Saturday, October 10, 2015

NWT Championship Recap

History of Devils Lake

The final stop of the 2015 NWT was the Championship on Devils Lake in North Dakota. I had never been to Devils Lake and I was not on a team so I had to come up with a plan focused on a few areas. This was easier said than done. I had read about the water rising over the years but I didn't really understand it until I hit the water.

Devils Lake is a glacial lake that has been fluctuating up and down over the last 10,000 years. In 1940 the lake was only 2 feet deep. According to the North Dakota Water Commission Devils Lake covered 43,000 surface acres in 1993. At its peak in 2011 this swelled to 211,000 acres a rise of 46 feet This was evident by the number of roads, trees, bridges, combines, barns and everything in between that is flooded. As you can imagine there are a lot of places for walleyes to hide. For more history of Devils Lake check out this link


I arrived Saturday afternoon and got on the water with my buddy Rich around 3. Expectations were low for the first day we just wanted to get out for a few hours to get a feel for the lake. We started with Jigging Raps and I tied into this monster white bass.

This was a good sign. The reason the walleyes are so fat on Devils Lake is because they are eating white bass and perch both of which are abundant. We caught a bunch of little walleyes and I missed a giant. We pulled up to our next spot, popped my jigging rap a couple of times and bam, Papa John.

Crap, the first legal fish I catch is over 10 pounds on the first day of pre-fishing. It is like winning your first hand in poker. I sent this picture to a friend and he said "you used your big fish card already?" Unfortunately, he was right but it was an awesome fish!

The next few days we spent looking for similar spots. I was just amazed with the never ending back bays. You would see a dozen boats go back into an area and I had no idea where they went or how they got there as my map was showing water to shallow to navigate. I did find an area that had some nice fish in Pelican Lake. We caught 2 nice fish trolling a small stretch that was away from boats. Unfortunately, we could not replicate this later in the week so by tournament day I ruled it out.

Catching fish was not a problem it was finding the right fish that was becoming a challenge. We did find a spot that had a lot of fish in the 18 to 19 inch range which were fun to catch but they weren't going to help me during the tournament. With so much water to cover I decided to change my strategy and fish the lake like a river. I concentrated on the bridges all of which had good current. There were a lot of fish at the bridges with most being small. However, we did catch a couple in the 4-5 pound range. I thought I could get 15-17 pounds at the bridges if everything went well and I would start and finish my day at the Papa John spot. 

Tournament Days

On day 1 I ran to my Papa John spot and had it to myself. Most of the fish we caught were small but we did catch a fat 18 incher that I reluctantly put in the box as you could only keep 8 fish, weighing your best 5. We then ran to the bridges where we must have caught 100 walleyes. Again most were small but we did have our chances. We lost a four plus pounder and I netted the jigging rap rather than the 20 inch walleye that was on the line. It was that kind of day. We were throwing back 18 inchers all day, then the wind really picked up making boat control difficult. I had to box a couple of 16 inchers at the end of the day to fill our limit. This was not the day I had hoped for finishing with 5 walleyes that weighed a disappointing 8-05.

I was pretty much out of the tournament but with Papa John swimming around there was a slight chance a could post a big number. I did the exact same thing on day 2. No Papa John so I headed to the bridges. Things went a little better as we were able to connect on 3 fish over 20 inches and kept 2 18's by 11. I could have stayed there to get a 15-16 pound limit but that wasn't going to help so we spent the rest of the day looking for big fish. That didn't happen and I ended up with 5 that weighed 13.24. That resulted in a finish of 47 out of 77 NWT Results.

Although disappointed it still was a great experience. I was never really on them but I put the best plan I could to give myself a chance. I fished a clean, drama free tournament. There was a lot of drama for the tournament which involved a back hoe, a county road and a flooded lake. I didn't even know it existed but it did explain why some boats were disappearing. This caused quite the ruckus which was amusing. 

