Insider Report: Keenan defies dreary conditions for opening-day lead

OSHKOSH, Wis. – With a record field of 165 boats, enthusiasm for the 2019 National Walleye Tour season opener, presented by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s, was at an all-time high. Lake Winnebago, however, had other plans, as the world’s best walleye anglers were largely humbled by cool, dreary conditions. At last year’s Winnebago event, over 100 pros registered five-fish limits on day one. This year, only 23 pros put five walleyes on the scale. When the bite is tough, there are few in the game better than Tom Keenan, who took the early lead with 14.79 pounds.

While most anglers reported a miserable practice, Keenan found success early and often.

“Practice was good; we had several patterns going,” said Keenan, who surpassed $1 million in tournament winnings three years ago. “Three out of the last four days I’ve had a good bag. When I went out this morning, I had four or five presentations. To be honest, I had no idea the fishing was going to be that bad.”

Pro leader Tom Keenan (left) proudly displays his day-one catch.

Keenan, the Ranger-Evinrude pro, explained that the cold weather has dramatically slowed the system’s overall migration. As a result, anglers have access to a smaller percentage of the fishable population.

“We’ve had a terrible week of weather,” he added. “The water is still cold. A lot of the fish are way, way upriver and haven’t come back yet. We’re catching a small portion of the fish.”

To adjust, Keenan’s moving locations often and looking for active fish.

“I call it a garbage or a scrounge tournament. I caught one doing this technique, then I caught one doing something different. I think caught fish on six different spots today; I was seen on a lot of different spots.”

The Hatley, Wis., native was unwilling to reveal any pattern details at this point in the two-day tournament.

“All I can say is that I spent a lot of this week on my Humminbird Helix 10. I would look at the spots on my LakeMaster and then diagnosis them mainly on my side imaging. It’s really a spot-on-the-spot pattern. As for baits, the TV cameras won’t lie tomorrow. I’ve got something good going.”

Keenan anticipates an improved bite, specifically for the bigger females.

“I’m guessing tomorrow is going to be a little better. Personally, I’m hoping it’s rainy and cold again, just because I love garbage or scrounge tournaments. I’ve won a lot of money in these types of tournaments. Either way, I’m anticipating catching some fish tomorrow. I think I’m fishing the right pattern for the 3- and 4-pounders.”

Gaines second

The only other pro to crack 14 pounds on opening day was Lake Erie charter captain Randall Gaines. The Salem, Ohio, native weighed five walleyes for 14.18 pounds.

“I didn’t prefish yesterday because it was so nasty,” Gaines said. “But the last day I prefished my plan kind of came together. This morning I got to my spot, the spot that I was really feeling confident in, and I got nothing.”

Charter captain Randy Gaines (left) sits in second place with over 14 pounds.

Charter captain Randy Gaines (left) sits in second place with over 14 pounds.[/caption]Staying on the main lake for the entire day, Gaines did his best to improvise.

“I went to my second spot and caught a 22-incher and a 19-incher. Then I went back to spot No. 1, and I picked up a fish. Then the bite really slowed. We finally made a long run to a place where we only had 20 minutes to fish. I even set a timer on my phone. We made one trolling pass, went 100 feet, the board went back, and I was so happy to have four. I made one more turn to manipulate a breakline. When I turned, the outside board went back. I looked at my phone and I had 9 seconds to spare. To get our five, we used the whole day.”

Gaines did not spend the entire day trolling. He also jigged, casted crankbaits, and used slip bobbers.

“It took everything to put it all together. Chip said it best on stage. Adjusting to the conditions was the key today. Every spot was different. One time we ran 20 minutes just to make 15 casts. But that’s how it had to be. Hopefully, with the weather calming down, we’ll be able to go back to the spot I had high hopes for this morning.”

Gaines, who operates Nibble This Charters, is excited to be within striking range.

“Anytime you’re trying to chase down Tom Keenan, you’ve got a monumental task at hand. But if things happen the way I think they can, it’s possible.”

Euting third

Local Pickett, Wis., guide Tim Euting sits in third place after catching a five-fish stringer weighing 13.71 pounds. Like Keenan and Gaines, Euting was running and gunning.

“I moved around a lot today,” said Gaines, who operates Get ‘em Hooked Guide Service. “They’re not concentrated in big groups by any means. I’m just reading the lake and reading the conditions. I have trolling rods, casting rods, bobber rods, and jig rods in my boat.”

Euting, who fishes the Winnebago system over 100 days per year, explained the water temperature dropped 10 degrees within the past week.

“When the water cooled, the bite pattern changed. That’s why I think these guys are struggling. You think you have a pattern and then the next day, they won’t touch it. I’m thinking it’s going to stabilize some and be a better bite tomorrow.”

Axtman fourth, Larson fifth

Rounding out the top five are Zachary Axtman and Thomas Larson. Axtman, the Rugby, N.D., native, boated a 13.50-pound stringer while Larson, the Estelline, S.D., pro, sacked 13.14.

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pros at the 2019 National Walleye Tour event on Lake Winnebago:

6th: Jarrod Fredericks of Estelline, S.D., five fish, 12.48
7th: Byron Peterson of Blair, Neb., five fish, 12.18
8th: Jeff Nuechterlein of Greenville, Wis., five fish, 11.77
9th: Todd Mueller of Appleton, Wis., five fish, 11.56
10th: Korey Sprengel of Beaver Dam, Wis., five fish, 11.40

The final day of competition begins tomorrow at 7 a.m. Central time as the full field of 165 boats takes off from Miller’s Bay at Menominee Park. The final weigh-in also takes place at Miller’s Bay at Menominee Park, beginning at 3 p.m.

