(Jun. 28, 2004 - Bull Shoals, AR)... By one-tenth of a pound, Mike Gofron, Antioch, Illinois, won the Mercury/Realtree Pro-Am on Bull Shoals Lake. The best walleye anglers in the world, the In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail pro anglers, discovered a new walleye hotspot June 23-25.
They did it in fine form, while showing their Arkansas friends and amateur partners the tactics and the areas that produced best. Anglers fished within one mile of tournament headquarters at Bull Shoals Boat Dock, to about 60 miles upstream.
Gofron concentrated on a shoreline stretch a mile away. He extended his PWT record-setting top-10 finishes to 28. He is a past Championship winner, a 3-time PWT winner, a 3-time Optima Top Gun winner, a past Angler of the Year (and now leads the Angler race), and the second winningest pro with $434,668 to date.
Pro Brad Davis, Jackson, Wis., scored his highest PWT finish, second, while pro Shannon Kehl, Menoken, ND was third. Gofron weighed 49.73 pounds, Davis 49.63 pounds, and Kehl 47.79 pounds. The winning amateur, Roger Hackman, Harrison, Ark., towed home a $17,000 Lund boat with a Mercury outboard on an EZ Loader trailer. Nearly $300,000 in cash and prizes were awarded to the top 40 pro and amateur anglers.
"The entire Bull Shoals resort and business community pulled together for a very successful event," said Jim Kalkofen, PWT executive director, as he presented Key Awards to John Eastwold, owner of Bull Shoals Boat Dock, and Hank Hudson, owner of Bel Arco Resort. Eastwold who has hosted hundreds of bass tournaments said, "The PWT crew and anglers are welcome back anytime."
Most anglers used combinations of night crawlers on spinners or plain hooks in the 23 to 27 foot depths. Precision boat control was critical, as was fishing where the Lowrance electronics told the anglers walleyes were sitting. Some anglers trolled crankbaits with success, including big fish winners pro Tim Flynn, Big Sky, Montana, and amateur George Morrison, Mankato, Minn. Their $2,500 walleye weighed 9.91 pounds. Flynn and Morrison also won the Gander Mountain Heavy Weight awards for their day one 23.10-pound weight. Several fish in excess of seven pounds came to the scales, and reports of much larger fish circulated in the practice period. Mark Martin, Twin Lake, Mich., advanced 64 places to win the $1,000 Coleman Cool Under pressure award.
As the final tournament in the MotorGuide West Division, Dave Anderson, Apple Valley, Minn. won the MotorGuide digital drive trolling motor. He also leads the 10 qualifiers for the Mercury Championship set for Houghton, Mich. in September. Also qualifying were Chuck Emery, Dana Point, Cal., Sam Anderson, Daves son, Inver Grove Heights, Minn., Greg Ehli, Bismarck, ND, Gil Mollet, Jefferson, SD, Gerrick McComsey, Pierre, SD, Mike Kulm, Rapid City, SD, Ross Grothe, Northfield, MN, Steve Butchart, Duluth, Minn., and Dan Swanson, Fort Collins, Col. Both Butchart and Swanson are rookie pro anglers. Swanson leads the Stowmaster Rookie of the Year race.
With his victory, Gofron edged Tommy Skarlis, Walker, Minn. for the Angler of the Year lead. After four tournaments, Gofron is four points ahead, with Larry Smith, Berlin, Wis., in third place. On the amateur side, Rick Willet-Johnson, Omaha, Neb., is the Mercury Top Amateur in the MotorGuide West Division, and winner of a set of Pflueger rods and reels. If his record holds up and is better than the Eastern Top Amateur, he will be invited to the Championship.
The PWT is an integral element of the In-Fisherman Communications Network headquartered in Brainerd, Minnesota, and PRIMEDIA, Americas leading producer of targeted media. PWT sponsors include: Mercury Marine, Lund, Berkley Gulp!, The Outdoor Channel, Trilene, Optima Batteries, Realtree, MotorGuide, Mr. Clean, PowerBait, Lowrance, MinnKota, Frenzy, Gander Mountain, Blue Fox, Northland Fishing Tackle, Lindy Legendary Fishing Tackle, Coleman, Storm, Boat Buckle, Smooth Moves Seat Mounts, Kwik Pfyt, Beckman, Rejuvenade, Eagle Trailers, Raymarine, Rapala, Matzuo, Pflueger, Ram rod holders, Drift Control, Aqua-Vu, Plano, Stowmaster, Bull Shoals Chamber of Commerce 800.447.1290, Bull Shoals Boat Dock 870.445.4424 and BelArco Resort 870.445.4242.
Bull Shoals, Arkansas.....From the In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail stage, the sentiments voiced over and over by pro walleye anglers was the same, "This is a great fishery and a great location for a PWT tournament."