All in all it was fun year. I ended the angler of the year race in 33rd place NWT Angler of the Year. It is hard for me to look back and think I should/could have done much better. Oh well, I learned a lot and if I am able to apply those learnings the results will follow! I am looking forward to 2016!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

NWT Green Bay Recap


My preparation for the third stop of the NWT on Green Bay was delayed for good reason. I had the honor of hosting an episode of Lund The Ultimate Fishing Experience. We had two days set aside to make sure we had enough footage for the show. Unfortunately, the Lake Mendota walleye's had moved off of structure and they were camera shy. Luckily, we caught a lot of nice smallmouth bass and I think it will be a great show! 

Because of the show and a busy time of the year with work I wasn't ready for Green Bay. I spent Sunday morning preparing my gear and packing and finally got on the water around 4. I picked up my Co-angler, Sargeant Rich and we hit some structure on the east side. We had a perfect wind for the spot and we got into fish right away, nice ones too! Catching fish on the first spot in pre-fishing is like winning your first hand of poker! At a minimum I was going to have some sleepless nights wondering if those fish would still be there for the tournament.

These fish were fat as they had an all you can eat buffet of alewives that were being blown into the structure. In two hours we had three fish over 7 pounds, including a double, along with fish from 14" to 25". I would guess over 30 pounds. Hmm this is easy!


My past tournaments this time of year on Green Bay usually went like this: Catch big fish in the mud during pre-fishing, fish move, I don't adapt, crappy finish. I changed my approach last year at the NWT on Little Bay de Noc and concentrated on structure. I followed that same approach and concentrated on east shoreline structure. This was all new water to me as I had not fished much north of Vincent Point. I was really optimistic especially after day one of pre-fishing!

My back up plan was to look for fish on the mud flats. Again, we found fish right away! My cousin Sam joined us on Monday of pre-fishing. Because I fish alone it is nice to have others in my boat to help me search for fish. Only those that are fishing in the tournament can fish the last two days of pre-fishing so we got Sam in the Lund to search for fish in the mud.

We caught 12-14 fish from 23" to 27". I think Sam thinks this walleye fishing is easy. He pre-fished with me last year in the Cedar River area and we crushed them.

My buddy Mark Michael joined us the rest of the week. This area was hot with some monster fish caught like this 10 pounder.

I checked the area and by Thursday I had lost them. It was a blast catching them though!

I checked my spot on the east side two other times and only caught one 22" walleye. However, the wind wasn't right if there was wind at all. The wind was forecasted to be out of the SW at 10-20 for day one of the tournament. That is the wind I wanted so I spent the rest of practice looking for other places on the east side. I was nervous going into day one but I thought I could pull 25-30 pounds in my primary spot. If time permitted I had a few spots on the way back that made me feel better.

Day One

I drew a great partner on day one, John Kukulka. We made the 30 plus mile trek to my primary spot. The wind was blowing as predicted but we were fishing by 8:00. I always try to find spots off the beaten path and this was one of them. In the two days of fishing only one other boat fished the area and that was only for about an hour. 

The bite wasn't fast and furious but we were catching a walleye on every pass. At first they were 15"-22" but then we caught a 25 and 26" walleye on consecutive passes. We slowly put a decent basket of fish together and made the trip back. We ended up weighing 24.64 pounds good for 35th place. I was only 3 spots out of the money and was confident that I could catch at least what I did on day one. Usually if you match your weight on day one you will move up in the standings. If I could get to 50 pounds for the two days I was confident that would make for a nice check!

Day Two

On day 2 I drew my pre-fishing partner, Sargeant Rich. I couldn't have been happier as Rich knows how I fish, knew the spot we were fishing and happens to be a good fisherman. The wind had switched from the NW. As long as there was wind I was confident. 

We got to the spot and the bite was slower than day one. Most of the fish came on the shallow side of the break. We did get one around three pounds that I threw back but that was it. After three passes I moved out to the deep side of the break and we caught a 22" walleye that I kept. We caught a 25" and a 26" walleye each of the next two passes. We caught another 22" that I threw back as I thought we had them figured out. I was sure we were going to get 2-3 more 25 to 26 inchers.  That was around 11:30 which also was about the time the wind died and we did not catch another fish! After seeing weights that came in I was really bummed that I threw those fish back. However, I am sure there were a lot of people that did the same.