Diverse Winnebago system ushers in 2019 National Walleye Tour season

OSHKOSH, Wis. – For the second consecutive season, Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago will host the season-opening event on the most lucrative tournament trail in competitive walleye fishing, the National Walleye Tour presented by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. Winnebago hosted the 2018 season opener when flood conditions along the Mississippi River forced a change in venue. This year’s opener was again slated for Red Wing, until a record 39 inches of snow fell during February, prompting officials to preemptively move the tournament due to flooding. The dates of the event, May 2-3, remain unchanged. While the Fox and Wolf rivers are high themselves, both are fishable and are producing impressive catches.

“The state of the fishery is strong,” said NWT Championship winner Max Wilson, who lives in nearby Lomira, Wis., and cut his teeth on the Winnebago system. “I think Winnebago is on the upswing; there’s certainly no shortage of walleyes. The good news is the abundance of shad is back to normal. We’re at the point where there’s enough bait where the walleyes are well fed, but they’re not overloaded. They’re hungry and willing to bite; it should be stellar.”

“The thing that really excites me about the change is having two tournaments in Wisconsin,” said Berkley pro Korey Sprengel, who won last year’s opener on Winnebago. “I really think this could be a record-setting year in terms of participation. We could possibly have 150 boats. That excites me more than fishing Winnebago itself. I’m super excited we’re going there, but I’ve also lost a lot of sleep. It’s not a fishery where anything is a given. Last year, I literally had no time to think about it. This year, I’m kind of freaking out. It is not an easy body of water to fish.”

The main lake recently iced out, which means the major wave of spawning is imminent.

“The Wolf is ripping pretty good,” added Wilson, the Triton-Mercury pro. “The water is up in the trees. The Fox is also high. It takes patience and heavier weights, but they’re eating; the bite is strong. By May, 95 percent of the fish will be spawned out and will be heading back towards the lake.”

“The major difference between this year and last year is that the water is already high this year,” Sprengel explained. “Last year we got like 8 inches of rain during practice, which made it high right before the tournament. But the water was already warm when it got high. This year it’s already high, which means it should take longer to warm up. The high, cold water will probably slow the migration. The water will also be clearer than it usually is.”

Wilson said that the walleyes head upstream to spawn along river edges and in the marshes. Once they’re finished, they head back down towards the main lake. While Wilson is confident that the peak spawn will be complete, he’s unsure exactly how far the walleyes will have migrated back.

“It can be won in the main lake; there are a lot of consistent bags that can be had,” he said. “But the kicker fish are harder to come by. There will be a lot of check cashing in the main lake. Most of the kickers come from the rivers and upper lakes. The river is a natural pinch-point for bigger fish. They like to sit there and rest.”

Wilson and Sprengel both agree that trolling on Poygan, Winneconne, and Butte des Morts will be common. Other popular techniques include live-bait rigs in the rivers, casting crankbaits to specific structure, and pulling flies. Last year, local pro Russell Gahagan pulled flies with pencil weights in the Fox River en route to a second-place finish.

“There’s a million different ways to catch them,” said the 22-year-old Wilson. “The thing about Winnebago is understanding the timing. There are definite bite windows, especially in the upper lakes. Those fish will make you wait all day sometimes. It’s notorious for turning on in the afternoon. To get the winning bag, you’re going to have to piece a few different patterns together, just like Sprengel did last year.”

“Casting both the Berkley Cutter and Digger is going to come into play again,” Sprengel predicted. “That’s how I like to fish though. I’d rather go to a specific area and pinpoint a fish. Time is everything in these tournaments; the more efficient you can be, the better you will do. I’d rather not randomly fish a roaming school.”

Anglers are permitted to keep seven walleyes each day and weigh their best five. Culling or upgrading is not permitted.

“I think 27 or 28 pounds will get you to the top 10,” predicted Wilson. “You’re going to see a lot of 10- and 12-pound bags. It’s just a matter of where those bigger fish are setting up. Guys will have to put in long practice days to figure out those bigger fish. Thirty-three to 35 pounds will probably win it. A few guys will have a monstrous day, but then they need to back it up. That (Fox) river can be so hero or zero with changing winds and current.”

“I’m thinking around 15 or 16 pounds will put you in contention,” concluded Sprengel. “You might not win, but you’ll be right there. It’s going to be tight because it’s pretty easy to catch 10 to 12 pounds. You just don’t know where your big bite is going to come from. Last year, everything just happened right for me.”

Anglers will take off each day at 7 a.m. Central time from Miller’s Bay/Menominee Park. The daily weigh-ins will also take place at Miller’s Bay/Menominee Park, beginning at 3 p.m. The full field fishes each day with the winner in each division being determined by the heaviest cumulative weight.

The National Walleye Tour consists of three regular-season events and a year-end championship. Each regular season event is a two-day, pro-am tournament and delivers over a 100 percent payback. Pros compete against other pros, and co-anglers compete against other co-anglers.

Registration is ongoing for the Lake Winnebago event. The deadline for guaranteed entry (by signing up with a pro or co-angler) is April 15. Registration can be taken over the phone or online by visiting www.nationalwalleyetour.com/tournaments/register/. For more information on rules and tournament payouts, visit www.nationalwalleyetour.com.

Devils Lake Tourism survey puts economic impact of National Walleye Tour Championship in perspective

Results from a just-completed survey by Devils Lake Tourism showed the average tournament angler spent $1,375 during the recent National Walleye Tour Championship that began Wednesday, Sept. 11 and wrapped up Saturday, Sept. 14.

The tournament brought 174 anglers to Devils Lake — many for the first time and others who have visited for decades — and they spent nearly $250,000 total and circulated throughout the community many times, Devils Lake Tourism said.