Day two leader Keith Kavajecz, Kaukauna, Wis., said, "There's much more to learn; I feel the surface has just been scratched. The fish are here, and most of us are finally figuring how this system works." His two day total weight for 10 walleyes is 34 pounds. Bill Ortiz, Dodgeville, Wis. holds the second spot, and Gerrick McComsey, Pierre, SD, is within four-tenths of a pound of Ortiz.
Brad Davis, Jackson, Wis. and Mike Gofron, Antioch, Ill., round out the top five, and both are within two pounds of Ortiz. The race is tight, and Kavajecz, a past PWT Championship winner, two-time PWT winner and three-time Optima Top Gun winner, knows it will take a big final day catch to win the Mercury/Realtree Pro-Am.
Heading the amateur race, and ready to claim his new Lund boat and Mercury outboard is Roger Hackman, Harrison, Ark. He fished with McComsey on day one and Davis on day two. The top 40 amateurs win merchandise prizes; the top 40 pros win cash, with nearly $300,000 being paid Friday.
Fishing the sprawling Bull Shoals Lake from Bull Shoals Boat Dock, the pros ventured out each day, fishing many creek arms, main-lake flats and shoreline areas. They have been concentrating in the 20 to 30 foot depths, using a combination of tactics to snake night crawlers in front of waiting walleyes. With 82-degree surface water, bright skies and plenty of sunshine, the fish have maintained the same depth, despite a falling reservoir. More than half are being released via the efforts of the Arkansas Game and Fish biologists on site. The remainder will be cleaned, frozen and distributed to local charities and food banks.
The specific tactics will be revealed from the PWT stage at the conclusion of Fridayıs weigh-in. Anglers will describe what worked best, where they fished, and depart Arkansas with many new friends and a cadre of well-informed walleye anglers. Weigh-in begins at 3 p.m.
Day two big fish went to pro Tommy Skarlis, Walker, Minn. currently leading the Angler of the Year race, and amateur partner Rick Willet-Johnson, Omaha, Neb, with a 5.66-pounder. Day one saw 367 walleyes cross the stage, and another 364 were caught today. A total of 37 limits were weighed on day two; 39 on day one. The average fish is 2.83 pounds.
The PWT is an integral element of the In-Fisherman Communications Network headquartered in Brainerd, Minnesota, and PRIMEDIA, America's leading producer of targeted media. PWT sponsors include: Mercury Marine, Lund, Berkley Gulp!, The Outdoor Channel, Trilene, Optima Batteries, Realtree, MotorGuide, Mr. Clean, PowerBait, Lowrance, MinnKota, Frenzy, Gander Mountain, Blue Fox, Northland Fishing Tackle, Lindy Legendary Fishing Tackle, Coleman, Storm, Boat Buckle, Smooth Moves Seat Mounts, Kwik Pfyt, Beckman, Rejuvenade, Eagle Trailers, Raymarine, Rapala, Matzuo, Pflueger, Ram rod holders, Drift Control, Aqua-Vu, Plano, Stowmaster.net. Bull Shoals Chamber of Commerce 800.447.1290, Bull Shoals Boat Dock 870.445.4424 and BelıArco Resort 870.445.4242.
Bull Shoals, Arkansas.....Walleyes took center-stage in Arkansas today. The In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail anglers, fishing under sunny skies, discovered golden walleyes throughout massive Bull Shoals Reservoir. Leading the Mercury/Realtree Pro-Am is second-year pro Tim Flynn, Big Sky, Montana. He weighed a tournament boat-limit of five fish for 23.10 pounds, including the big fish of 9.91 pounds.
Fishing with Flynn was amateur George Morrison, Mankato, Minn. This was his first PWT tournament. The top amateur wins a 17-foot Lund boat rigged with a Mercury outboard (valued at $17,000). The winning pro will earn $64,500. The top 40 pros and top 40 amateurs receive nearly $300,000 in cash and merchandise prizes.
Flynn was trolling crankbaits, primarily Shad Raps for fish at specified depths along steep breaks early in the day. After 9 a.m., he trolled for suspended walleyes over deep water. Most anglers found success with nightcrawlers and spinners or plain nightcrawlers behind bottom bouncers.
They fished from the Bull Shoals Dam upstream, with most boats working within 45 miles of Bull Shoals Boat Dock, tournament headquarters. Many local walleye fans attended the 3 p.m. weigh-in ceremonies. Days two and three will take place Thursday and Friday, June 24 and 25. On Friday, the top 10 pro anglers will be interviewed for their secrets spots and tactics on stage. More than one-third of the amateur partners are from Arkansas and Missouri. They entered to learn the "tricks of the trade."
Amateur Roger Hackman, Harrison, Ark., said, "This is the first time I ever fished for walleyes, and I can't believe what I've learned. I took notes, and am looking forward to the rest of the tournament." He is in 8th place after fishing with pro Gerrick McComsey, Pierre, SD. They weighed 16.99 pounds.