Disappointing Finish

The three fish weighed 14.96 pounds which dropped me to 50th place NWT GB Results. I had a great game plan and executed well for a day and a half. Unfortunately, that is not good enough when you are fishing against a talented field of anglers. I will learn from this tournament and apply my learnings in the future. I am looking forward to fishing the championship on Devil's Lake. This will be my first time on Devil's Lake. I will have a lot of water to cover by myself in a short amount of time but I think I can put a plan together to finish the year strong!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Leech Lake Recap


I arrived in Walker, MN with high hopes. I was not fishing on a team, luckily Co-Angler Sargeant Rich was able to join me to pre-fish. With almost 103,000 acres and 195 miles of shoreline the extra rod in the boat was welcomed! Having never fished Leech I used my research to come up with a game plan to target "unders" and "overs".

Slot Limit

Leech Lake has a slot limit where all fish between 20" and 26" must be released. My task was to find spots where I could catch a limit of "unders" as close to 20" as possible along with spots where I could catch fish over 26". The first couple of days we caught a lot of fish with most being in the protected slot. 

There was one spot in particular that was just loaded with slot fish. There were also 19" walleyes mixed in and they were fat!

We ended up getting a strong pattern fishing in 5'-7' of water. I was jigging and Rich was long lining a leech. From Saturday through Wednesday the jig bite was on fire. On Wednesday the leech bite started to improve. Leech Lake is known to be wind driven. My number one spot had the perfect wind the first two times I was there. This had me concerned if conditions changed. I tried it again in the middle of the day with high sun and flat calm conditions. It didn't matter that place was loaded with fish. Now I needed a couple of back up spots just in case.

I had a nice crank bait bite going on until Wednesday. As you can see from the photo above the walleyes were eating my Taildancer's. Unfortunately, when I checked the area on Thursday I didn't mark any fish and there was a huge mayfly hatch. I worked the area pretty good with no luck and I ruled out that area. I did find a couple of backup spots on main lake reefs. When the wind was blowing in the bite was easy. It was a bit tougher when the wind laid down.

I focused on Walker Bay to find my overs. I found a couple of points that had fish and didn't have the heavy fishing pressure that the humps had. My game plan was set. I would start in Walker Bay, try for an "over", then head to main spot. I thought I would have to go through 20-30 fish to catch the right ones. With the size I was catching I thought I could weigh between 12 and 13 pounds just with "unders". I was feeling pretty good as you can see in my interview with WalleyeFirst WalleyeFirst Roy Vivian.

Day 1

I started in Walker Bay and I was able to get to my spot. There were two other boats working the same area but there was plenty of room and the fish were there. We were using the largest red tail chubs we could get our hands on. We had three fish pick our chubs but we just couldn't get them to commit. It was like they were just playing with the chubs, killing them in the process. It was agonizing to see them on the screen and yet not get them to go. We stayed there for two hours, which in retrospect, was probably an hour too long.

I was still feeling confident as we made our run to my primary spot. There was no wind but that did not concern me as that was all in my plan. We get there and see a huge slick of mayfly shells. Uh oh! The spot I thought I was going to catch 20-30 fish was dead. We pounded the area and my co-angler caught the only walleye which was a 22" slot fish. I thought I could get them to bite but I was wrong. After talking to a few friends when there is a big mayfly hatch in shallow water it makes for a really tough bite. We stayed until about 12:30 with the skunk still in the boat!

I was due back at 3 so we had to get on some fish quick. I went to my backup spot on the mid-lake reefs. I was marking fish but they were reluctant to bite. We were able to get a fish here and there ending up with 3 little squirts that weighed 4.31 pounds. We just ran out of time. Had I got there a little earlier we would have at least got our limit. So much for the optimism I showed in that WalleyeFirst interview!

Day 2

My plan was the same as Day 1 with the exception of only spending one hour in Walker Bay and an hour less at my primary spot. Due to the slot limit I knew I had a chance to cash a check but I would need an over. I started in Walker Bay and there was a boat on my primary area. I am sure he saw what I did and hovered over those fish. He didn't hook up and neither did I so I left around 8.