The fishery and the Devils Lake area also received positive news coverage in social media, magazines, websites, television and media throughout the country.

The survey also asked the anglers if they would return to fish again. Of all contestants, 88 percent answered with a resounding “YES!!” A similar number, 88 percent, also rated the fishing as good, very good or excellent. Specifically, 49 percent said “good,” 28 percent said “very good” and 11 percent said “excellent.”

Tournament winner John Hoyer of Orono, Minn., took home $97,320 in cash and prizes for winning the tournament, and his contributions to the local economy were significant, according to Devils Lake Tourism. He lost at least 300 lures due to his style of fishing and replaced 100 of those locally. He also used about 20 gallons of boat gas daily for all 13 days on the water (10 days during the pre-tournament period; three tournament days) for about $800.

He traveled 800 miles from home and back. He spent three nights at the Holiday Inn and 10 nights at Haybale Heights resort. Since he was splitting lodging, add another $700. He ate out almost every night at the Ranch, Proz at Woodland and a Mexican restaurant for about $700. He also splurged in celebrating his victory by treating friends to dinner, a $900 bill.

Hoyer also purchased four spools of lead core line and a Grahams Island State Park pass.

“Devils Lake is my favorite lake for what I love to do – casting for walleyes,” he said.

During all three days on the water, Hoyer concentrated on 2 to 10 feet of water in East Devils Lake. His tactics involved casting, casting and casting. He also had two slip bobbers in the water with leeches, but most of his fish were caught casting.

Hoyer’s arsenal included Moonshine Shiver Minnows, Jigging Raps and Berkley Johnny Darters. He also interspersed this bottom-thumping technique with shallow-running jerk baits, saying perch and fire-tiger colors were best.

“With all the wood, rocks and pike, I lost at least 300 lures,” Hoyer said.

The Devils Lake survey showed that most anglers purchased $50 worth of tackle, with five anglers spending $400, three at $500, five at $1,000 and one angler swiping his credit card for $2,000.

Hoyer also credited the community.

“Everyone talks fishing, loves us fishermen, and wants to know what we know,” he said. “Where fishing is such a big part of their economy, I love to be in Devils Lake.”

The survey also pointed to the pride of the community, with 15 percent of anglers surveyed citing the “local feel of the area and the people.” The remainder, 83 percent of respondents, said what they most liked about the lake was the healthy fishery, the diversity of the lake, the hundreds of places to fish and all of the tactics that were in play.

The average angler spent seven nights in the area. Of those, 36 percent stayed at resorts, 32 percent at motels, 16 percent at campgrounds and 11 percent with friends. The average angler traveled 575 miles round trip to fish Devils Lake, and 14 percent drove more than 1,000 miles.

Cabela’s National Walleye Tour Heads to Green Bay at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, June 23-24

Professional walleye circuit gearing up for the third tournament of the 2016 season
NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. (June 10, 2016) – Competitive walleye anglers will converge on Green Bay, June 23-24, at Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, for the third tournament of the 2016 Cabela’s National Walleye Tour. The tournament circuit features a pro-am style format and guarantees over 100 percent payback.

The Sturgeon Bay event begins Wednesday, June 22, with tournament registration from 2-4 p.m. at The Lodge at Leatham Smith (1640 Memorial Drive, Sturgeon Bay, WI 54235) with a mandatory pre-tournament meeting set to start at 5:00 p.m. Pro and co-angler pairings will be announced at the pre-tournament meeting.

Anglers will launch Thursday and Friday mornings at 7 a.m. from the The Lodge at Leatham Smith and return to the boat launch for weigh-ins at 3 p.m.

The last day for anglers to register for the NWT Sandusky event is Monday, June 20. To register, please go online and click on register. All anglers that register online will be entered in to a drawing for a $100 Cabela’s gift card.

During each day of competition, Triton Boats and Mercury Marine are offering free demo rides in the acclaimed 216 Fishhunter. The demo rides will take off from the boat launch.

The National Professional Anglers Association (NPAA) will also host a “Future Angler” program for children after Friday’s weigh-in, approximately at 5:30 p.m., featuring an educational seminar and training for youth from top-notch NPAA members. The youth-orientated event will include a free rod/reel combo or “Future Pro” t-shirt for the first 150 children who attend the educational program.

Anglers who are participating in any of the numerous contingency prize programs are encouraged to submit all pertinent information at registration to remain eligible for any potential bonus money.

Each NWT tournament features over 100 percent payback. A fully rigged Ranger Boat, plus cash, is guaranteed for first place at each event – a total value of $61,000. Anglers that fish all three regular-season events, in addition to the top points leaders, will qualify for the three-day, entry-fee championship.
The tournament circuit also includes unprecedented television and media coverage, allowing a national audience to watch the action unfold from each event throughout the season. Airing on multiple networks, the National Walleye Tour will be seen on FOX Sports, and Pursuit Channel, as well as the NBC Sports Network.

For more details, anglers are encouraged to call 612-424-0708 or 501-317-7548 or check out the new website at www.nationalwalleyetour.com. From here, site visitors can register for events, view the contingency programs and TV schedule and learn more about what’s in-store for 2016.

2016 NWT scheduled events:
June 23-24 – Green Bay (Sturgeon Bay, Wis.)

Championship – Aug. 3-5 – Lake Oahe (Mobridge, S.D.)

Cabela’s National Walleye Tour Opens Season on Lake Erie at Sandusky, Ohio, April 21-22

Professional walleye circuit gearing up for 2016 season
NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. (April 7, 2016) – Competitive walleye anglers will converge on lake Erie, April 21-22, at Sandusky, Ohio, for the season-opening event of the 2016 Cabela’s National Walleye Tour. The tournament circuit features a pro-am style format and guarantees over 100% payback.

