couldn’t believe the size of the walleyes in Just Look’N’s cooler! 11#, 10#, 9#….and more. I ran to my van to grab my camera. Gotta get pictures of Bob with these fish… Couldn’t help myself as I said to Bob “bet you hope your luck’s as good tomorrow during the tourney.” He agreed it could be tough to duplicate that catch another day in a row. Gary Engberg mentioned something about hawgs. I got to thinking, these babies are “wawgs”. Everyone proceeded to the fillet table where major walleye poundage was cleaned and bagged by many that day.

Later Friday night about 30 or so of us enjoyed an intimate dinner at the Angry Bull. I say intimate, because when you can hear Ted Takasaki and Mark Brumbaugh comparing tourney scores and experiences as PWT Champions across the table - well I consider that special! I wish I carried a little hidden tape recorder around. Rick LaCourse probably saw me listening to these guys with my mouth gaping open when he said from the next table over “Hey Sheila. Did you ever think you’d get to have dinner with 3 Walleye Champions at the same time?” I blurted “No way. This is completely AWESOME!” Scott & Ebi, we all wished you were there. You would’ve been proud!

3 PWT Champs-Rick,Ted,Mark

While heading out of the restaurant with Joe Renosky, his girlfriend Lisa, film crew, and Dawn Charging (aka Johnnie Candle’s wife), they told me they would be filming documentary during tomorrow’s tournament and fishing on Ric Smith’s Busy B. Lucky me already lined up a ride on the Busy B. This was going to be fun!

Saturday morning I shot down to Berardi’s again and joined up with Bruce DeShano. He gave me the bad report. The winds were up and the tourney was going to be cancelled. It was too rough. Darn it all. I went down to the launch and it looked like everyone was ready to go. Joe showed up and passed out Bionic Minnow kits. Then Bigfoot made the announcement that they had to call off the tournament. Knowing many would still fish anyway, they announced a $500 bounty for the biggest fish. Big fish weigh-in would end at 1:00p.m.  Some threw in the towel. Others headed out like it was any other day on Erie.

Opting for open water fresh air, I hung on tight on the back deck of the Busy B as we charged out. Ronnie (Busy B 1st Mate) told me I might get wet. Ha! It couldn’t be like the day before. “I’m used to it” I shouted. Lots of boats followed behind in the path. When we reached our destination and started to troll, it seemed we had drawn a pretty big crowd. “Lotta boats out here Ric” I commented. He said “yeah, I hope they don’t hang around like that all day”. Ronnie and Toby jumped on the rods. Out went huge boards. Down went 12 lines in no time flat. These guys are good. “Um Ronnie, just let me know when you need help reeling ‘em in. I’m available.” Joe was on the rigging. Think the guys originally put out maybe 3 Bionic Minnows. We didn’t get too much action right away. Reports were already coming in the walleyes were being taken on the Bionic Minnow. Hooray! One by one, Joe reeled in lines and added more Bionic rigs. About 5-6’ above was a Dipsy Diver. The divers were set to take the lures down 35-38’ - I think. Ric was living out his namesake “busy” - driving in high seas, talking on the cell phone, responding to marine band calls. Ronnie (aka “cammo boy”) said it made him nervous. Toby served up some warm Diet Coke. Dawn and I snacked on Cheese Nips. We finally started taking fish and Joe’s camera mate began filming. That is, until a little later when the seas started to do their thing. It was rough work filming in those rock-n-roll waves and our camera man was getting seasick. Oh no. The fish slowed up and he took a nice little heave.

Dawn Charging

As the day progressed Lisa, Joe and I took many turns reeling in fish. Joe and Ronnie had a count going down on the lure successes. At one point it was 3 Bionic - 3 on cranks and spoons. Then the Bionics broke out. One after another walleye came in on all different colors of Bionic Minnows and each one seemed to be bigger than the last. Dawn Charging was really enjoying the action. She shot pictures of everything interesting. She even tried capturing the rough seas too.

The winds continually picked up and we all started worrying about the smaller boats. Ric got on the radio and told everyone to take it easy coming in. He extended a lot of wise advice and support to everyone out there. We marked a super hot spot and on our final pass over it Ronnie took one last fish, the biggest “wawg” of the day on the Busy B. It was a great ending to a great day of fishing.

Lisa and Joe

Now Ronnie, being used to doing the charter thing, put all the fish in a dry cooler holding tank. Ric told him today was the day he should water down the fish - keep ‘em fresh. Ronnie forgot, and later at the big fish weigh-in we thought about his fish losing some weight in that dry cooler. We heard on the radio that Reefer took an 11# fish and was taking his time coming in. Ronnie’s fish weighed in at 10.2#.

Bigfoot-Rick LaCourse

Rick LaCourse was having a gas at weigh-in. With the tourney called off, it was a pretty informal thing. Rick held up everyone’s big walleyes for the camera like they were his own. What a great guy. That’s Ric Smith giving him the devil horns. We all hung around in anticipation of Reefer coming in with the 11#lber.

Reefer-Rick Cole and friends

Last of the fishing pack, Reefer finally pulled in to the docks. Anticipation was high as they brought the big walleye up to the scale. It registered 10.45# (not quite 11). Sure enough, it was the big fish of the day and it was taken on a Bionic Minnow. The $500 bounty was theirs. The Renosky Lure film crew went into action. Lots of hand shaking and picture taking going down. Congratulations guys! Joe was convinced. He announced the Bionic Minnow tournament would happen again next year.

The aura of celebration was extremely high (despite the tournament being cancelled) back at the Angry Bull Saturday night during another big dinner party. Lots of guys and gals enjoyed great Lake Erie walleye fishing. Everyone returned safely from the lake. The Bionic Minnow proved to be a success. The number of fishermen that came in for the outing was impressive. The sun finally came out on Saturday. Most people seemed to really have a good time. The opportunities to mingle with the pros, pick up new techniques, and meet other internet fishing comrades all at the same time were fantastic. The only thing some of us didn’t get a chance to do was night-fish. The Huron River stacks them in during later November when they come off the big Lake following bait into the river shallows. Guess you can’t have everything!

Many thanks go out to:  Rick LaCourse and Renosky Lures for sponsoring the event; Scott Golden and Tom Ebi for organizing it through Walleye Central; Ric Smith for his Captain’s guidance; the great professionals who came out; and all the internet fishermen and their friends for coming to Lake Erie. In the wonderful spirit of fishing friendship, everyone made this event a true walleye saga!

Copyright © 1998 Sheila Ryan

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