While whacks two “overs” to stun Stier
Local pro rallies to defend home turf on Lake Oahe
MOBRIDGE, S.D. – After a solid opening day on his home lake, Wade While was just hoping for another 10 or 12 pounds on day two to finish in the top five. Leading the Cabela’s National Walleye Tour event was the seemingly invincible Dan Stier, the winner of the season opener on Lake Erie. While’s mentality completely changed at 8:30 this morning when his co-angler caught a 24 1/2-inch Lake Oahe stud.
“I was having some issues with my trolling motor battery and I was just about to pull it up and start drifting when Tom (Samp) got that big one,” said While. “Then we picked up a couple 19s and around 10:30 a.m. we caught another over – a 21 1/2-incher. We didn’t even question it; it went in the box.”
Per South Dakota regulations, anglers (two per boat) are allowed to keep eight walleyes, but only two can be over 20 inches in length. Culling is not permitted, which means all walleyes must be immediately kept or released. At the end of the day, anglers weigh their five heaviest fish.
“Then I threw in a 17-incher just to make sure we had our five,” While continued. “And at 11:30 we caught an 18 1/2. We decided to come in a little early because we were soaked and my trolling motor was completely dead at that point. Luckily the fish came quick.”
While, who owns and operates Wade’s Carpet and Floor Covering in Mobridge, didn’t burn a quarter tank of gas in two days of competition. He fished the nearby Oak Creek area almost exclusively, other than a quick trolling pass over the Moose Flats.
“There was one point that I had all to myself and there was a ledge on it where it dropped from 7 to 11 feet. Those fish were holding right at the base of the ledge; we caught pretty much everything there. The wind made boat control difficult today, so I had to just drift over it.”
The ledge was actually the river’s old cut bank. While found the spot using old Google Earth images while scanning for steeper shorelines. His friend showed him Google Earth one night at the campground and then While informed his tech-savvy daughter that he needed it on his phone. Now that the water on Oahe is back up, the walleyes hide out of the current in the steep cuts, then slide up in the grass to eat.
“I would zoom in my Lowrance HDS-12 Gen2 Touch and I could see the shoreline jump. With that graph, there ain’t no guessing if it’s a fish or not a fish. With SideScan and DownScan, they don’t have a whole lot of room to hide.”
While employed both night crawlers and leeches in a variety of presentations.
“In the morning we started out with a 1/4-ounce horsehead jig and a leech and then a bigger split shot, a 4- or 4 1/2-foot leader and a crawler. We also ran Slow Death with a No. 4 hook, a 4-foot leader and a 3-inch piece of crawler. With the Slow Death, we were moving at about 1 mph. When the wind picked up, we’d go to the bottom-bouncer pattern. We’d use leeches, a 6-foot snell and 2-ounce weights up front and 1 1/2-ounce weights out back. While the crawlers were small, the bigger leeches worked better. I actually had my daughter sort out the smaller ones.”
Of the four overs While caught, three came on crawlers, including today’s kicker. He finished the tournament with a two-day total of 10 walleyes weighing 26.30 pounds. For winning the second qualifier of the season, While earned a Ranger 1880 Angler with a 175-horsepower Evinrude engine and $15,000, a total prize package worth $57,000.
“I thought for sure Stier would come in with another big bag. I fish in a lot of tournaments and I really enjoy the camaraderie. To win at this level and have all those touring pros come up and congratulate you, I’m on cloud nine. It was an honor to be fishing with this caliber of guys and it was great to be acknowledged by them.”
Stier finishes second
With a 2-pound lead and momentum on his side after winning the season opener, nobody would have bet against Stier. While he’s undoubtedly one of the best walleye fishermen in the world, he proved today that he is still human.
“Second place is still really good,” said Stier. “I’m just disappointed I didn’t get to fish my own fish today. One guy came trolling by me yesterday and saw me catch the two big ones. And he was sitting on that spot before I got there today, so that makes me a little upset.”
Stier was targeting gravel strips in the Bay of Pollock, approximately 6 miles south of the North Dakota-South Dakota border. The fish were set up in 10 to 14 feet of water.
“I was using Stier Death of course. It’s been my bread and butter guiding for years. Dave Spaid and I caught on to it back in the 90s and have been doing it ever since. The key factor for me in this tournament was speed. I was burning along at 1.6 or 1.7 mph. I’d crash into that rock and when the bouncer would hit the rock that’s when the fish would jump on it.”
Stier had thoughts of running 40 or 50 miles south today, but he knew he was around big, heavy fish up north. After trying to share water professionally, he eventually exited his primary area and targeted different points. His day-two limit weighed 8.11 pounds, bringing his cumulative weight to 22.73 pounds.
“I caught a lot of fish again but didn’t get an over. It was just one of those days. Right away this morning we lost a good one. Later in the day I had a 17 1/2-incher skip off my hand while I was bringing it to the livewell. I tried to keep my focus, I really did.
“It’s funny, the wins happen when you don’t expect them and sometimes when you think you’re going to win you don’t. Everything has to go right to win one of these.”
With Ranger and Evinrude bonuses, Stier earned $19,487.93. He will head to Escanaba, Mich., for the third event of the year as the leader in the Lucas Oil Angler of the Year race.