The Sandusky event begins Wednesday, April 20, with tournament registration from 2-4 p.m. at Sandusky State Theatre (107 Columbus Ave., OH 44870) with a mandatory pre-tournament meeting set to start at 5:00 p.m. Pro and co-angler pairings will be announced at the pre-tournament meeting.

Anglers will launch Thursday and Friday mornings at 7 a.m. from the Shelby Street Public Boat Launch (101 Shelby St., Sandusky, OH 44870) and return to the boat launch for weigh-ins at 3 p.m.

The last day for anglers to register for the NWT Sandusky event is Monday, April 18. To register, please go online and click on register. All anglers that register online will be entered in to a drawing for a $100 Cabela’s gift card. Any angler born after Jan. 1, 1982, is required to take the Boaters Education course through the Ohio Water Craft Dept. (614-265-6485). Also, anglers who plan to fish in Canadian waters must obtain a Canadian fishing license (800-387-7011).

During each day of competition, Triton Boats and Mercury Marine are offering free demo rides in the acclaimed 216 Fishhunter. The demo rides will take off from the Shelby Street Public Boat Launch.

The National Professional Anglers Association (NPAA) will also host a “Future Angler” program for children after Friday’s weigh-in, which starts at 3p.m., featuring an educational seminar and training for youth from top-notch NPAA members. The youth-orientated event will include a free rod/reel combo or “Future Pro” t-shirt for the first 150 children who attend the educational program.

Anglers who are participating in any of the numerous contingency prize programs are encouraged to submit all pertinent information at registration to remain eligible for any potential bonus money.

Each NWT tournament features over 100% payback. A fully rigged Ranger Boat, plus cash, is guaranteed for first place at each event – a total value of $61,000. Anglers that fish all three regular-season events, in addition to the top points leaders, will qualify for the three-day, entry-fee championship.
The tournament circuit also includes unprecedented television and media coverage, allowing a national audience to watch the action unfold from each event throughout the season. Airing on multiple networks, the National Walleye Tour will be seen on FOX Sports, and Pursuit Channel, as well as the NBC Sports Network.

For more details, anglers are encouraged to call 612-424-0708 or 501-317-7548 or check out the new website at www.nationalwalleyetour.com. From here, site visitors can register for events, view the contingency programs and TV schedule and learn more about what’s in-store for2016.

The NWT would like to thank the City of Sandusky, Lake Erie Shores & Islands and Sawmill Creek Resorts for their support for this event.
2016 NWT scheduled events:
April 21-22 – Lake Erie (Sandusky, Ohio)
May 26-27 – Lake Winnebago (Oshkosh, Wis.)
June 23-24 – Green Bay (Sturgeon Bay, Wis.)

Championship – Aug. 3-5 – Lake Oahe (Mobridge, S.D.)

Raymarine Joins Cabela’s National Walleye Tour

Pro walleye tour scheduled to kick off 2016 season in April

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. (March 10, 2016) – The Cabela’s National Walleye Tour (NWT) today announced Raymarine, a world leader in high-performance marine electronics, as an official sponsor for 2016. The agreement marks yet another strong addition to the popular pro walleye tour, which kicks off April 21-22 on Lake Erie.

“We’re fortunate to work with and promote some of the strongest brands in the industry,” said NWT Tournament Director Anthony Wright. “Raymarine is a perfect example of that. We’re excited to have the support of such a well-respected company with a rich history in tournament fishing and look forward to building our relationship for years to come.”

Raymarine, a division of FLIR Systems, Inc., is a world leader in high-performance marine electronics for recreational boaters and enthusiast anglers. Raymarine products are engineered to deliver the best in visual navigation information. With a legacy of marine navigation technology spanning over 80 years, Raymarine products are renowned for their ease-of-use, rugged design, and reliability.

“We are excited for the opportunity to connect with more anglers through our partnership with the National Walleye Tour,” said Grégoire Outters Vice President and General Manager for Raymarine and FLIR Maritime. “As we continue to deliver new navigation and sonar solutions for anglers, the NWT is the perfect way to showcase our latest innovations.”

The Cabela’s NWT will begin the 2016 season April 21 on Lake Erie and will include a total of three qualifying events, plus a year-end championship. Official registration for all events will begin in January, both online and by phone. The NWT website offers numerous details on the circuit, including official rules, tournament structure, payout and incentives.

All NWT events will deliver 100 percent payback. A fully rigged Ranger Boat, plus cash, is guaranteed for first place at each event – a minimum total value of $57,000. Multiple contingency programs are available for even higher payout. Anglers that fish all three regular-season events, in addition to the top points leaders, will qualify for the three-day, entry-fee championship.
The Cabela’s National Walleye Tour also includes unmatched television and media coverage, allowing a national audience to watch the action unfold from each event throughout the season. Airing on multiple networks, the NWT will be seen on the Pursuit Channel, NBC Sports Network, Fox Sports Net North, Comcast Chicago and the World Fishing Network.
For more details, anglers are encouraged to call 612-424-0708 or visit the website at www.nationalwalleyetour.com. Information on Raymarine’s marine electronics for anglers can be found at www.raymarine.com
2016 NWT scheduled events:

April 21-22 – Lake Erie (Sandusky, Ohio)
May 26-27 – Lake Winnebago (Oshkosh, Wis.)
June 23-24 – Green Bay (Sturgeon Bay, Wis.)
Championship – August 3-5 – Lake Oahe (Mobridge, S.D.)

