The Professional Walleye Trail's first venture into Canada was a success, from all reports.
The July 25-27 event on Wabigoon Lake near Dryden, Ont., saw a lot of fish caught and plenty of good will between the competitors and the community.
"The only thing that hurt us was the fact that it was very hot," said Chip Leer, PWT tournament director. "The first day there was no wind and it was nearly 100 degrees. We not only learned what our first event in Canada was like, but what our first event in Mexico would feel like. The weather hurt attendance (at the weigh-ins). People came in big numbers, but they didn't stick around. They went home and watched it on cable TV."
All three weigh-ins were carried live on Dryden's local access cable TV station, a level of coverage the PWT has never seen at any other site. The community also embraced the event like few others.
"(Pro angler) Keith Kavacejz said he saw more signs in windows than he had ever seen before," Leer said. "They were everywhere."
And so were the walleyes in Wabigoon. Pros and their co-anglers boated up to 100 fish per day, Leer said. The size structure of the fishery was impressive. The biggest walleye weighed on the PWT so far this year was caught here - a 10 pound, 4 ounce lunker landed by winner Bill St. Peter of Bay City, Mich. That fish was part of a three-day, 15-fish bag totaling 43.65 pounds, giving the eight-year pro his second tour win. The first came on Saginaw Bay in 2002.
"Any place you go you can catch walleyes, thousands of them," St. Peter said of Wabigoon Lake.
Mark Brumbaugh of Arcanum, Ohio, who led after two days only to see St. Peter pass him on the final day, said he loved the variety of the fishery.
"If walleyes were biting by the hundreds every day, so were smallies, pike and muskies," Brumbaugh said.
Bruce Samson, a four-time winner on the PWT who placed sixth here, said most pros went for broke looking for big fish due to the lake's special regulations.
"This was a big fish tournament," Samson said, "as most of the slots were less than 16 inches and the over 18 inch slots were bigger than 23 inches. It was an easy decision to fish big fish. I found four the first two days and none the last day. That's why I finished sixth."
Among local pros at the tournament, Perry Good of Brainerd had his best showing of the season with a fifth-place finish. Good was in 24th place after Day One with a meager catch of 7.81 pounds, but rallied on Day 2 and Day 3 with catches weighing 15.45 pounds and 10.01 pounds, respectively. Steve Fellegy of Aitkin placed 21st with 27.58 pounds.
Gary Parsons of Glidden, Wis., maintains the Angler of the Year lead. At this tournament he won the Coleman "Cool Under Pressure" award for advancing 36 places from Day One to Day Three.
PWT Executive Director Jim Kalkofen said the tour will return to Wabigoon in 2008.
"When we announced that on the last day our amateur contestants came up and asked if they could have right of first refusal," Kalkofen said. "The Dryden chamber said they already have people who said they will volunteer next year."
For the final tournament of the '07 season the PWT now heads for Bay de Noc, Mich. for an Aug. 8-10 event. The championship that normally concludes the season each fall has been moved to next spring. By moving the championship to the spring the PWT hopes to generate more interest in the event at a time of year when the casual sportsman is thinking about fishing, not hunting.
VINCE MEYER may be reached at email@example.com or 855-5862.
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