We get to my primary spot and barely start when my co-angler hooked up with what appeared to be a slot fish. Much to our surprise it was only 19-1/4" but it looked like it swallowed a football! The fish weighed a hair over 3 pounds which is hard to believe but I wasn't going to complain. It is a shock that fish had room for a leech in it's stomach as it was just full of mayflies. Knowing five of these would get me back in the game I pounded the area. We caught one more 17" walleye that was outside of my primary area. My co-angler was in 9th place, to keep him in the top 10 I had to get close to 10 pounds so we headed to the main lake reefs.

Just like the day before we picked up a fish here and there. One skinny 19 incher along with a 16" and 17" walleye. The last one came at 1:30 so we headed back to Walker Bay to get that over! We got to that area and there were 5 boats. The wind was perfect so I tried my best to maneuver around with out getting in the way of others. Right off the bat I had one on that felt like an "over". I don't think I have been so disappointed catching a 23" walleye. I immediately had another fish. As I was fighting it my co-angler was reeling in his chub when he got bit. Mine ended up being a northern and we never saw the other fish. After that it was crickets. I did see an over caught which validated that they were there and I gave myself a chance.

I weighed 9.77 pounds on Day 2 which was the 25th best weight for the day. Not bad considering we didn't have an over. The good news is my co-angler, David Walker, moved up a spot and finished 8th. That made me feel great! I ended up 63rd out of 125 Leech Lake Results and only 3.86 pounds out of the money. Again a subpar day 1 was the difference. With that being said I fished a new body of water, put together a good game plan and I gave myself a chance. I can't ask for too much more. I will learn from my mistakes and apply them to future situations. Green Bay is next!

Sunday, May 17, 2015

Lake City NWT Re-cap

The NWT opener is in the books. I almost snuck into the money but ended up 1.64 pounds short with a finish of 41 out of 126 Lake City Results. This has been a hard one to swallow as I can't help but think I let a good opportunity slip away.


I arrived to unseasonably low water conditions which resulted in lower current. Generally this spreads fish out which was the case. Some traditional areas were dead water with some new areas coming into play. I spent Saturday and Sunday with my friend Chad Setterholm. We didn't exactly get off to a great start!

After an unsuccessful check of the upper portion of Pool 4 I thought of stopping at my friend Gary Nissan's favorite spot on the river, the Harbor Bar. We didn't want to ruin Gary's spot so we continued down river.

We checked out a few spots I have had success in the past. There wasn't much current but we did manage to connect with a couple of decent fish including this slimy thing! During the tournament my co-angler caught one close to 20 pounds, so much for that crank bait.

On Sunday I ran up to pool 3. The bite was a lot slower than I was expecting but we did manage to get 6 legals. The biggest surprise were the number of male walleyes we caught that were still milting. 

I had a feeling the bite would get better as the week went along. For the most part that was the case. I went back to pool 4 on Monday and caught 4 pretty nice fish but they were in 4 different spots doing three different things. I caught one pitching a jig and plastic in 3' of water. This had me pretty excited as the area was full of bait fish and I thought I might have found something. I spent three hours in that area on Tuesday only to find the bait fish were gone and so were the walleyes. I couldn't count on this area so I only used it as an area to check out if needed.

I headed back up to Pool 3 for the afternoon on Tuesday and Wednesday. The bite was improving and bigger fish started showing up in my spots. I fished with Co-angler Sargeant Richard Wright on Wednesday and we caught 10 keepers before 11 AM.

About 10 AM I pulled into a spot and we caught two nice fish right away and I lost one. Holy crap this spot was unbelievable! Realistically I didn't think I could win it there but I did think with that spot and others I could weigh 16-20 pounds a day. It was also a spot where 7-9 pounders might show up so I was feeling pretty good!

