Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Fort Fremont Walleye Classic

Soaked but still smiling!
The spring weather in Wisconsin can be truly extreme, and this spring is certainly no exception!  One day it is 75° and there are tornadoes, and just 3 days later it is 40° for the high with wind, rain, and even snow!  Despite these crazy conditions, I spent half of the day Thursday and a good part of Friday on the Wolf River pre-fishing for the Fort Fremont Walleye Classic that was to be held on Saturday April 16.
River Flooded into the Woods
Thursday afternoon my dad and I decided to fish way upriver towards New London in hopes of getting on a hot post spawn bite for big female Walleyes that were flushing out of the marshes and in search of an easy meal.  When we launched however, we were greeted with extremely high and fast water which made presenting your bait to the fish properly super tough. 

We fished for four hours and were only able to catch 4 Walleyes between 13-17 inches and all males.  These are not the fish that can win the tournament, which told me we had to move on.

Friday's weather called for 30 mph winds and rain in the afternoon with highs in the lower 40's.  There are two ways to look at everything, and I chose to look at the conditions as an advantage to me.  There were far fewer boats on the river than a usual Friday during the Walleye Run, which also helped the bite.
Fort Fremont Plaques

Our first spot produced 3 fish from 16-19 inches in just 3 drifts, but by 9:00 there were over 15 boats fishing the same area, with many of them pre-fishing for the tourney.  I decided to look for another spot since I knew that this one would be thick with boats on the day of the tournament.

I found another spot that had nice current and a fairly deep channel that gradually came up to 10 feet.  First pass through the spot yielded a 20.5" spawned out female Walleye that absolutely crushed my jig!  This was a great feeling, especially considering there was only 1 other boat within sight of us!  We continued making passes through this area catching a fish or two, then nothing for a pass or two, and then more fish.  The fish would come in waves and you just had to wait them out. 

By 2:30 we had caught 12 Walleyes in this spot, with a 23"er being the biggest and having 7 of them over 20"!  I entered waypoints where I caught each fish that would be used during the tournament to help us drift the proper area and stay on the fish.  At this point I felt good about the tournament, but also knew that there would be some big weights to compete with on Saturday!

The tournament began at 6:00 in a light rain and temperatures in the mid 30's.  By 10:00 the rain switched over to mainly snow, which was actually a relief since the snow allowed my fingers to stay dry and begin to function properly again!

My fishing partner Steve started the day off with a bang by catching a 21" Walleye on the first pass, within the first two minutes of fishing!  I had just gotten the net out and was still baiting up my jig when he yelled fish on!  This was about as good of a start as I have ever had to a tournament!  We continued fishing our area and would catch a fish every other pass or so. 

By 9:30, we had 5 fish over 20 inches, but nothing over 21 inches!  We knew that it was going to take a kicker fish for us to win the tournament.  We stuck to our game plan in hopes of getting that big bite, but a fat 22"er was our biggest fish of the day.  We ended up weighing 5 fish for 16.35 pounds, which was good enough to place us 3rd out of the 75 boat field. 

Third place was good for $450 and a cool plaque.  We certainly didn't strike it rich, but we came close to a win and had a great time catching some nice fish while competing against some of the areas finest fisherman!

The weigh-in was quite unique as well, each team had to walk their fish from the dock (which was under 8" of water) to shore, in a weigh bag.  This was a little nerve wracking, since the river current was flowing over the dock and the edges of the dock were tough to see in the dirty water.  Luckily everyone made it down the dock and weighed their fish!

 Denny Fox ran a great event and I plan on fishing this tournament again next year!

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