MOBRIDGE, S.D. – After an incredible catch on legendary Lake Erie to open the 2014 season, the Cabela’s National Walleye Tour heads west for stop No. 2 on Lake Oahe, the nation’s largest man-made reservoir, spanning over 230 miles. Hosted by the Mobridge Area Chamber of Commerce, the tournament will feature the world’s best anglers as they compete June 27-28 for the largest payout in tournament walleye fishing.
“The bite on Oahe has been amazing,” said pro Chad Schilling, who was born and raised in Mobridge and guides regularly on the lake. “We are catching over 50 walleyes per day now and it should only improve. And normally around the end of June we get a little run on bigger fish too. Even the males have really grown over the past couple years. The walleyes are thick, fat and as beautiful as they can be. It’s such an incredible fishery.”
After years of dramatic fluctuation, the Missouri River impoundment is currently stable and slowly on the rise. Schilling noted that the water level is just 12 feet from the highest elevation ever recorded.
“Everything is in great shape. There’s not a boat ramp that can’t be used. By tournament time, the water temperature in the backs of the bays will be in the low 80s and the main lake will be around 70 degrees. That puts everything in play – both shallow and deep water. People are going to catch fish everywhere; there isn’t one inch of dead water. Our fish are not afraid of warm, shallow water.”
Well-known Wisconsin pro Tom Keenan is eagerly anticipating the event, despite limited Oahe experience.
“What I like most about the lake is that I can find something off by myself,” said Keenan. “It’s such a large body of water that I don’t have to fish next to other people. Plus the scenery in South Dakota is absolutely beautiful.”
With a pro and co-angler paired together in each boat, state regulations dictate that only two walleyes over 20 inches in length can be kept per day.
“With no wiggle room, you have to decide right away if you’re going to keep an over,” explained Schilling. “That’s where the challenge will be. If you keep two 21-inchers and then catch a 7-pounder, you’re out of luck. But getting the overs is not easy. If I catch one, it’s probably going in the box.”
“They key to winning in the Dakotas is getting the right overs,” added Keenan. “Sometimes that means rolling the dice. It’s really a balancing act; you can’t get too conservative or too greedy. You want to be smart, but you also want to win. And you don’t win unless you stick your neck out from time to time.”
In terms of techniques, the bite is expected to be diverse with several patterns possessing potential.
“I don’t believe the trees are going to go; the system is too behind because of the cold, wet spring,” Schilling said. “I expect you will see lots of bottom bouncers and spinners and some Slow Death. Usually the most effective techniques allow you to cover huge swaths of water.”
Keenan agreed, noting that in addition to live-bait rigging with night crawlers and chubs, contour trolling with crankbaits could play a role.
“The last time I fished the system I used No. 5 Rapala Glass Shad Raps. The water was clean and the softer, more natural colors really seemed to make a difference. If the bite is going in the trees, Husky Jerks will really shine. And if the water keeps getting warmer, that reaction bite with the Scatter Rap could be really good. I’m a troller personally and I anticipate finding another trolling bite.”
Schilling predicts that 14 or 14 1/2 pounds per day (for five walleyes) will put an angler in contention for the win.
“If you could put three fat 17- or 18-inch fish in the livewell along with your two overs, you will be right there. Right now, Oahe is a pure numbers game. You’re going to go through a lot of fish; it’s going to be a ball.”
Anglers will take off from Indian Creek Recreation Area, located at 12905 288th Avenue in Mobridge at 7 each morning. Weigh-ins will take place each day at Wrigley Square, located at the end of Main Street beginning at 3 p.m.
Registration is ongoing for the Lake Oahe event. The deadline for guaranteed entry (by signing up with a pro or co-angler) is June 11. Registration can be taken over the phone at 501-794-2064 or online by visitingwww.nationalwalleyetour.com/tournaments/register/. For more information on rules and tournament payouts, visit www.nationalwalleyetour.com.