Day 1

I had a tough time sleeping the night before and had a few dry heaves before I left my hotel. I was in the first flight and had to be back at 3:00. With a long run and having to go through the lock I knew I had to be efficient and I was nervous. I had a great co-angler and we were on fish right away. We had a 22" and a 20" walleye within 10 minutes of getting to the spot and within the first hour we had another 20" and 18" walleye. This was a no-cull tournament which meant once you put the 7th in the live well your day was over. With weighing the best 5 I just threw in the 18 incher's as insurance hoping not to need them. 

Unfortunately, that was it, we did not catch another walleye all day. In fact we didn't even have one on! What in the wide world of sports was going on? I still can't believe it! We hammered that spot and I hit all of my others and we came up empty. I limped into the weigh-in with 4 fish that weighed 10.66 pounds which was good for around 79th place. You can't win it on day one but you sure can lose it!

Day 2

I was a little more relaxed going into day two and had another good co-angler. My plan was the same as day one, I felt my spots had the potential to get me into the money. The day was a reversal of day one. My "hot" spot was anything but that as we spent about 90 minutes with nothing to show for our efforts. I then went spot hopping and finally connected with a 23" walleye. About 8 spots later I connected with a 15" walleye that I was embarrassed to put in the live well but with the way the day was going I put it in the box. 

My other spots produced nothing including the spot I caught the 23. We made another attempt and my "hot" spot with no luck. It was about 2:30 so I went back downstream hoping my other spots would produce. I finally connected with an 18 inch walleye. I told my co-angler "You are going to think I am crazy but we are going back to that spot." He said "the one we have fished all day and haven't caught anything?" I said yes and just asked him to stay with it as it was the only place I had confidence that we could catch fish that would give us a chance.

We worked over the area again with the same luck. I looked back and my co-angler was in la la land probably thinking of how fast he could get on the road which was understandable. He didn't believe me when I said "FISH!" I think he said no way, are you serious and a few other words I will leave out. It wasn't a monster but it was a 22 inch walleye and it was number four. About 5 minutes later he had one hit right at the boat and it was a 25 incher. All of a sudden we have an outside shot at the money as we figured we had around 16 pounds. We needed to upgrade that 15 incher. Unfortunately that didn't happen and we had to go to make the lock. We tried a couple of spots on Pool 4 and I actually had one on that probably would have helped but it is hard to tell if it would have been enough.

We ended up with 15.85 pounds. Only catching four on day one was the difference. I did feel I had a good plan and fished a clean tournament. That doesn't make me feel any better as this one is going to sting for a while. Luckily Leech Lake is only 3 weeks away. I have never fished Leech but I am anxious to try some things I have learned over the years on Lake Mendota. Keep an eye on my Facebook Page, Roy Vivian, for updates.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

MWC IL River Re-Cap

The first tournament is in the books. 'Ol Shooter and I put ourselves in a position to win as we were third after day 1. Unfortunately, we didn't get it done on day 2 and slipped to 16th which was good enough to finish in the money. We were disappointed but in the end it was pretty good finish after a sub-par pre-fish period.


With the MWC moving the tournament to a Friday I was only going to have two days to pre-fish. I decided to head down the Saturday and Sunday before the tournament despite the river being a mess from the snowmelt. We had to do a little ice breaking even to get on the water.

This ended up being an expensive decision as one of my favorite jigging rods didn't even make it on the water. Good thing GLoomis and Shimano have a lifetime guarantee!

I pre-fished with Mark Michael and Bad Brad Munda. In two days of fishing we did not catch a fish. I wasn't surprised on Saturday as visibility was around 2". Sunday the river was well past the crest and visibility had increased to 4-5". With no rain in the forecast and mild temperatures in the forecast, there was no doubt fishing would be much better when I returned on Wednesday.

My partner, Scott Pirnstill aka Shooter, was unable to pre-fish so I called on Jim Lukancic to help me out. I felt strongly that the tournament was going to be won downstream and that is where we spent most of our time. The fish were still migrating upstream and we couldn't connect with the right fish to say the least.

We did find one area that did not have a lot of boat traffic that I felt had great potential. Jim lost a real nice fish, I caught a legal and missed one. I thought if we fished this all day we could win the tournament but we could also zero. We moved on and hooked up with a couple of decent fish and found a pod of male Sauger's up to 19" with an occasional female Sauger mixed in.

