Last update 06-13-98
/ “Viking Quest”
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Veteran NAWA Pro Jim Bell Grabs day one lead in Berkley Trilene/ Mercury “Viking Quest”
Minnesotas famous walleye factory Lake Mille Lacs, turned stingy on day one for many of the 30 Pr-Am teams competing in the Berkley Trilene/Mercury “ Viking Quest”
Mille Lacs is the closest thing to a unique fishery that NAWA touring pro’s face in their travels. The lakes massive mud flats, many located far from shore, have twists and turns that challenge the finest user’s of sonar. And the resident walleyes are famous for being finicky even under ideal conditions.
First day leader Jim Bell of Blaine Minnesota who weighted one of only four six fish limits, said that in his experience early season walleyes tend to separate themselves according to size. He fished the mud flats to catch his two big fish, which he and amateur partner Al Leinen of Holdingford Minnesota brought to the scales. After securing the two walleyes over 20 inches that each team is allowed to weight, the team moved to a completely different spot, which Bell declined to reveal, to catch four smaller “slot fish” that must measure between 15 and 20 inches.
One big key to triggering Mille Lacs notoriously selective walleyes, Bell said is to strive to always have a lively bait in front of the fish. He caught all his walleyes on traditional live bait rigs, using long leaders and a plain hook. Fish came on both night crawlers and leeches. Bell took two pounds of leeches and a full flat of crawlers (500) in the boat and changed bait every five minutes whether he had a bite or not.
In second place with a six fish limit weighting 18.75 lbs is Walker Minnesota pro Scott Fairburn, a steady emerging veteran who has been knocking on the door for several years. Fairburn and his amateur partner Jeff Berg of Mound Minnesota also caught all their fish on live bait rigs but used only leeches.
Fairburn credited his knowledge of tiny “spot on spots” features on the e mud flats, small indentations, humps and other features that anglers miss if they don’t pay special attention to their sonar units while scouting for fish. That and noting whether the fish he spotted on the depth finder were tight to the bottom of the drop off or up off of it.
“I was fortunate enough to get over the top of fish that were sitting up off the bottom “ said Fairburn at the daily press conference. When you mark fish on your depth finder that are clearly up off the bottom, those are the fish that are ready to bite. When you see fish that are just lumps on the bottom, a lot of times I’ll just keep going (and not bother to try to catch them).
Starting the day two competetion in third place is Keith Kavajecz of Kaukauna Wisconsin and his amateur partner Christ Peters of Kimball Minnesota who weighted 17.93 lbs.
The event the first on NAWA's 1998 tournament trail brings an interesting
format to the world of competitive walleye fishing. The entire field
of 30 professional and 30 amateur anglers compete during the first two
days of the event. Following day two’s weight in the field will be
pared down to the top ten pro’s and amateurs for the final days competition.
A true snapshot of the mood and location of Mille lacs walleyes is beginning to emerge after day 2 of the Berkley Trilene/ Mecury “ Viking Quest” on this legendary lake in central Minnesota. The nations top touring walleye pro’s hit the water with a systematic vengeance and maturing skills that can seem like magic to the average angler.
Blaine Minnesota pro Jim Bell sits on the pole position for tomorrow’s day three showdown, where the top 10 finishers out of the original field of 30 will fish for the events top prize. His method of slowly crawling live bait rigs baited with leeches and night crawlers past somewhat sluggish fish continued to pay off, and he came to the scales with a basket weighting 18.68 pounds. Added to his day one weight he has amass4ed a total weight of 43.12 lbs. He is catching his bigger fish on the lakes massive mud flats, but is scrounging for smaller “slot” fish in other locations, which he again declined to identify until the tournament conclusion.
“ I am just being careful trying not to burn my fish for tomorrow” Bell said at his press conference., meaning that he didn’t spend much time on the prime spots that produced his even larger catch on the first day. NAWA fisherman have learned that a three day event is a different game than a weekend of fun fishing and have come to play the odds however they have to in order to catch enough fish to finish in the top 10 spots and earn a slot for the finals on Friday.
In second place going into Fridays final day is Amery Wisconsin pro Todd Riley, another emerging veteran who is capable of winning the event. When the bite is slow, as has been the case the last two days, riley says a key to catching fish is to be more persistent than normal in coaxing fish that you can see on your depth finder
“Rather than running all over the place” Riley said (when the bite is tough) I tend to get over fish and really work them. One thing the tournament guys have learned, that the average fisherman should do more of is to set up a milk run, a series of spots where you mark fish on your locator.. You should try to set up a milk run that is fairly close together, so you can spend 10 minutes on a group of fish, and if they don’t bite move to the next group of fish. It should take you a half hour to an hour to make your way back to the first group of fish and work the mover again. Many times those fish are only intermittently active, so you shouldn’t leave them completely, you should try to decide to be there when they decide to bite.
