Seventeen teams squared off Sunday, Sept. 15 in the first Minnesota Walleye Alliance Fall Walleye Classic on Gull Lake.
A cold front that swept through the area Saturday and bright sunshine Sunday made for less than ideal conditions for walleye fishing, yet all but one team brought a five-fish limit to the scales.
Bob Steinhoff and Jerry Steinhoff, who know Gull Lake as well or better than any other fishermen in the field, won first place and $350 with five fish weighing 17.16 pounds. That's better than a 3-pound average, for those of you scoring at home. The Steinhoff team also collected $170 for catching the big fish of the tournament, a 5.80 pound lunker.
Chad and Suzi Taatjes took second with 13.68 pounds. Their five-fish limit was rounded out with a 5.52 pound dandy. The Taatjes team took home $175.
Chris Erickson and Craig Erickson were third with 12.56 pounds. A 4.36 pounder went a long way toward their final weight and a pay day of $125.
Chuck Carlson and Bob Kuschel took fourth with 11.56 pounds, good for $100. A 5.14 pounder made up a significant part of their total weight.
Cashing the final check for taking fifth place were Jeff Stirewalt and Bryan Barber, who weighed 9.12 pounds of walleyes and took home $50. "At least we covered the cost of the bait," Stirewalt said later.
Lending an air of professionalism to the event was emcee Bob Hanson, a walleye pro who earlier this summer finished second at a PWT tournament on Leech Lake. Johnson Industrial Scales of Nisswa provided the weigh scale and Zorba's on Gull Lake provided the tournament site.
Though the tournament field was smaller than the organizers had hoped for, everyone agreed it was a great first tournament for the Alliance. Another is planned for next year.
That will give the Meyer-Wester team a chance to make up for this year's blunder. With four fish in the livewell and less than an hour to go before weigh-in, Meyer and Wester booted the chance to land a nice walleye that almost certainly would have put them in the money. Tangled lines, lack of boat control and a sheer case of Tournament Panic prevented the duo from bringing in a walleye that measured somewhere between 26 and 28 inches. Ouch!
But who wants to hear about the one that got away? Create your own big fish story by taking part in next year's Fall Walleye Classic.
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