The Plan

The night before the tournament I was not happy with the game plan I put together. I really wanted to go down river but it was extremely risky. If we didn't catch a couple of nice fish we would have to go upstream and fish with a lot of boats. I thought the best plan was to go upstream, catch a limit of 18-19" males with the hope of getting a bonus fish or two while fishing deep. This way we could get a quick limit before the fish were pressured and then focus on shallow, big fish, spots.

Day 1

We started right in the middle of the river in a community spot just upriver from takeoff. We had a limit by 9 AM, the problem, most were small with the exception of an 18-1/2 female Shooter caught. You can't win on Day 1 but you can fish yourself out of the tournament so we went into grinder mode. Slowly but surely we had put a decent limit in the boat. The highlight of the morning is when I dropped my left jigging rod on the gunnel as I went to net the fish. The rod took one bounce and went in the river. I tried to net the rod but missed. The entire time Shooter is yelling at me to net his fish. I was pretty bummed and told a couple of the boats next to us to let me know if they catch my rod.

The very next pass Shooter yells "get the net"! I run to the back of the boat and he had hooked my GLoomis rod right on one of the eyelets. We were screaming and giving high five's. I am sure most thought we were crazy! 

Greenhorn Shooter, who for the second year in a row didn't pre-fish, came out firing. About 12:30 he landed a 20" male walleye and all of sudden we had a decent bag of fish going. He also lost a big fish that would have been a huge help.

I decided to move into the first break from shore and it was game on. I lost a Sauger around 20" at the net. Shooter tickled its tail with the net as it swam away. Shortly later Shooter landed an 18-1/2" female Sauger. I made another pass and caught a 20", 3 pound 9 ounce, Sauger. All of a sudden we were in contention. We made several other passes with no success so we headed down river to the spot that caused me to lose sleep.

We made one pass at my spot with no luck. Knowing that females were on that shallow break we headed back for a couple more passes. Lucky we did as Shooter caught a really fat 18" Sauger at 3:05. We ended the day sorting through 15-20 keepers to weigh 14-02 which was good enough for 3rd place, less than a pound out of first.

Day 2

We headed out in 3rd place behind Mark Mearvy who is a two time winner and a jigging legend. In first were Adam and Steve Sandor winners in 2009 when we finished third. Top that off with Danny Plautz, another past winner in 5th. That is pretty good company. Mix that in with not being confident the bigger fish would be in the same spot and I had a restless night of sleep!

Just like last year, I was hot on day 2 and we were about on the same pace as day 1. Unfortunately, we had all males, four between 18-19" but we caught a ton of 14" Sauger's that we could not upgrade. We checked the shallow break where we caught them on Day 1 but they just weren't there. I thought we had around 9 pounds and wanted to get at least 10 to secure a check. We just couldn't get that last one and we died on our spot.

It was tempting to go down river as the word was out that a lot of big weights came out of an area down river. Tempting but not right so we waited for the fish that never came. We ended up weighing 9-06 and held onto to finish 16th good enough to cash a check.

I did talk to Danny Plautz after the tournament, who finished fourth, and he caught most of his fish where I wanted to fish. I wish we could have caught an upgrade and I would have made the run. I don't know if it would have made a difference as most of the fish Danny caught were early.

All things considered it was a good tournament. We put ourselves in a position to win we just didn't get it done. Shooter and I have been in the hunt down there several times. If we keep knocking one of these days the door will open for a win! With the risk of sounding like a Cub fan, wait until next year!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

2015 Schedule - Here's My Chance

I have been anxiously waiting for the 2015 fishing season since November, 2008. New Years Day 2015 marked the start of the seventh year with my employer. I love my job and I love that I now get four weeks of vacation! This extra week will allow me to fish all four National Walleye Tour Tournaments along with one of my favorites, the MWL IL River. With gas prices at the lowest level since I began fishing tournaments and a schedule that fits my strengths, my opportunity is now.