In third place is Mille Lacs hotshot Ron Analuf, who live in nearby Brahma, Minnesota and who has often contended for or won tournament tittles on this lake. He is working edges of the top of the massive mud flats, finding the most active fish sitting just down from the crest of the break, in about 25 feet of water. The key for Analuf is red hooks on his live bait rigs which he feels represents an added bit of attraction that is making the difference for him. “ I don’t know if it looks like a little bit of blood to the walleyes or what” Analuf told the press”but it definietly gets me more bites”
In general the most productive patterns being used are classic spring Mille lacs. The smaller “slot” (15-20 inch) fish are coming primarily from the many shallow rock reefs or breaks on the north end of the lake. Some anglers are staying on the mud flats all day.
The biggest walleyes – the ones needed to qualify for the final days showdown and the ones needed to win the event are scattered along the many mud flats that dot the expanse of this famous Minnesota lake
Under NAWA “Quest Series” format only the top 10 pro’s and amateurs return to the water on the final day. Though more than 20 lbs. Separate the first and 10th place financiers this will have no effect on the final outcome.
The remaining contestants start from scratch on day three of this high stakes event
The top prize includes a new Starcraft Pro 170 boat with a 150 EFI Mecury motor valued at $20,000 and cash. Amateur anglers will be competing for a new Starcraft Starfire 170 and a 90 horse Mercury motor and trailer valued at $13,000.
After years of seriously chasing walleyes in his home state of Minnesota. Minneapolis angler Wally Luoma has struck out on the quest of a lifetime, pursuing his dreams of fishing the NAWA circuit. His rookie season has begun in bangup fashion, as he won the first tour stop, The Berkley Trilene/Mercury “Viking Quest” on lake Mille Lacs.
Like most of the top anglers in this field, Luoma coaxed reluctant walleyes that had migrated out on the lakes massive mid lake mud flats before a series of cold fronts slowed the fish’s activity levels. He banked his chances on fish that were cruising the very shallowest top portion of the flat, believing that these fish were more active than those positioned on the break or down off the edge in deeper water.
“There were a number of boats out there fighting over fish” the soft spoken Luoma told the press contingent. “It was important to use a long leader and good bait”. You had to sit right over the top of the fish and give them time to bite.
Luomas day three weight of 20.25 lbs earned him $14,826.00 in cash, a Starcraft Tournament Pro 170 boat, Mercury 150 EFI motor and trailer valued at $20,000 making his total purse worth $34,826.00
Finishing in the runner up spot was young veteran Eric Naig of Cylinder Iowa. After fishing Mille Lacs in several past tournaments, Naig has come to believe that the walleyes in this expansive central Minnesota natural lake are heavily pressured and can be difficult to trigger. Naig to found his fish on mud flats, but rather than using live bait rigs, that most other anglers employed, he took his fish on small hammered gold or silver spinners, baited with night crawlers that he pinched off to approximate length of the young of the year perch. This presentation weighted with a relatively heavy bottom bouncer or egg sinker, allows anglers to alternate between speedy and slower boat speeds.
“I just tried to show the fish something different” Naig said at the press conference. “these Mille Lacs fish seem to be afraid of there own shadows, but I wanted to show them something that might get them to react to it just as it went by.”
Naigs day three catch of 18.62 lbs earned him a total of $8,571.00
Jim Bell the Minnesota who led the event after two days finished in
third place with a catch weighting 18.06 lbs. Rather than fishing
the mud flats, Bell banked on the higher numbers of walleyes found on the
deep edges of a massive gravel bar.
Sitting atop the amateur standings at the conclusion of the final day was Al Leinen of Holdingford Minnesota, who came to the scales with 20.25 lbs of fish which earned him a Starcraft Starfire 170 boat, Mercury 90 horse motor and trailer for a grand prize total of $13,500 while fishing with Wally Luoma.
Finishing second in the amateur division was Roger Grothe of Apple Valley Minnesota and $1,200 for his efforts third was Eugene Norling of Tonka Bay Minnesota with prize of $1,000
Tournament anglers will return tomorrow for day one of the Berkley Trilene/Mercury
“Team Challenge” the first of seven high profile two day team events
The walleye rich waters of Minnesotas legendary lake Mille Lacs produced some phenomaenal catches during day one of the NAWA Berkley Trilene/Mercury “Team Challenge” a world class fishing event designed especially for team anglers.
Winning the first day titile and top prize of $4,486 were Chuck Miller of Green Bay wisconsin and Curtis Voeltz of Pierre south Dakota with a six fish basket weighting 22.43 lbs. The pair used live bait rigs baited with leeches, weithed down with bottom bouncers, and employed a slip knot rigging system that allowed them to use 10 foot or longer snells and still reel up close to the fish they hooked.
