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Road to the Top
By Ron Anlauf
The following is an interview with professional walleye angler Rick
Olson, from Mina South Dakota, whoearned the highly coveted PWT Angler
of the Year title in the year 2000. Not resting on his success, Rickfollowed
it up by winning the first ever RCL Angler of the Year title the very next
year. His credentials aremany, and include a major championship
win, followed by three championship seconds, and countless “in themoney”
finishes. I recently had a chance to sit down with Rick
and as him some questions, that may shed a little light on his tremendous
Ron A: Obviously you didn’t become a professional
angler over night, and
there had to be long road tothe top, so let’s start at the beginning,
and give us an idea of your earliest angling experiences.
Rick Olson: Some of my earliest memories in life were that
with my grandfather. Surprisingly,my father didn’t fish, but
my grandfather sure did, and he really lived for the sport. I can
remember back to when I was about five years old in my grandfather‘s back
yard, with him teaching me how to cast, and rig lines, before we
went out, and then I used to go out with him a lot. We spent most of our
time angling for northern pike, but we also fished for crappies. As kids
growing up, there was a group of us in the neighborhood that
would con one of our parents into dropping us off at the lake
in the morning, and then get another to pick up in the evening, and we
did that almost every day throughout the summer. It’s hard
to imagine parents doing the same thing these days.
Ron A: So where did you spend you all those days
Rick Olson: We fished small rivers around Aberdeen
that had been dammed
up, and we were limited to fishing from shore which really kept us
off any bigger waters. There were fewer options which helped to concentrate
the fish. We weren’t that fussy about what we tried to catch, and
were happy with anything that would stretch the string. In the spring of
the year we’d fish for walleyes and pike, because they were shallow and
accessible then. As the season would progress we’d end up fishing for carp,
which was a whole lot of fun. By the time I was seventeen or eighteen I
bought my first boat, which
really opened up my options. At the time I was working
for 3M at night, and would fish as often as I could during the day,
and averaged about five days a week. I spent a ton of time on the
water and learned a lot about fishing. I read everything I could
about the sport and would then go out and work on it, and tried to do everything.
I didn’t want to be just a spinner fisherman, or live bait fisherman,
but wanted to be good at all of it. Becoming proficient with
a variety of techniques has been the key to my success, and those early
experiences really paid off.
There’s a lot of tournament anglers that have a reputation for being
with a particular presentation, and deservedly so, but to be consistent
you have to be able to do it all.
Ron Anlauf: In regards to presentation; Are
you doing anything
different than your competitors? Or maybe you’d rather
not mention it?
Rick Olson: I really don’t think so, and I’m not
sure what sets a person
apart from the rest. I think one of the things I do that might
help is trying to keep it simple, and is the same sentiment shared by the
top all time money winner Ron Seelhof. It’s easy to get too wrapped
up in thinking how tough it is, when you should be thinking about putting
all the pieces of the puzzle together. It’s also a matter of making
the right decisions at the right time.
Ron Anlauf: In tournament competition, how
important is it to be able
to react to changing conditions,( like the passing of a cold front),
or do you always try to stay within a game plan?
Rick Olson: During the pre-fishing period, I try
to put together a game
plan that would cover all the bases, including changing conditions.
For example; Let’s say I went out and had a real good day trolling
cranbaits over mud flats and boated a lot of nice fish. The next
day I would do something completely different, and try to find what else
might, or might not, be working.
Finding out what doesn’t work can be as important as what does.
Often times poor pre-fishing has resulted in some of my top finishes, because
it allowed me to concentrate on a couple of specific things that I knew
Ron Anlauf: Is there any situation that you feel really plays
Rick Olson: Honestly, I can’t think of a situation that does,
and it really
doesn’t matter to me. I’ve done well with jigs, crankbaits,
slip bobbers, live bait rigs, and you name it, and I like to do it all.
I’ve never really felt that a certain type of bite is best for me.
My top tournament finishes have come on varied bodies of water, using a
variety of methods.
Ron Anlauf: Where is your favorite place to fish?
Rick Olson: My favorite has always been what I consider
to be my home
waters, Lake Oahe. It really includes the Missouri reservoir
system, but Oahe is tops on the list. I love reservoir fishing
and find it to be extremely challenging, as the fish seem to be constantly
on the move, unlike a natural lake where you can pattern the fish and count
on them being there day after day. Another
thing is that to be successful on reservoirs, you have to be proficient
with a variety of methods.
Ron Anlauf: Do you feel that walleye fishing is getting
any better or
worse? Do you see any changes?
Rick Olson: It seems that it’s ever bit as
good, or better, than it has
been, but there are a lot of changes in management. Today’s
walleye waters have differing slot limits, which are designed to control
the take and protect the resource. Fishing pressure has increased
over the years, and I
think the fisheries departments are doing a better job of managing
individual bodies of water. The slot limits are a factor in tournament
fishing, which can be restrictive, but it’s the same for everybody,
and you have
take it all into consideration when you’re trying to put together a
Ron Anlauf: When did you decide to become a full
Rick Olson: I started fishing some of the first walleye tournaments
on the Missouri River back in the 70’s, and have competed in over three
hundred tournaments to date. There was a series of tourneys up and
down the river, which I followed, and proved to be an excellent learning
experience. Whether I did well in the tournament or not, I
hung around afterward to find out as much as I could from the other anglers.
I’d try to find out what the winners did, and I’d also talk to the guys
who didn ’t fare as well to find out anything
I could. With every tournament fished, I knew that sooner or
later I’d be
able to do it for a living. I kept my job and competed
in every major tournament I could until 1994, when I decided to take a
major step and go full time pro. I was able to finish that
first year by winning the NAWA Championship in New York, which helped justify
Ron Anlauf: Winning two Angler of the Year titles
is quite an
accomplishment; What did it mean to you, and what did it mean
to your sponsors?
Rick: It certainly meant a lot to me, and carries more weight
with my peers
than any other title. It’s something that every Pro hopes to
accomplish, and is proof of your abilities. While anybody can
get hot and win a tournament, winning the Angler of the Year title can
be only accomplished by being consistent. To win a tournament you
need to have the most weight for three days, while the Angler of the Year
winner has to have the most weight for the entire season. Winning
the RCL title has extra meaning because it was
their first year with a full circuit. In regards to my Sponsors,
it means a lot as well, and is a title that gets used. Their credibility
is enhanced by your success, and is a title they can use to promote themselves.
Ron Anlauf: When you won the 2000 PWT Title, and
the 2001 RCL Title, how close were the races?
Rick Olson: In both cases I was in fourth place going into the
last tournament, and it wasn’t decided until the last day.
After the first day of each tournament I grabbed the lead, and had to hold
on for the next two days. In both cases, I new my catch was more
than likely going to be enough to win, and in the RCL I was able to increase
my lead on the last day. In the PWT I was fishing next to
my nearest competitor, Ron Seelhof, and knew we both had a chance to
win the tournament, and both had a chance for the Angler of the Year.
As it was, he won the tournament and I won the Angler of the Year
Ron Anlauf: Thanks Rick, and best of the luck in
the upcoming season.
We’ll be watching you this coming season, and looking for a three-peat.
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