The richest walleye fishing tournament in history begins Tuesday on Green Bay.
The Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Championship, Oct. 3-7, will pay $1.4 million in total prize money. One pro fishermen could win as much as $400,000 if all manufacturers incentives are met. The minimum prize the winning pro would take home is $150,000 while the top amateur, or co-angler, is guaranteed $75,000 and could earn as much as $75,000 in sponsor awards.
RCL stands for Ranger, Crestliner, Lund, the three manufacturers who are co-sponsoring the tournament. All of the 200 walleye pros own a boat by one of these manufacturers. Pros qualified for the RCL Walleye Championship through competition in 26 tournament organizations, including the Professional Walleye Trail, Gary Roach Invitational and Wave Wackers Invitational.
Local fishermen competing in the tournament include Richard Boggs, Nisswa, Dan Roach, Merrifield, Bill Pestello, Pequot Lakes, Ted Takasaki, East Gull Lake, Gary Roach, Merrifield, Reggie Thiel, Walker, Chuck Emery, Walker, Mark Christianson, Walker, Jerry Emery, Walker and Jim Lindner, Baxter. Boggs, Takasaki, Gary Roach, Thiel, Christianson and Lindner are entered as pros. The others are entered as co-anglers. Eighteen states and four Canadian provinces are represented.
The tournament runs four days. All competitors fish the first two days in their own boats. The 12 with the heaviest total weight after two days advance to the single-day second round, where they start over in boats supplied by the manufacturers. Amateur competition ends after the third day. The six pros with the heaviest total weight advance to the final round on Friday and Saturday. Catch weights carry over on the first two days but everybody starts from zero on days three and four.
On that final day of pro competition the heaviest five-fish limit takes all. "That will be a nerve-racking day," said Dave Washburn, communications specialist for the Wal-Mart RCL Championship. "The worst they could do is make $6,000 and if they meet all sponsor requirements the worst they could do is $16,000."
Green Bay was chosen for the tournament because walleyes are the most sought-after fish in the Great Lakes and the bay has produced some nice walleyes in recent years. Washburn said 8- to 10-pound fish are common and that he expects the average five-fish limit during the tournament to weigh between 25 and 30 pounds. "It's quite possible we'll see some 40 to 50 pound limits," he added.
The tournament will be filmed by ESPN and shown later this fall. Each pro in the final round will be escorted by a camera crew that will film the entire day's action. "This won't be your typical fishing show," said Jerry McGinnis of JW Associates, an Arkansas-based film production company. "Frankly, it will change the face of walleye fishing."
Daily results can be had by logging on to the web at www.operationwalleye.com.
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