Second place pro Mike Gofron, Antioch, Illinois, with a PWT record 27 top-10 place finishes, holds second place. Last yearıs Angler of the Year Bill Ortiz, Dodgeville, Wis., is in third place. Five-time PWT winner Ron Seelhoff, Burlington, Col., is in fourth, with Myron Sylte, Williston, ND in fifth.
A common sentiment echoed by dozens of PWT pros and amateurs on stage was, "This is a great spot to fish, a great area to live, and an even better place to catch walleyes." As a comparison, 39 limits came to the scale on day one, which was better than a Wisconsin PWT tournament earlier this season, and nearly equaled that on Cass Lake, a Minnesota walleye factory last month.
The In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail contestants are on the road to Arkansas. They're preparing for the Mercury/Realtree Pro-Am on Bull Shoals Lake, the first time for a major walleye tournament on this massive impoundment.
Bull Shoals Lake runs about 76 miles from tournament headquarters at Bull Shoals Boat Dock upstream, and another 25 miles up the Theodosia Creek Arm. Like most southern reservoirs, the 1000-mile long rugged and natural shoreline runs a ragged path up and down creeks and around hundreds of points.
As PWT pro Angler of the Year leader Tommy Skarlis said, "It's perfect for walleye fishing - lots of elbow room for everyone. The most difficult part will be to narrow it down during the pre-fishing period. Look for the pros to find fish and figure it out. I hope I'm one of them." Skarlis leads the points race by virtue of a first place in Wisconsin, followed by 10th and 11th place finishes. He has won $81,500 so far this season.
Competition dates are June 23-25, Wednesday, Thursday and Friday, with afternoon (3 p.m.) weigh-in festivities at Bull Shoals Boat Dock. The stage ceremonies are great fun, plus on Friday the pro anglers share their hot spots and best tactics. And, the top 40 pros and top 40 amateurs win nearly $300,000 in cash and merchandise prizes. The top amateur tows home a 17-foot Lund boat rigged with a Mercury outboard.
The Mercury/Realtree Pro-Am is the fourth tour stop this season. Two additional qualifiers will be held; one in Michigan; the other in Ohio. News, photos and daily results will be posted on the PWT web site, www.professionalwalleyetrail.com. Check out the Mercury Real-Time Scoreboard for instantaneous weights as anglers cross the stage.
The PWT is an integral element of the In-Fisherman Communications Network headquartered in Brainerd, Minnesota, and PRIMEDIA, America's leading producer of targeted media. PWT sponsors include: Mercury Marine, Lund, Berkley Gulp!, The Outdoor Channel, Trilene, Optima Batteries, Realtree, MotorGuide, Mr. Clean, PowerBait, Lowrance, MinnKota, Frenzy, Gander Mountain, Blue Fox, Northland Fishing Tackle, Lindy Legendary Fishing Tackle, Coleman, Storm, Boat Buckle, Smooth Moves Seat Mounts, Kwik Pfyt, Beckman, Rejuvenade, Eagle Trailers, Raymarine, Rapala, Matzuo, Pflueger, Ram rod holders, Drift Control, Aqua-Vu, Plano, Stowmaster.net, Bull Shoals Chamber of Commerce 800.447.1290, Bull Shoals Boat Dock 870.445.4424 and Bel'Arco Resort 870.445.4242.
Walleye season is already underway on Bull Shoals Lake, bordering Arkansas and Missouri. Dan Stier, PWT tournament winner, spent a few days on this massive system recently.
He will return in June when the In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail conducts a Pro-Am tournament on Bull Shoals. The Mercury/Realtree Pro-Am features the120 top-ranked walleye anglers. They will fish the 3-day tournament with amateurs who want to learn more about locating and catching "southern" walleyes.
The Pro-Am on Bull Shoals, if Stier's early success is any indication, could prove good populations of walleyes are waiting to be caught. Most of his fish ranged from 16 inches to 26 inches long. He said in four days of explorations, "I barely scratched the surface of this scenic waterway."
Arkansas Game & Fish Commission biologist Ken Shirley said, "The walleye numbers are the highest they've been in 10 to 15 years, and probably as high as they've ever been." Missouri Department of Conservation biologist A.J. Pratt said, "We're seeing more walleyes of all sizes when we're doing our bass sampling. We never saw any in the 1980's."
At Bull Shoals, pro anglers will share their knowledge, boats, tackle and gear with their daily amateur partners. Amateurs, once registered and entry fee is paid, only have to worry about setting the hook. All weigh-in activities take place at the Bull Shoals Boat Dock June 23-25. The top 40 amateurs win prizes including a Mercury-powered 17-foot Lund boat valued at $17,000 for first. Other prizes include Mercury kickers, MinnKota and Motor Guide trolling motors, Lowrance handheld GPS units and much more gear and gift certificates. Amateur openings still remain.