About Cabela’s National Walleye Tour
Cabela’s National Walleye Tour events are made possible through the sponsorship and continued support of these well-respected brands: Cabela’s, Ranger Boats, Lucas Oil, Evinrude, RAM, Mercury, Motor Guide, Jimmy John’s, Minn Kota, Triton Boats, Power-Pole, Amphibia, Arctic Ice, Stratos Boats, Lowrance, Protect the Harvest, BoatU.S., General Tire, SuperClean, Raymarine, Valley Fashions, T-H Marine, Atlas, G-Juice, Powertex Group.
About Raymarine:
Raymarine, a world leader in marine electronics, develops and manufactures the most comprehensive range of electronic equipment for the recreational boating and light commercial marine markets. Designed for high performance and ease of use, the award-winning products are available through a global network of dealers and distributors. The Raymarine product lines include radar, autopilots, GPS, instruments, fishfinders, communications, and integrated systems. Raymarine is a division of FLIR Systems, a world leader in thermal imaging. For more information about Raymarine please go to www.raymarine.com.

Mustang Survival Renews Partnership with Cabela’s National Walleye Tour

Professional walleye circuit gearing up for 2015 season

MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. (April 14, 2015) – Mustang Survival, a leading manufacturer of marine safety and extreme climate protection products, has renewed its partnership with the Cabela’s National Walleye Tour (NWT) as an official sponsor for the 2015 season. The renewal was finalized as the NWT prepares for the upcoming season, scheduled to kick-off May 7 on the Mississippi River.

“We take NWT events to some of the biggest water in the country and routinely face adverse conditions,” said NWT Tournament Director Anthony Wright. “Angler safety is always priority one and it’s why we’re so proud of our partnership with Mustang Survival. Their products are innovative and well known for quality, plus many of their PFDs are designed specifically for anglers.”

Established in 1967, Mustang Survival has been designing and manufacturing lifesaving solutions for more than 45 years. Through constant innovation and application of new technologies, Mustang Survival is the leading supplier of quality flotation and personal protective equipment to the most demanding maritime and aviation customers including the Coast Guard, law enforcement, water rescue teams, fighter pilots, commercial mariners and recreational boaters.

“We’re proud to be a part of the Cabela’s National Walleye Tour,” said Shannon Ward, director of business development and marketing at Mustang Survival. “It’s a great platform to interact with anglers that use our products each and every day on the water. Their feedback is vital to driving our product development and improving our line of safety solutions. We’re looking forward to kicking off the 2015 season in May.”

The National Walleye Tour will begin the 2015 season May 7 at Lake City, Minnesota, and will include a total of three qualifying events, plus a year-end championship. Official registration for all events is already underway, both online and by phone. The NWT website offers numerous details on the circuit, including official rules, tournament structure, payout and incentives.

All 2015 NWT events feature 100% payback. A fully rigged Ranger Boat, plus cash, is guaranteed for first place at each event – a minimum total value of $61,000. Multiple contingency programs are available for even higher payout. Anglers that fish all three regular-season events, in addition to the top points leaders, will qualify for the three-day, entry-fee championship.

The Cabela’s National Walleye Tour also includes unmatched television and media coverage, allowing a national audience to watch the action unfold from each event throughout the season. Airing on multiple networks, the NWT will be seen on the Pursuit Channel, NBC Sports Network and Fox Sports Net North.

For more details, anglers are encouraged to call 612-424-0708 or visit the website at www.nationalwalleyetour.com. From here, site visitors can register for events, view the TV schedule and learn more about what’s in-store for 2015.

2015 NWT scheduled events:

May 7-8 – Mississippi River (Lake City, Minn.)
June 12-13 – Leech Lake (Walker, Minn.)
July 24-25 – Green Bay (Green Bay, Wis.)

Championship – September 17-19 – Devils Lake (Devils Lake, N.D.)

NWT to Offer T-H Marine ATLAS Awards Contingency at 2015 Events

Program includes cash bonuses for using many popular T-H Marine products

MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. (March 26, 2015) – The Cabela’s National Walleye Tour (NWT) will offer even more ways to win in 2015 thanks to T-H Marine’s popular Atlas Awards program. The NWT sponsor and leading manufacturer of boat parts and marine accessories will offer bonuses for using select T-H Marine products at all 2015 NWT events.

For a minimal membership fee, anglers can register for the program directly with T-H Marine and be eligible for cash bonuses as the winner or high-finisher at NWT events and other tournaments across the country.

“We’re fortunate to have the support of sponsors like T-H Marine and their Atlas Awards program is a great example why,” said NWT Tournament Director Anthony Wright. “The added contingency is a huge opportunity for NWT anglers. We’re excited to offer the program.”

The Atlas Awards program includes eight qualifying products and multiple ways to win. For any Atlas Awards member that wins an NWT event, the T-H Marine qualifying products and associated cash bonuses are:

* HOTFOOT – $50
* G-FORCE HANDLE – $50
* TWO-WAY ALARM – $50
* LOC-R-BAR – $50
* TROLL-TAMER – $50
* SHOCK LOCK – $50
* THE OXYGENATOR – $50
* ATLAS™ HYDRAULIC JACK PLATE – $250
* GRAND SLAM BONUS – $250

To be eligible for the Grand Slam Bonus the winning angler must have all eight products installed. However, if the winner of the event is not an Atlas Awards member, the highest-finishing member within the top-10 will be awarded a $100 cash prize if they own the Atlas Hydraulic Jack Plate. More details are available at www.thmarine.com or by calling 256-772-0164.

The National Walleye Tour will begin the 2015 season on May 7 at Lake City, Minnesota, and will include a total of three qualifying events, plus a year-end championship. Official registration for all events is already underway, both online and by phone. The NWT website offers numerous details on the circuit, including official rules, tournament structure, payout and incentives.