MWC IL River - March 20-21

The longest running walleye tournament almost ended after last year's decision to have an artificial bait only tournament. The Spring Valley Walleye Club walked away from the MWC and will be holding the IL River Walleye Classic on the last weekend of March. This has always been the MWC weekend. Thankfully, politics aside, the MWC was able to find support in the community and moved up the tournament a week ensuring the streak will continue.

My partner Shooter and I have been in the hunt to win here three times including last year when we finished 3rd. I couldn't be happier with the week earlier start. The last three years I have been on a great bite the week before the tournament only to see those fish disperse when it counted. If conditions are right they will be there again. Unfortunately, that is a big IF as rapidly changing water conditions are the norm. This river will humble you in a hurry!

NWT Mississippi River Pool 4 - May 7-8

If you call your blog On the River with The Viver you better get excited about this one. I learned how to vertical jig plastics on Pool 4 and it is my favorite destination. I have fished 3 major tournaments here and have cashed two checks. I have had two really good tournament days but I haven't been able to put two really good days back to back. Fish will be in transition and will be difficult to catch in the same areas two days in a row. I am hoping to learn from past failures and have two consistent days. This will be the only NWT tournament that I will be sharing information with another angler. This will be a great help as he is a river rat and one of my fishing mentors.

NWT Leech Lake - June 12-13

Even though I have never fished Leech Lake I am really looking forward to this tournament. Fishing a lake for the first time that has 112,000 surface acres can be a bit overwhelming. This task is even more daunting when you are fishing alone. Fortunately there are resources available like Fishidy that allow me to identify areas that I will target long before I wet a line. If you are not a member of Fishidy I highly recommend becoming a member, it is worth every penny! I will also be reaching out to a few of my friends who have knowledge of Leech. I hope that I can also use what I have learned fishing deep structure on Lake Mendota to catch the "overs" along with some shallow water tactics for the "unders". Leech Lake has a slot limit, no fish can be kept between 20"-26" and only one can be kept over 26" per person.

NWT Green Bay - July 24-25

I have had some of the best fishing days of my life on Green Bay and the worst. Unfortunately, a few of the worst came on tournament days. One of my goals in 2014 was to be competitive on the Bay of Green Bay and I accomplished that at the NWT Bays de Noc. In fact I had a shot at the win sitting third after day 1. I wasn't able to make the adjustments on day 2 but did hold on to cash a check. I learned from that experience and I look forward to applying those learnings in July. We are launching out of Green Bay which should help me. I am assuming that the DNR will put a boundary at 45 miles north of the launch. This would take most of Door County out of play. There is so much structure in Door County that it is difficult for me to cover enough water. In the past I have tried to fish everywhere instead of concentrating on a few areas. 

NWT Championship Devils Lake - September 17-19

The 2015 schedule will finish with the Championship on Devils Lake. I have never fished here or the Missouri River system. From everything I have heard and read this is going to be a blast. Just about every tactic will come into play. I will be fishing this one alone as well and don't have any friends that I can go to for information. I will be leaning on tips, forecasts and marked catches from Fishidy. Once there I will be relying on my past experiences to see if I can come up with a plan that will be a little different.

I can't wait to get my Lund and Mercury Verado on the water. I love the schedule now I have to maximize my opportunity. Follow my season here and on my Facebook page 

Sunday, October 26, 2014

LBDN - My Plan Worked - Almost

Why Even Bother?

Due to work obligations and limited vacation time I could only fish one NWT tournament this year. Without a true river tournament on the schedule the choice was not easy. The Detroit River/Lake Erie event was tempting but with walleyes leaving the river the winning fish would likely be 40-50 miles away. I am not on a team, with Canadian waters in play I felt there was too much water to cover so I ruled it out.

Mobridge, SD was next on the schedule. I have never fished in the Dakota's, it is a 12 hour drive and my niece was getting married that weekend. That left Bay's de Noc in Escanaba, MI. Crap! I love fishing the area and it is only four hours away. I have had pre-fishing days where catching 28"-29" walleyes was easy, often at the same time. 

The problem is the two tournaments I had fished out of Escanaba, I was in the bottom 10. My record a little south in Green Bay isn't much better. If I was going to have any success I needed to have a plan, a different plan.