“ I really think chucks ability to use his Global Positioning Unit to make precise passes and get us back into sapots where we found fish,” said Voeltz at the press conference, “that made all the difference for us”
Runners up were keith and Tommy Kavajecz of Kaukauna Wisconsin a father
and son team. They watched the deep edges of a mud flat that was
crowded with boats, what they refer to as a ”community hole” but there
was a difference to there presentation that Keith credited to there success
and collected a second place prize of $2,691. What Keith and Tommy
were doing differently is what he calls “jig rigging”. Using
Northland 3/8 ounce walking sinker, and long leaders, with small red hooks
and lively leeches. Where everbody else is crawling along real slowly,
Keith was moving fairly fast, and pumping his sinker almost non stop.
What that does is surge the line forward, then you get a little slack and
the leech swims up to get away from being pulled. Thasts why you
need good swimming leeches. The fish they caught were hitting really
hard and they were not getting those little tappy bites other anglers were
getting. It was almost as if they were increasing the activity level
of the fish.
Minnesotans Jeff Johnson of Circle Pines and Mike Grangle of Forest lake weighted the days third best catch of six fish for 21.95 lbs and collected $2,422.
The Minnesota team of Rick Rothstein of Kimball and Darin rothstein of Richmod collected the days Chevy surburban Tahoe big fish award of $500 foi a fine 9.94 lb monster eye.
Under NAWA’s “Team Challenge “ rules Day one catches are not carried over to the second day and everyone starts from scratch on day 2. The Purse is paid in two portions half on day one the other half on day two.
Of the 135 boat field 31 teams brought in six fish limits for a total of 430 walleyes caught weighting 1139 lbs for the total days catch.
Visualization a technique borrowed from athletes in other sports, helped Eagan Minnesota angler Perry Good and his partner Mike Bruflodt of Princeton Minnesota, win the second day of the Berkley Trilen/Mercury "Team Challenge" on Minnesotas Lake Mille Lacs.
Good and Brufoldt, who brought in a six fish limit to the scales weighting 22.20 lbs, stressed at the Sunday press conference that they had to work extremely hard , becuase the walleyes on this central Minnesota lake are currently sluggish and finicky. The team had depthfinders running in the front and back of the boat at all times, so that they could follow the edges of the mud flats that they were fishing, and call out to each other when the depth would be getting shallower or deeper. This was critical they said , because they strived to first drop there sinkers to feel bottom, then lift the sinker up, to keep them from dragging in the soft mud.
They were using a live bait rig presentation, which involves a length
of line, a hook, and a sliding sinker that allows a biting fish to move
off with the bait without feeling the resistance of the sinker.
"I think its a completely mental game" said Good. "I've always said that fishing is at least 85% mental. I never take my eyes off my depth finder, and I'm picturing whats going on down there under the water. Mentally I train myself to see my bait, and see the bottom, and I'm constantly thinking theres fish about to bite my bait".
"That way" claimed Brufoldt, "youre never suprised by the bite."
Despite the fact that both anglers are expierieinced, they still coached each other when fighting a big fish, because they were only using four pound test line. "we told each other," said Brufoldt. "that we have all day to get that fish in. That way, you calm down and it seems to help you not make mistakes."
Because the fish are heavily pressured on this water, and because the weather has been unstable for several weeks, the winners who took home a check for $4,486, said that moving along slowly was a key to enticing bites. Also they stressed that it was critical to put on fresh, lively bait (they caught fish on both leeches and night crawlers) even after just 5 to 10 minutes of not getting a bite.
"You find the best swimming leech in the bucket," said Good, " but after pulling it around for even ten minutes , it seems to get stretched out and tired or something. There just not the same."
The fishing patterns were remakably similar for both runners up Scott and Jeff Dunagan, Twin cities anglers who took home a check for $2,691 and the third place team of Al Scholts (Alexandria Minnesota) and Jeff Jertson(Granite Falls Minnesota) who won $2,422. The pattern live bait rigs worked over either mid lake mud flats or large gravel bars.
Sholts and jertson said the key for them was to slide up and down the drop off seperating the top of the mud flats from the bottom lip where they slide out into the basin of the lake.
"Most of our bites", said Jertson " came when we'd come off the top of the flat and start down just as the bait was sliding downward."
Top five finishing teams were
Mike Brufoldt Princeton Minnesota
Scott Dunagan Maple Grove Minnesota,
Alan Scholts Alexandria Minnesota
Dean Nathe St. Cloud Minnesota
Greg Gauther Eagan Minnesota
The fifth place fininshers Greg Gauther and Mike Pelowski collected the days Chevy Tahoe $500 big fish award with a fine 8.54 lb Mille Lacs eye.
Of the 135 boat field 22 teams brought six fish limits to the scales compared to 31 the day before. The anglers weighted 709 walleyes for a weight totaling 1,877 lbs during the two day finale of this week long event.
The NAWA tournament trail now leads to the famous Aleghenny reservoir near Warren Pa June 20 and 21 for the Fenwick/Danner "Team Challenge" a world class fishing event designed specifically for team anglers. Openings are still available call jim George at the Sportsman Quest 800-224-4990 for details.
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