All 2015 NWT events feature 100% payback. A fully rigged Ranger Boat, plus cash, is guaranteed for first place at each event – a minimum total value of $61,000. Multiple contingency programs are available for even higher payout. Anglers that fish all three regular-season events, in addition to the top points leaders, will qualify for the three-day, entry-fee championship.

The Cabela’s National Walleye Tour also includes unmatched television and media coverage, allowing a national audience to watch the action unfold from each event throughout the season. Airing on multiple networks, the NWT will be seen on the Pursuit Channel, NBC Sports Network and Fox Sports Net North.

For more details, anglers are encouraged to call 612-424-0708 or visit the website at www.nationalwalleyetour.com. From here, site visitors can register for events, view the TV schedule and learn more about what’s in-store for 2015.

2015 NWT scheduled events:

May 7-8 – Mississippi River (Lake City, Minn.)
June 12-13 – Leech Lake (Walker, Minn.)
July 24-25 – Green Bay (Green Bay, Wis.)

Championship – September 17-19 – Devils Lake (Devils Lake, N.D.)

Insider Report – NWT Escanaba, Mich., Day 2

Kavajecz crowned king of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula

Wisconsin pro tallies latest victory with innovative jigging technique

ESCANABA, Mich. – When the bite is strong, anyone can catch walleyes on a system teeming with fish like Bays de Noc. But when the wind dies and the bite gets stingy, it becomes a true test of the world’s best. Throughout the past two decades, Keith Kavajecz has proven time and again he belongs in that elite group of walleye fishermen. In claiming his latest major victory at the third Cabela’s National Walleye Tour qualifier, he demonstrated that innovation is alive and well in the walleye world as he introduced a brand new jigging technique.

Despite a 30-minute fog delay Saturday morning, Kavajecz arrived at his primary area, located just beyond the Cedar River, faster than he did yesterday. His first stop, approximately 35 miles south of Escanaba, was a hump where his co-angler partner whacked a 30-inch walleye on day one.

“There were no fish at first; we weren’t really marking anything and the ones we did see were so inactive, just hugging tight to the bottom,” recalled Kavajecz. “I moved further south and it was more of the same. After two hours of fishing, I had nothing in the livewell.”


Kavajecz decided to return to the first spot and the sonar on his Lowrance HDS-12 Gen2 Touch absolutely lit up.

“I made four casts and I had a 24, a 28, a 26, and a big sheepshead. Since it was so difficult to get my slots yesterday, I decided to leave and target those fish immediately. We hit probably 20 spots and we caught a lot of fish but they were all overs. My partner did catch a 28 1/2 that upgraded the 26.”

Tournament anglers were restricted to Michigan waters and per state regulations, only two walleyes over 23 inches in length could be kept per day as pros and co-anglers fished together in a boat as a team.

Kavajecz then ran up to the Ford River area, a place where he and teammates Gary and Chase Parsons had been catching numerous slots in practice.

“I caught a 22, so that was good. We went a half hour and then I caught another 22. With 10 minutes left I told my partner I need a miracle fish to clinch the win. Out in 30 feet of water I caught a 20-incher to fill my limit. At that point I figured I had around 25 pounds and I knew it would be a lot of tougher on the trollers with the calm weather. That’s just standard Bays de Noc.”

Kavajecz was right as his 53.50 pounds was more than 5 pounds better than the other 99 competitors. Exactly 0 of his 10 walleyes came via trolling this week, the standard Bays de Noc presentation. Instead, they came from casting and ripping a No. 3 Moonshine Lures Shiver Minnow.

“We would cast out into the boat wake and then snap and drop the bait. It’s kind of like a jigging Rapala. But when you pull it, it shoots to the side and then drops straight down like it’s wounded. It attracted the fish, but then gave them an opportunity to eat it. Gary (Parsons) was the one who figured it out. They’ve been catching some jigging this year down in Green Bay, but we knew straight vertical wouldn’t work up here because it’s too clear. We put the pieces together and the rest is history.”

Kavajecz elaborated on his precise jigging motion.

“Part of the key to the cadence was not hitting the bottom. If you let the bait hit the bottom, there’s all kind of stuff down there. You want it close to the bottom, but not on the bottom. We replaced the stock treble hook with a bigger, No. 4 Mustad Triple Grip. That helped keep some moss off the hook. The weight of the bait was also important. The No. 3 is the biggest one they make and it allowed you to catch fish in anywhere from 14 to 30 feet of water.”

Kavajecz had his co-anglers use a green and white bait while he employed purple firetiger. He ran 8-pound Berkley Nanofil (bright chartreuse) as his main line and had a 10-pound Trilene 100 percent fluorocarbon leader (clear).

“I saw 75 percent of the fish I caught with my electronics before I even casted. I would mark them, hit the anchor feature on my Xi5 trolling motor and know the fish were immediately behind me. I would actually fish from the back of the boat.”

For his latest triumph, Kavajecz earned a Ranger 1880 powered with a 175-horsepower Mercury engine and $15,000, a total prize package worth $78,815.

“It’s been awhile since I’ve won a big one. It’s great to be winning again.”

Parsons climbs to second

Charging hard at his good friend and practice partner was the elder Parsons, one of the few pros who improved their catch from day one to day two. After boating 22.92 yesterday, Parsons increased his limit to 25.10 today, which gave him a total weight of 48.02 pounds.

Parsons ran nearly the exact same program as Kavajecz, although they fished mostly different water.

“I didn’t go nearly as far south as Keith,” said the Glidden, Wis., pro. “And I was fishing fairly steep breaks in 22 to 32 feet of water. Keith would fish more singular fish up shallower where I was targeting bigger groups.”

As soon as the 2014 schedule was announced, Parsons began the search for this particular bait.

