Kavajecz in command
Legendary pro takes day-one lead on Bays de Noc
ESCANABA, Mich. – The recipe for success on huge fisheries like Bays de Noc goes something like this: locate walleyes with advanced electronics, trigger school to bite, hope for the right-sized fish as only two walleyes over 23 inches can be kept per day. While that sounds simple, in reality it is quite difficult, especially with strong southern winds and 3-foot waves hindering travel. On day one of the third Cabela’s National Walleye Tour qualifier, veteran tournament pro Keith Kavajecz found the right recipe amid less than ideal conditions.
“We started the day by making a very long run south, two hours almost,” said the Kaukauna, Wis., pro. “The first fish we caught was a 28-incher. Then we caught a 24 and then we pulled a 30-incher. So at 10 a.m., after only an hour of fishing, we had our two overs.”
Not only were these overs, they were big overs. While the Bays de Noc system is currently full of fat 24- and 25-inch walleyes, the 28- to 30-inch fish are much harder to come by.
“That’s exactly what I was targeting down there, bigger overs,” Kavajecz continued. “After we caught the 30-incher we left and headed north.”
Kavajecz then scratched out three slot fish, all coming from different areas. On the day, he and his co-angler partner, Bob Luellen, caught roughly a dozen overs and just the three unders. Their official weight for five fish was 27.80 pounds.
“We ended up not too far from the ramp so it wasn’t too bad getting in. All my fish were alive in that rough water and my equipment worked great. I would find the humps with my mapping and I’d graph individual fish with the sonar on my Lowrance HDS-12.”
In terms of his technique, Kavajecz said he is not trolling, which is the standard presentation on Bays de Noc.
“We’re using a casting technique and that’s all I can say for now. It’s something new, something that we’ve never done here. We were dialed in so good today I could explain the technique and my co-angler would catch equally as many fish as me. And he caught the 30-incher too. My goal today was to catch two over 28 inches before we came north and we did that. I’m happy with the weight, but we were catching them like that in practice too.”
As for tomorrow, Kavajecz mentioned he would prefer less wind. Not only does it make his casting program easier, calm conditions also tend to hinder the trolling bite others are employing.
“Today was the most wind we’ve had all week, so I know I can do it. Unless we get a strong west wind I should be OK tomorrow.”
In second place is another big name in the walleye fishing world who also happens to be from Wisconsin – Jason Przekurat. Paired with co-angler Ralph Janzer, the Stevens Point resident caught a five-fish limit Friday weighing 27.57 pounds.
“I decided not to make a long run this morning just because the wind was blowing so hard and it was only supposed to get worse,” Przekurat explained. “When I got to my first spot I was pleasantly surprised to see only a few other competitors in the area and those were guys I knew were going to be there.”
His first pass yielded a 28 1/4 and then a 21 1/4. He made the same pass again, but came up empty handed.
“That’s just how it’s been. There hasn’t been big schools – just onesies and twosies. We stayed in the same general area all day and just grinded it out. We did end the day with four fish on at once, two of which went in the box.”
In total, Przekurat and Janzer caught 12 walleyes, four that were over 23 inches and eight that were under.
“We weighed the 28 1/4, a 27 1/2, a 22 3/4, a 21 1/4 and a 21. We caught those fish running spinners with my Minn Kota Terrova with I-Pilot. We set the direction, aim towards the structure we want to hit and it does the rest.”
Przekurat plans to fish the same area tomorrow almost regardless of wind direction.
“I’m not fishing the shoreline or anything shoreline related. This area has both slots and overs, which was key for me today.”
Pro Roy Vivian and co-angler Nathan Duehring sit in third place with a five-fish limit weighing 27.01 pounds.
“In prefish, I had about six spots, all located a ways south,” said Vivian, who lives in Madison, Wis. “So I decided to hit the closest one first and keep working my way down. At my first spot I picked up one walleye. At the second spot I filled up within a half hour.”
With a good limit in the livewell, Vivian decided to head back to his first spot instead of traveling further away from weigh-in.
“I got a 25 1/2, but that didn’t help me, but right as we were leaving to go back I caught a 22 1/2 that upgraded a 21 1/2. So I finished with two overs, one that was just under 27 and one that was just under 26. My three unders were about the most perfect slots you could ever pray for. And I didn’t even get to my two best spots. I was just too worried about getting back.”
Tomorrow Vivian will have a longer day as he’s in the later flight. Still, he’s unsure if his catch can be duplicated.
“I need the wind and today we got it. That’s the way practice was too. If you had the right wind it was easy. If it switched, it was over. Tomorrow my biggest concern is that there won’t be much wind to start and then on the way back it’s supposed to blow from the north. It’s concerning, but at least tomorrow is my long day.”
Vivian wanted to thank the service crews from Ranger and Minn Kota for going above and beyond. Late last night he was experiencing battery charging issues that put his day in jeopardy.
In fourth place with 26.89 pounds is Oconomowoc, Wis., pro Tom Kemos and Eau Claire, Wis., co-angler Joshua Olson.
“We started this morning on a rocky point north of the Cedar River, about 20 miles away,” said Kemos. “We fished there until 10 a.m. and left with a 27, a 24, a 22 and a 22 1/2. The main reason we left is that those perfect slot fish are like gold; they’re so much harder to come by.
“So we went down to the next point and upgraded our 24 with a 26 and then we caught our third slot fish, a 22 3/4 that weighed by 4.6 pounds. At that point we knew we were really having a good day. We moved around some more and caught more fish, but no more major upgrades. Within the last 10 minutes, we replaced a 6 1/2-pounder with a 7-pounder. I think we had 15 bites today and caught 10 fish; seven were overs and three were unders.”
Like Kavajecz, Kemos is not trolling. He’s also do something unconventional for a vast, open-water fishery.
“I am jigging, but this is really a totally new tactic that we’re going to share with everybody tomorrow. It’s a spinning rod in hand type of deal, which is kind of unheard of up here. It’s a neat deal. I was a nervous wreck all week that we’d tip somebody off too soon.”
As good as today was, Kemos feels like tomorrow should only be better.
“The conditions today were conducive to trolling. For what we’re doing, we need to be able hold on a spot. Tomorrow should be a different story if we’re not battling 3-footers on the bow.”
Veteran Great Lakes pro David Kolb of Rockford, Mich., and Brad Goecks of Green Bay, Wis., round out the top five with a day-one weight of 26.75 pounds.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros at the 2014 Cabela’s National Walleye Tour event on Bays de Noc:
6th: Kevin McQuoid of Isle, Minn., five fish, 26.56
7th: Kent Anderson of Amery, Wis., five fish, 25.69
8th: Don Loch of Iron Mountain, Mich., five fish, 25.13
9th: Ryan Jirik of Rhinelander, Wis., five fish, 25.11
10th: Jim Carroll of Minot, N.D., five fish, 25.07
The final day of competition begins tomorrow at 7 a.m. Eastern time as the field of 100 boats takes off from Ludington Park. The final weigh-in also takes place at Ludington Park, beginning at 3 p.m.