By Brett Carlson
OTTERTAIL, Minn. – The McQuoid family is well known in tournament walleye circles as Kevin, the patriarch, has been competing for the better part of 30 years. In addition, Karen McQuoid has held her own as a team partner of Kevin’s on the MWC. But lately, the hottest stick in the family has been 21-year-old Eric McQuoid, who today shocked the west-central Minnesota crowd with a 23.72-pound stringer. The younger McQuoid now carries over a 7-pound lead heading into the final day of the 2021 National Walleye Tour Championship, presented by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s.
McQuoid called his second day on Otter Tail Lake “a dream come true.” On his first pass, he caught near-perfect slots that measured 19 1/2, 19 1/2 and 19 3/4 inches. Around 11 a.m., he spotted an absolute giant on his Garmin Livescope. After making several unsuccessful casts, a TV cameraman came aboard. Shortly after, the big girl bit, and she was every bit as big as she looked on McQuoid’s graph.
“That big one weighed about 9 1/2 pounds,” said the rookie pro. “It all went down with the camera guy recording. It was so intense I had to take a second to gather myself afterwards. Then I got back up front, and the next cast was a 6 1/2-pounder. It was truly one of those days you dream about.”
At 11:10, McQuoid had all his weight, so he spent the rest of the day prefishing. Specifically, he looked for spots that would jive with tomorrow’s strong northwest winds. In the end, he boated a total of 12 to 15 walleyes.
“It’s nice to have a few more options for tomorrow, but I hope I won’t have to hit them.”
In other words, McQuoid is doing his damage mostly from one spot, a spot he believes will reload.
“The wind is going to crash into there, which is good because the wind sort of loads them in. It’s possible it’s going to blow too much though. My batteries are definitely going to get a workout.”
While not revealing specifics, McQuoid shed some light on his pattern.
“We’re targeting specific fish – mainly throwing glide baits and pulling some live bait. There are four of us in the vicinity, so I don’t want to give away too much.”
On day one, the Bannick Primary pro registered 15.62. Combined with his 23.72 today, he has a total weight of 39.34 pounds.
“All of practice I only caught seven or eight walleyes, and I never saw a walleye over 20 inches. I caught three over 20 yesterday and three over 20 today. It’s just been crazy. I think if I go out there and catch five tomorrow, I’ll be right there.”
Herd unofficially claims AOY
Hometown hero Drake Herd may have slipped on the leaderboard from fifth to sixth, but more importantly, he secured the coveted Lucas Oil Angler of the Year award. When the championship concludes, his AOY win becomes official.
“Coming into this tournament, I honestly didn’t know if it was possible,” said an emotional Herd. “But I love this lake. I’ve looked up to these guys for years. To finally give it back to them feels awesome.”
The lowest Herd can finish is 10th, but the potential to make a major move still exists.
“I just wanted to make the top 10, and I did that. It’s time to have some fun tomorrow.”
Despite another amazing performance, multispecies pro Tom Huynh slipped to second. After weighing 15.68 pounds, Huynh has an opening-round total of 31.84 pounds.
“I’m mostly happy with where I’m at,” said the Moorhead, Minn., angler. “Of course I’d still like to be leading, but Eric went out there and put on a show today. That’s a once-in-a-lifetime bag for a Minnesota lake with a slot limit. When I heard what he had, there was disappointment. At the same time, I’m still super happy to have made the top 10. I’m not beating myself up; I’m just ready to do it again.”
Huynh believes he still has a puncher’s chance.
“Overall, I just want to maintain and be consistent. It’s going to be extremely tough to catch Eric. He has a really good cushion, but anything can happen. We’ve seen 23-pound bags, and we’ve seen legends of the sport zero this week.”
Huynh revealed that he and McQuoid are fishing near each other at times.
“I think we’re using similar techniques to locate fish too, but our tactics are different. But both tactics are working. I just think he found some good fish that slid out deep today. I love fishing deep; that’s normally what I do, but I just couldn’t find them deep. I’m in the mid-depth range, and he’s out deeper than I am.”
While Huynh alluded to unorthodox methods yesterday, today he backpedaled.
“I’m using live bait and a very simple method for this tournament. I’ve used those before, especially on Leech Lake. They’re just super picky right now.”
Amery, Wis., pro Kent Andersen continues to backtroll along breaklines, and walleyes continue to pile up in his vessel. After catching 15.90 yesterday, he managed 14.80 today.
“I was happy with what I got,” said the Lake Oahe champion. “Yes, 8 1/2 pounds is huge, but no lead is safe. That was a monster bag for Otter Tail Lake, but it doesn’t change how I fish tomorrow.”
Andersen revealed that he’s rigging red tails and creek chubs. He caught some fish in water as shallow as 5 or 6 feet, while others have come as deep as 35 feet. Typically Andersen is working the deeper water, and his co-angler is working the top of the break with a spottail shiner.
“I just keep sliding up and down the breaks. I’m looking at my Humminbird electronics, and every once in a while, you’ll get a peak at them.”
Andersen is a bit concerned with tomorrow’s forecast, particularly the change in wind direction.
“The wind is going to rip tomorrow, and it’s going to be a completely different day. My worst day of practice was when it was cloudy and the wind was from the northwest, so hopefully it’s not a repeat.”
While he currently sits third in place, this event marks Andersen’s third consecutive top-10 finish at the year-end championship.
Stachowksi fourth, Przekurat fifth
Rounding out the top five are veteran sticks Ed Stachowksi and Jason Przekurat. Stachowski slipped from third to fourth despite catching a 14.57-pound stringer today. Combined with his 15.70 on day one, the 2016 Angler of the Year has a total of 30.27 pounds.
Przekurat climbed up the leaderboard from ninth to fifth after catching 14.60 pounds. His two-day weight was 27.50 pounds. While it’s a tall task, Przekurat will have the opportunity to repeat as NWT Championship winner.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros after day two on Otter Tail Lake:
6th: Drake Herd of Alexandria, Minn., 10 walleyes, 26.84
7th: Brian Bjorkman of Fargo, N.D., nine walleyes, 26.26
8th: Max Wilson of Campbellsport, Wis., 10 walleyes, 25.81
9th: Wayne Van Dyke of Spruce, Mich., 10 walleyes, 25.13
10th: Jarrod Fredericks of Estelline, S.D., 10 walleyes, 22.28 The third and final day of competition begins tomorrow at 8 a.m. Central time as the top 10 takes off from Beach Bums Bar & Eatery located at 35776 Co. Hwy. 72 in Battle Lake. The final weigh-in will also take place at Beach Bums Bar & Eatery, beginning at 4 p.m. The winner in each division is determined by the heaviest cumulative weight.