“I liked the action right away and on my first cast I got one. I was fishing with two other guys at the time and within 10 minutes, we had two more. I spent the rest of the day going hump to hump and it kept working. The next day the rest of the group came up and we just spread out and looked for high spots or breaks.”

The difficult part was finding spots while making sure no other competitors saw them using the secret bait.

“To see us casting would have tipped everybody off. We caught a lot of big fish and coming in we felt pretty confident. The disappointing thing was the wind on day one, which turned the trolling bite on. Today was just the opposite.”

Parsons said “The Next Bite” group plans on returning to the area in the near future to film a TV show.

“This tournament shows the importance of tournament angling to the industry. The guy that owns Moonshine Lures is going to have his life change overnight. This is going to change Great Lakes structure fishing forever. The people that say there is no innovation in walleye fishing are dead wrong. You can never stop innovating and never stop learning in this sport.

“We had a ball this week. For me to come back from 24th to second, I couldn’t be any happier.”

Parker soars to third

Like Parsons, Derek Parker sat in relative obscurity after day one with 22.41 pounds. He too improved his catch on the final day – weighing a limit worth 24.10 pounds to finish the tournament with 46.51 pounds. His kicker today was in the 10-pound range, one of the bigger walleyes of the event.

“Bays de Noc is such a wind-driven fishery,” said the Skandia, Mich., angler. “I started the tournament in an area I didn’t even practice in, just because of the conditions.”

Parker began each day trolling spinners, then would switch to crankbaits in the afternoon.

“Yesterday anybody could have caught fish with that wind. I had 22 1/2 pounds and I wasn’t real happy with it. I just couldn’t get big fish. Today I knew the bite was going to be tough. So I stuck mainly to one spot, grinded it out and just made them bite.”

Parker opted for copper blades and red beads. Despite seeing fish on the bottom, he ran his baits approximately 3 feet under the surface today.

“They would come up over humps in 16 to 21 feet. And once they came up, they would commit. So I would fish really high in the water column even though they were positioned with their bellies on the bottom.”

With two hours left today, Parker was sitting on three fish. He switched to targeting weed walleyes up in 8 feet of water, which proved to be the ticket to filling his limit.

“I’m happy that among the trollers, I got first place. My hat is off to Keith and Gary; those guys are unbelievable. But what made the difference for me is that I just knew to stick it out. I only caught those five fish.”

Parker wanted to acknowledge Kim Papineau, known in the area as “Chief.”

“The Chief is my mentor. He’s been retired from walleye fishing because of some health problems. But his guidance and confidence in me really helped me achieve this.”

Dempsey finishes fourth

With only two days of practice, Green Bay guide Ryan Dempsey finished the week fourth with a cumulative weight of 46.23 pounds. After catching 23.49 on day one, Dempsey stayed consistent and managed 22.74 today despite catching fewer fish.

“I was fishing the west shore, running down south about 40 miles,” said Dempsey. “Then I would come back and spot hop certain humps on the way up. It was tough today. I bet caught 12 or 13 yesterday and only a half dozen today. But we got our limit.”

Dempsey said the deepest water he fished was 18 feet and the shallowest was 8 feet.

“The best humps are usually the ones that aren’t on the map, Today the deeper humps worked. We were trolling slowly – about 1 mph or as close as you could get to it. We used spinners and night crawlers both days, and gold colors were best.

“We just grinded it out. The only thing different I was doing was fishing certain spots, not really community water. We made much smaller passes, where most of the field was fishing bigger pieces.”

Loch fifth

Veteran troller Don Loch of Iron Mountain, Mich., rounded out the top five with a total weight of 46.22 pounds. On day one, Loch caught a 25.13-pound stringer and today he brought in 21.09 pounds.

Each day Loch brought in four walleyes, one short of the five-fish limit. He too fished the Cedar River area and employed spinners and night crawlers.

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pros at the 2014 Cabela’s National Walleye Tour event on Bays de Noc:

6th: Jason Przekurat of Stevens Point, Wis., eight fish, 45.91
7th: Glenn Chenier of Gladstone, Mich., 10 fish, 45.78
8th: Ross Grothe of Northfield, Minn., eight fish, 43.78
9th: Tom Kemos of Oconomowoc, Wis., nine fish, 43.44
10th: John Gillman of Freeland, Mich., nine fish, 42.27

Barski brings home co-angler title

Marty Barksi has fished his share of professional tournaments, spanning both the walleye and bass worlds. While he’s achieved considerable success, he’s never won an event. That changed this week after two successful days on Bays de Noc.


“I fished with Jim Carroll from North Dakota the first day and we were pulling crankbaits down around the Cedar River,” recalled Barski, the Crystal Lake, Ill., native. “It was a really good day for numbers of fish, but the conditions were rough in terms of wind and waves.

“Today I fished with Don Loch and he also ran down to the Cedar River area but we were pulling spinners with night crawlers. We caught two nice fish right away on a double and then kind of struggled. That 30-minute fog delay really hurt us. If we would have been there earlier I think we would have caught a few more.”

With only four fish in the livewell, Barski didn’t think he had a chance at winning. But on the other hand, he didn’t see many fish caught around him. After weighing in early, he began to get optimistic as he saw more and more anglers come in with light bags.

“I had my fingers crossed, but it was such a long wait being in the first flight.”

Barski’s official two-day weight for nine walleyes was 46.16 pounds. He earned $6,000 for his victory.

“You really have to have the stars align to win as a co-angler. I was lucky to be able to pull two good pros. It’s exciting to win; it’s a dream come true. I’d like to thank Chris Burns, a practice partner of mine and my wife for letting me come out and fish.”

The fourth and final event of the 2014 Cabela’s National Walleye Tour season is the year-end championship, which takes place Sept. 18-20 on Wisconsin’s Lake Winnebago in Oshkosh.

