Friday, October 4, 2013

Minnesota Walleye Alliance Tourney

It all started with an email, Do you want to fish in the Walleye Alliance tourney with me? I was lucky enough to partner up with fellow LOA teammate/Owner Toby Kvalevog. Toby has fished the Walleye Alliance Classic for about the past 10 years, he has been fortunate enough to to place in the top 10 several times, and take home the title a couple times too. I would be crazy to pass up this opportunity. He kept things simple for me and said “meet me at my house at 545am and I will take care of the rest”. The questions in my head started to mount, what to bring, what to wear, what to eat, etc? It was like I was a kid going on a field trip for the day, but this was serious stuff, I’m fishing in a tournament with a seasoned professional. Now I was getting nervous, what if I knock off a nice fish, what if I lose the big one, etc? The morning arrived, with zero sleep, I was at Toby’s house 5:45am. Toby’s first comment too me was, “ Are you fired up”? That set the tone for the day, I was fired up. We arrived at the landing, I backed in the boat and parked the truck, Toby picked me up at the Elks Camp. The morning was beautiful, light breeze, blue skies and a brisk 44 degrees on the water. The plan for the morning start was for me to use lindy rig with a 6 inch chub with power pro line. Toby had an arsenal of sticks ready, one with a jigging rap, another with a lindy rig, and a jig with a long shank. We baited my hook with the minnow and set it in the live well, I was armed and ready. The first spot we arrived at Toby gave me two rules to remember for the day. Rule number one, we will only fish “marked fish” on the Lowrance. Rule number two, we will not fish memories, please remind me of that all day. That seemed pretty simple. We set ­up on a spot, Toby said there are fish here, let’s get it on. Within minutes, Toby yells fish on, he tells me to drop the rod and grab the net. It was bizarre to me how he was literally standing up and the rod above his head. He said using a jigging rap these walleyes will swim up towards the boat, straight up, so tight lines are key, plus i needed to net this 18.75 inch walleye without knocking it off. Toby said, net it from behind, the small hooks lose fish easy. We are on the board. Within five minutes Toby had another 16 incher in the boat on the same jigging rap, same spot. Talk about excitement, and then it was that moment when I got my first bite. I gave it line, lots of line, heck this was a 6 inch creek chub. Toby reminded me that I need to keep tip up, then start reeling, DO NOT SET HOOK until you feel the fish. I started reeling and fish on, then off. Dang it, I just lost one!! Toby reminded me to slow down and breathe; I was crushed. I asked myself did I cost the team a nice fish? Toby pointed out everything was fine, just slow down on the reel. At that time, Toby yells, fish on, drop your rod and get the net. “This is a monster” he says. Now when a seasoned professional says monster fish,. It sent me into cardiac arrest or caused me a thought to commit a Harry Carey. As he is getting the fish closer to the boat, I see a flash and say, holy sh**! The fish makes a run, at that time Toby feeds it line and reminds me to do the same when I get a big boy today. As the fish surfaces, I get the net under it and we set it in the boat. I was amazed at the size of this walleye, it was huge! It measured just under 29 inches. Toby and I high fived, I was shaking so much I couldn't hold my rod.

When I finally grabbed my rod, which at the time had some dead weight, I gave it line, closed the bail and yelled, fish on. It was now my turn, it wasn't big, but at 14 inches and just like that I was on the board. Meanwhile, Toby was doing surgery on the 28 incher to take the air out of its belly. That way it would live, I didn't have time to watch, I needed to catch fish. It was then I felt the the famous slow pull of a walleye, I went through the steps Toby had taught me and proceeded to lay into another walleye. It was a dandy, it kept fighting, I was doing great as Toby coached me through it, until I decided to pull the fish towards the net man, and clink, fish lost. This was a perfect time for my partner to constructively criticize my poor technique. Toby offered another tip, let the net man come to you. That was the last time I would lose a fish all day, and I made myself a promise to not let the team down again. Still, we had three fish in the tank, with one over 20 inches( AKA “The Hawg”). After we got back on the spot, Toby decided he would catch another dandy, it was 21.5 inches and it was fat. At this point it was about 845 am, and we needed 2 more fish under 20 inches to be in a comfortable spot. I felt a decent a pull on the line and set the hook, “it’s a dandy” I said, Toby reminded me to be disciplined in the fundamentals( the guy sounds like Vince Lombardi). I kept steady, meanwhile I saw it was decent, oh boy, I feed it line as it ran again, here it comes and it was pure adrenaline when we landed it in the net. It was 22.5 inches. Yes, we upgraded, but still need 2 more fishunder 20 inches. We spent the next 45 minutes searching areas, then we spotted more fish, we set down our lines, Toby decided he will use a live rig with a redtails, and BOOM, he says fish on. He is a cool cat under pressure, very disciplined in every facet of tournament fishing. I netted the 19.75 incher and it was bleeding. Toby says, reel up we need to get her into the weigh station. Off we go, Doug Erickson of Walleye Alliance is there and I ran up to the weigh station and it weighed in 2.36lbs. We were officially on the board! Doug yells out to Toby, “hows the day going?” Toby says, “we got a dandy”. Doug smiles like a proud friend would. So we set back out on Pelican lake knowing we have to catch more fish under 20 inches to fill our bag limit for the tourney, yet the pressure of knowing we could win it all started to mount. I jumped back in the boat, we were now on a mission that would cause stress for the next 5 hours. The time was 11am and we had until 4pm to get one under for our 6 fish limit. At this point Toby figured we had close to 16 lbs in our bag, his gut feeling was we needed to get that next fish to seal the deal. We checked about 12 spots and didn't mark a fish on the north end. Then we buzzed to Goat Island, marked a few, missed one on a jig ( even the top dawg misses fish), than we decided to turn on the Vikings game, then look for more fish spots.
We returned to the morning hot spot, found our school, had returned in full force and it was game on! The clock read 3:00 PM and we sensed we still needed that 6th fish, which needed to be under 20 inches. Tap, Tap, thud, my line started to run sideways, I closed the bail, then reeled and set the hook, it was a chunky 4lb largemouth. Then for the next ten minutes we proceeded to catch largemouth after largemouth, which is fun, but they don't sign a check at the end of the day in a walleye tournament. We moved out deeper and Toby said, “lets tail hook those redtails, Hop”. I dropped my line down again and thud, I had a bite , reeled it in, 14 inches, which is too small. Toby proceeded to catch another 14 incher, these were not the fish we needed. The clock read 3:48PM. All of a sudden I got a solid bite, I gave it a good 10 seconds and remembered everything Toby had taught me, when the line tightens up, rod tip in the air, start reeling, feel the fish, set the hook, boom! I said this is decent; best case scenario is it is a 23 or 24, then we upgrade, next best is it is a 17­, 18 maybe 19 incher. The fish surfaces, Toby says, that fish will seal this victory, I know it! And it was just that, 17.75 inches! Toby gives me an atta boy fist pump. I look down at the clock and see 3:54pm, it was time to weigh these walleyes and see if we pulled off the 2013 WAC on Pelican with a shot at the title. The day ended with a 1st place victory. We ended with 17.44lbs, we had the biggest fish of the tourney and we won the calcutta cause we bet on ourselves to win it all. It was a great day, some may say it was luck, others may say it was skill. Whatever you call it is was fun! What I learned about fishing is to find fish, than fish them, with everything in your toolbox. Remember, don't fish memories, because that is the only thing you will catch.

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