By: Jennifer Bateman | Tuesday, August 19, 2014
As many of you know, Bob loves to fish. The elusive walleye is his favorite species. Before this summer began, he made the decision to fish in a competitive walleye tournament. Here is the story.
While mid August really isn't the best month to catch big walleyes, things start to slow down here at the resort at that time of the summer, so it was realistic that Bob could get away on a weekend to tournament fish. He and his friend, Mark Gustafson, decided on a Grand Rapids Area Hockey Association tournament called "The GRAHA Walleye Shootout" on Pokegama Lake just south of Grand Rapids. Fifty five pounds of fish won it last year, which is a lot of fish, but it was held in late June, a better month for catching walleyes. They were up to the August challenge.
This particular tournament was a photograph and release tournament, which was appealing since Bob is a conservationist. No fish were weighed, just digital camera memory disks were turned in to the judges. The particulars of how fish had to be photographed in a trustworthy manner are far too detailed to include in this blog post. You'll just have to ask Bob how that worked the next time you see him.
They pre-fished Pokegama Lake a day in July, catching 13 walleyes between the two of them. Five of them were over 27 inches, and 11 were over 23 inches. Also that day they caught a 39 inch northern and a 20 inch small mouth bass. It was a very good day of fishing! They also spent a considerable amount of time marking fishing spots on the fish locator. Using some computer software and lake maps, they marked 183 spots to target. After pre-fishing, they pared those spots down to 10 that they thought would be the best producers of large walleyes.
Procuring the proper type and size of bait was extremely important. The "good" bait (also known as "walleye candy") has been difficult to get this year. Having a good bait supplier, and then a back-up bait supplier (in case the first one didn't come through with the right stuff at the right time), in BOTH Park Rapids and Grand Rapids, was researched and secured a month before the contest. You can't catch fish without good, live bait!
The day before the tournament they spent most of the day scanning for fish, double checking structure, and making sure that their pre-marked spots still had fish on them. They did take a minute to drop a line and caught a 26.5 inch walleye in about 15 minutes. It was looking promising. But pre-fishing does not guarantee great results in the tournament.
Saturday's contest was from 7:00 am to 3:00 pm with 61 boats entered. Bob and Mark were team 44, and they were in the second flight of boats to go out. His 18 foot boat with a 90 hp Yamaha was dwarfed by most of the rigs in the contest. That was worth a good laugh (and Bob fully expected his boat would be one of the smallest). But remember, it's not about the fishing boat, it's about the fishing men.
Bob's is the small boat in the middle.
At 4:00 pm I received a text saying, "We did not do well." A phone call an hour later confirmed that they caught 2, 22 inch walleyes for the day. That's it. Their two fish weighed 8.76 pounds. Initially they were both disappointed. How could the fishing just 'turn off' in a matter of a day!? But after seeing the final results, and placing 32nd, they didn't feel so bad. There were a lot of great fishermen in that tournament that also had difficulty getting results.
Bob underestimated the competition for spots. All of their spots had at least 4-6 boats on them, which made fishing difficult and put a lot of pressure on the fish. This put the fish in a negative mood from an eating standpoint - you had to make them bite, which isn't easy.
So I leave you with this bit of advice from Bob: "It's always good to fish when the fish aren't biting. It makes you a better fisherman."
Until next time ~~ Jennifer