Kavajecz, Barski Win Cabela’s National Walleye Tour Event at Escanaba, Michigan

MOUNTAIN HOME, Ark. (September 3, 2014) – Pro-angler Keith Kavajecz, of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, brought in a two-day total of 53.50 pounds of walleye to win the pro-angler category of the Bays de Noc event for the Cabela’s National Walleye Tour (NWT) at Escanaba, Michigan, on Aug. 29-30.

With the victory, Kavajecz took home a new Ranger 1880 Angler boat powered by a 175hp Mercury outboard, valued at $46,000, and $15,000 in cash. Kavajecz took advantage of contingency prize opportunities and added $1,815 in Anglers Advantage cash and another $1,000 with the Mercury bonus.

High winds and three-foot waves limited travel and casting presentations on day one of the third Cabela’s National Walleye Tour qualifier. Kavajecz, a veteran tournament pro, found the right recipe amid less than ideal conditions.

“We started the day by making a very long run south, two hours almost,” said Kavajecz. “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.”

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.

Day two brought calmer waters and the chance to outperform the trolling anglers using a new casting presentation. Kavajecz’ first stop was a hump where his co-angler partner whacked a 30-inch walleye on day one, approximately 35 miles south of Escanaba.

“I made four casts and I had a 24, a 28, a 26, and a big sheepshead,” said Kavajecz. “Since it was so difficult to get my slots yesterday, I decided to leave and target those fish immediately. We hit probably 20 spots and we caught a lot of fish, but they were all overs. My partner did catch a 28 1/2 that upgraded the 26.”

Tournament anglers were restricted to Michigan waters and per state regulations, only two walleyes over 23 inches in length could be kept per day as pros and co-anglers fished together in a boat as a team.

Kavajecz then ran up to the Ford River area, a place where he and practice partners Gary Parsons and Chase Parsons had been catching numerous slots in practice.

From there, Kavajecz was able to fill out his limit and his two-day total of 53.50 pounds was more than five pounds better than the other 99 competitors. Foregoing the standard Bays de Noc presentation of trolling, the angler caught his limit casting and ripping a No. 3 Moonshine Lures Shiver Minnow.

Charging hard at his good friend and practice partner was Gary Parsons, one of the few pros who improved their catch from day one to day two. After boating 22.92 pounds on day one, Parsons brought in 25.10 pounds on day two, which gave him a total weight of 48.02 pounds.

Parsons ran nearly the exact same program as Kavajecz although they fished mostly different water.

“I didn’t go nearly as far south as Keith,” said the pro from Glidden, Wisconsin. “And I was fishing fairly steep breaks in 22 to 32 feet of water. Keith would fish more singular fish up shallower where I was targeting bigger groups.”

Parsons won a total of $17,677 for his efforts.

Derek Parker, of Skandia, Michigan, scored big on day two with 24.10 pounds to catapult him to third place. The only trolling angler to place in the top three, Parker sat on only three fish with two hours of fishing left on day two. He switched to targeting weed walleyes up in eight feet of water, which proved to be the ticket to filling his limit.

“I’m happy that among the trollers, I got first place,” said Parker. “My hat is off to Keith and Gary; those guys are unbelievable. But what made the difference for me is that I just knew to stick it out. I only caught those five fish.”

Ryan Dempsey (fourth), Don Loch (fifth), Jason Przekurat (sixth), Glenn Chenier (seventh), Ross Grothe (eighth), Tom Kemos (ninth) and John Gillman (tenth) round out the top 10 pro-anglers.

Marty Barski, of Crystal Lake, Illinois, brought in a two-day total of 46.16 pounds to win the $6,000 first-place co-angler prize. The angler fished with pro-angler Jim Carroll on day one, pulling crankbaits down around the Cedar River area.

Barski found himself paired with pro-angler Don Loch on day two. The team fished the Cedar River area with night crawlers and spinners.

With only four fish in the livewell, Barski didn’t think he had a chance at winning. After weighing in early, he began to get optimistic as he saw more and more anglers come in with light bags.

“I had my fingers crossed, but it was such a long wait being in the first flight,” Barski said.

Pat Schmidt (second), Karl Sprengel (third), Sid Ernest (fourth), Randy Sterr (fifth), Justin Villard (sixth), Ancil Reynolds (seventh), Michael Bertrand (eighth), Steve Beasley (ninth) and Tom Samp (tenth) round out the top ten for co-anglers.

The next stop for the Cabela’s National Walleye Tour is the NWT Championship on Lake Winnebago at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, on Sept. 18-20. The Lucas Oil Angler of the Year award is up for grabs. With the top-ten points leaders only separated by 46 points, many anglers will have the opportunity to win the coveted title, along with Lucas Oil rings and paid entry fees for the 2015 NWT tournament season.

Anglers that have fished all three regular season events, in addition to the top points leaders, will qualify for the three-day, entry-fee championship. Two fully rigged Ranger boats are guaranteed for the championship event. The first-place finisher in the pro division will take home a new Ranger 619FS Fisherman, plus $15,000 cash for a total prize value of $79,000. In addition, the second-place pro receives a new Ranger 1880 Angler valued at $44,000. Both figures have the opportunity to go even higher with sponsor contingency. Likewise, the winner of the Co-Angler category will take home $6,000 cash, with the opportunity to nearly double with contingency money thanks to NWT sponsors.

For more details, anglers are encouraged to call 612-424-0708 or check out the new website at www.nationalwalleyetour.com. From here, site visitors can learn more about the NWT, view the TV schedule and learn more about what’s in store for 2014.

2014 Remaining Scheduled Events

Championship – Sept. 18-20 – Oshkosh, Wis. – Lake Winnebago