Olson rises to third
Rick Olson had a nondescript day one on Lake Oahe, catching a modest 6.63-pound limit. Today his tournament turned interesting as he boated two overs that anchored his 15.60-pound stringer, the heaviest limit of the tournament.
In the process, the Mina Lake, S.D., pro rose from 57th to third, earning $14,868.33 for a total of 22.23 pounds.
Olson was unavailable for comment.
Chad Schilling, the Akaska, S.D., angler, who grew up in Mobridge, finished fourth with a two-day weight of 21.84 pounds. After not catching a single over in practice, Schilling managed one each day of the tournament.
“On day one I made my first stop down by Swan Creek and literally within 10 minutes my co-angler catches a 23 1/2,” said Schilling. “It was incredible. I made another pass through and caught a 17. Then I left and fished several spots like it and each one had fish on it, but none had size. So I finished the day where we started and caught a 16 1/2 and a 17. So I caught four of my fish in just 45 minutes on that one spot.
“On day two I decided I would stay there until they quit. Our first fish was a 17 1/2, then we had a triple. Those three were 23 1/2, 18 and 16 and all three were flopping around in the bottom of the boat at the same time. Then I went down the shoreline 100 yards to where the water cleared up and caught a 19. So we had five fish by 9:10 a.m. At 12:30 p.m., we caught a fat 19-incher, but that was it. In between we caught 17-incher after 17-incher. We caught a lot of fish today that I would have killed for yesterday. I weighed a 15 1/2-incher on day one and I was only a pound out of second.”
Schilling used Pro Tackle bouncers and propeller rigs with all kinds of live bait including creek chubs, leeches and night crawlers. He said crawlers produced best.
“You can fish Slow Death, a plain hook, a jig – it doesn’t matter. You just have to put it in front of the right fish. The propeller rig just offers a little vibration.”
Schilling never fished water deeper than 12 feet all weekend. Even so, he still ran 1 1/2-ounce bottom bouncers with a 4- to 6-foot leader at speeds of 1.3 to 1.5 mph. In addition to Swan Creek, he also sampled the Moreau River area.
Schilling’s day-two weight was 12.83 pounds. He earned $10,816.82.
My practice was so bad, for me to be in the top five, I’m blessed. We caught between 70 and 80 fish each day. Lake Oahe is a fishery that’s on the rebound and it’s rebounding fast.
The only non South Dakotan in the top five was Jeff Mistelski, who lives across the border in Bismarck. Truth be told, Mistelski is practically a local himself as he comes down to Mobridge just about every weekend in the summer to tournament fish. In this derby, Mistelski caught limits worth 6.34 and 14.58 pounds to finish the tournament fifth with 20.92.
“We had one big one, a 27-incher that weighed probably 6 or 6 1/2 pounds and four nice slots,” he said.
Mistelski caught most of his fish trolling crankbaits on day one after an unproductive morning. Today, he stuck with live bait, both crawlers and leeches, for the entire day. Mistelski fished the 14-foot range and used bottom bouncers and a plain hook on his live bait.
“Yesterday I was fishless for the first three hours. And it was so calm that we needed to cover ground. I started out in Oak Creek with my friend Wade (While, the tournament champion) but we bailed and we shouldn’t have. If we would have stayed we would’ve at least given him a run for his money.”
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros at the 2014 Cabela’s National Walleye Tour event on Lake Oahe:
6th: Ed Stachowski of Canton, Mich., 20.60
7th: Joe Okada of Fitchburg, Wis., 20.30
8th: Steve Miller of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, 20.18
9th: Kevin Carstenson of Merrill, Wis., 19.59
10th: Greg Ehli of Bismarck, N.D., five fish, 19.44
On the co-angler side, Tyrone Larson of Amherst, Wis., took top honors and won $6,000. Larson got into competitive walleye fishing after befriending Jason Przekurat, as both had sons playing on the same baseball team. Larson and Przekurat began practicing together and this week the two caught over 200 walleyes in five days. Of those 200-some fish, exactly zero were longer than 18 inches. But Larson’s big-fish luck changed come tournament time.
“I drew Mike Gofron the first day and we made a big run north up near the state line,” said Larson, a Soil Conservationist for the U.S. Department of Agriculture. “We had a pretty good day rigging Slow Death. Today I was with Joe Okada and we ran almost up to the same area, just a little further south. He was fishing a little different, slow-trolling spinners with 2-ounce bottom bouncers at about .9 mph.
“With about a half hour to go, I stuck a 28-incher that kind of put us over the edge and allowed me to bring the trophy home. I also caught the two overs, a 21- and a 22-incher, with Mike yesterday. So I’ve had a heck of a week. I got to fish with two great guys.”
In March while on a beach vacation, Larson told his wife that he was going to win a major walleye tournament this year.
“Then a couple weeks ago I just had a feeling that it was going to be this one. South Dakota has always been a special place for me. It was just meant to be.”
The next Cabela’s National Walleye Tour event is slated for August 29-30 on Bays de Noc in Escanaba, Mich., the third of four tournaments.