MOBRIDGE, S.D. – After what most competitors termed a grueling practice, veteran pro Jason Przekurat demonstrated that Lake Oahe can produce both numbers and big fish. On day one of the 2016 Cabela’s National Walleye Tour Championship, Przekurat calmly caught a five-walleye limit weighing 15.84 pounds. While he’s pleased to be leading the biggest tournament in walleye fishing, Przekurat believes there is better angling yet to come.
In practice, the Bone Collector-Hardcore pro experienced a day of over 21 pounds. Today, he could’ve had nearly 20 pounds, but he was not able to cull a smaller “over.” On Oahe, “overs” are walleyes that exceed 20 inches in length. Anglers are allowed to keep eight fish per day, two of which can be overs. Culling is prohibited, meaning anglers must decide whether to keep or throw back a walleye immediately after catching it. At the end of the day, they bring their best five to the scale to be weighed. Typically, anglers keep any “over” on Oahe. And that’s exactly what Przekurat did when he put a 21 1/2-incher in his Ranger livewell early this morning. His next walleye was an even bigger over – a 27 1/2-incher, and it too went in the livewell. Shortly after, he caught a 24-incher that he had to throw back.
“I’m not complaining,” quipped Przekurat. “I had the 27 and that’s a game-changing fish here. But I really didn’t catch the fish in the right order today.”Przekurat rounded out his limit at about 10:30 a.m. He then moved to his final spot and caught three 17-inchers, all of which made it to the scale.
“I had four spots going in and for the most part, they all produced. I even caught another over at my last spot, and that one had to go back too. There was some anxiety going out this morning because I knew what this pattern can produce. They’ve been there for a week, and I hope they’re there for another two days. I still have a lot of work ahead of me, but it’s awesome to be leading the championship.”
With so much at stake, Przekurat was hesitant to reveal how he’s catching his fish. He did say he’s running a pattern, a pattern he classified as “off the wall.”
“This is a pattern I’ve used before when the summer is at its hottest. It works; it’s just that most people don’t fish like this. It’s a combination of location and presentation and they both have to be dead on.”After a “little bit of a run,” Przekurat will start day two on his big fish spot once again.
“I had a late boat number this morning so I was a little worried somebody else would be there. But there was nobody there; I had it all to myself. There’s a mix of fish there, but the big ones are predominant. I’ve caught more big fish this week than little fish.”
Schilling lurking in second
The last time the NWT visited Oahe (2014) the event was dominated by local anglers. This time the only local in the top 10 is Chad Schilling, the Akaska, S.D., pro who operates Oahe Wings and Walleyes. Despite not catching his fish where he thought he would, Schilling managed 13.85 pounds and sits in second place.
“I’m very pleased with that,” said the Mercury pro. “I had to make a couple moves, so I bounced around and finally ran into a few.”
“I thought keeping the 21 might be a mistake, but I never got another over. I also couldn’t get rid of a skinny 16-incher. That’s Lake Oahe though. I had to leave that one spot, because it’s a good over spot. I was so afraid of touching another over there. Hopefully saving it pays off for me.”
Schilling’s kicker measured 26 inches in length, but it was lacking girth. Tomorrow he plans to buckle down on that aforementioned best spot, although he won’t start there in an effort to deter any possible tailpipers.
As for his presentation, Schilling said he’s using nothing abnormal, but people would be shocked at the depths he’s fishing.
“I caught fish from 4 feet to 80 feet today. I’m not being vague; that’s a fact.”
Schilling said he practiced harder for this tournament than he ever has in his entire life. With the wind holding him back today, he sampled seven or eight of the 15 spots he wanted to hit.
“I want 10 pounds tomorrow. If I come in with 10 pounds or so, I’ll be happy and that should be enough for the top 10.”
Michigan pro Ed Stachowski sits in third place with a limit weighing 13.48 pounds. He started the tournament third in the Lucas Oil Angler of the Year race behind Chris Gilman and Bill Sutton. Unofficially, he’s now in the lead.
Stachowski caught the majority of his fish early – save for one 19-incher. The smallest fish he weighed was about 17 inches in length. His lone over measured 25 1/2 inches.
“I went to my primary spot this morning and someone was already on it, so I moved to my secondary spot and popped a 25 1/2.”
Coming into today, Stachowski explained he had two patterns going. He worked only one of them today, but employed it at several different spots. The other pattern is also effective, but it produces slightly smaller fish.
Stachowski’s main advantage might be his location. While several pros are making lengthy runs on the expansive Missouri River reservoir, Stachowski is staying relatively close.
“I wanted more fishing time, especially with the blustery weather. And the big fish bite is so crucial in the morning. I didn’t want to miss that by running. There’s an hour where they turn on and you can make up some ground real quick. Then, it’s a grind.”
Stachowski insists he’s solely focused on winning the championship.
“Winning this tournament is my goal; that’s where my mind is at. If I win Angler of the Year great, that’s icing on the cake. But I’m not going to play it safe. Playing it safe never works – Gilman, Sutton and all these guys are too good of anglers.”
Okada fourth, Hummel fifth
Rounding out the top five are pros Joe Okada and Randy Hummel. Okada, the Cambridge, Wis., native, caught a limit worth 11.99. Okada is fishing well recently, fresh off a seventh-place finish at the Green Bay event.
Hummel, the Windom, Minn., angler, managed five keepers weighing 11.82 pounds.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros at the 2016 Cabela’s National Walleye Tour Championship on Lake Oahe:
6th: John Kopcok of Maidstone, Ontario, four fish, 11.12
7th: Don Loch of Iron Mountain, Mich., four fish, 11.05
8th: Troy Walwood of Grand Haven, Mich., five fish, 10.72
9th: Bob Bruegger of Wabasha, Minn., five fish, 10.68
10th: Nick Schertz of Tomahawk, Wis., five fish, 10.63
The second day of competition begins tomorrow at 7 a.m. Central time as the championship field of 85 boats takes off from the Indian Creek Recreation Center, located at 12905 288th Ave., in Mobridge. The day-two weigh-in will take place at Wrigley Square at the south end of Main Street, beginning at 3 p.m. The full field fishes each of the first two days and is cut to the top 10 for the third and final day with the winner being determined by the heaviest cumulative weight.