Out With the Old

In the past I tried to cover as much water as possible trying to find the hot bite. One day I would be in Little Bay, the next day in Big Bay, the next day on the shoals etc. With endless amounts of structure within the MI boundaries I found myself overwhelmed as can be seen in my past results.

No Team No Problem

Walleye tournaments are dominated by teams and "super" teams. Some teams are formed by longtime friends, blood and others by design. On a tour like the NWT, that has several stops, some teams will form on their expertise. For example one team member might be a guide on Lake Erie and excels in open water trolling but rarely fishes rivers. So he/she looks for an expert river fisherman. Throw in experience fishing on the Missouri River reservoirs out west and the structure filled Green Bay and you have a well diversified team.

It can be a little intimidating knowing that not only am I fishing against some of the best walleye fishermen who have ever lived but they also share information leading up to the tournament. Some of these "super" teams have living legends and multiple hall of fame anglers. Then you have the young anglers who are breathing new life and there own expertise into the sport. A team of 5 can fish five different areas in one day, compare notes at the end of the day and make adjustments. To cover the same amount of water it would take me 5 days. If I was going to have any chance I needed to identify one or two areas and know them like the back of my hand.

The Plan

To the best of my knowledge the 2012 NWT out of Escanaba was won in Big Bay de Noc with big weights also coming out of the Cedar River area. I decided these were going to be the two areas I would spend my time pre-fishing. To get more lines in the water and to not go crazy my buddy SFC Richard Wright helped me as did my cousin Sam. I wanted to find as many spots as possible within a close proximity to each other or on the way from the launch as possible. As always wind would play a key role so I needed to find spots for all wind conditions. Everything else was the same, fish wind blown structure with crawler harnesses.

This is Easy

I met my cousin Sam and Rich at the Cedar River launch the Saturday for the first day of pre-fishing around 10 AM. I had not fished the area before but I did identify areas on a map to target. It was raining lightly with a SE wind. It didn't take long and we found a shallow wind blown hump holding walleye's over and under 23". Local regulations allow only 2 fish over 23" so finding both "overs" and "unders" in one spot is key.

We then headed to other spots that looked similar and the fish went banana's. Doubles, triples it was unbelievable. Why does this always happen to me on the first day of pre-fishing?

Big Bay de Not

With fish going in the Cedar River area I headed over to Big Bay de Noc. The water temperature was a couple of degrees colder and the bite was the same. I did mark a few fish and a lot of bait but couldn't find any active fish. I then went out to the sprawling shoals. Water temperatures were the same as Big Bay and I had the same results. I ruled out Big Bay and the shoals. The rest of my pre-fishing was done between Escanaba and my spots south.

Wind Vs. No Wind

The rest of pre-fishing was great when the wind blew. I would go into a spot, catch 3 or 4 then go look for a similar spot. The walleye's were concentrated on specific spots of the structure. There was a lot of unproductive water but when you found them they would eat.

The problem was when there was no wind. A couple of the spots I was fishing had huge boulders and the fish would be in as shallow as 5' of water. With no wind you could see the boulders down to 15' and the bite was gone. I found some fish in deep weeds but not enough to make me confident. After a day and a half of scratching my head I finally found fish on a deep break. 

As pre-fishing winded down I felt good about my day 1 chances with the SE winds forecasted. I wasn't as confident about Day 2 as winds were to be calm early and out of the north late in the afternoon. I was hoping the fish I found on the deep breaks would be there to carry the day.

Close But No Cigar

Day 1 couldn't have gone much better as I caught 3 perfect "unders" and 2 nice "overs". I was in first place after the first 50-60 fisherman and ended up in 3rd less than a pound out of first. On day 2 the wind didn't blow and my bite went with the wind. I couldn't find any fish on the deep breaks and with that went my chances of winning. I did get two "overs" that helped me hold on and cash a check with a 23rd place finish.

My hats off to those that were able to adjust to the changing conditions. My plan almost worked but in the end it failed. I did learn from the experience and look forward to applying those learnings when I am in a similar situation. Hopefully with a different result. Next year can't get here soon enough!