“Bull Shoals is so good to me that I just might move here,” said Outdoor Channel Pro-Am leader Bill Ortiz. The Richland Center, Wisconsin In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail pro angler fishing the series presented by Minn Kota, weighed another limit Thursday, June 26, for a total of 31.55 pounds.
Ortiz won the PWT tournament on Bull Shoals Lake in 2005, and scored a 16th in 2004. With the third and final day set for another 90-degree scorcher Friday, Ortiz said he adjusted his program for pulling walleyes from flooded trees and hopes it holds. He will explain his secrets, his locations and tricks on Friday afternoon from the PWT stage at the Bull Shoals Lions Park. So will the other top-rated walleye pros competing on all corners of this massive White River reservoir that straddles the Arkansas-Missouri border.
His lead is nearly five pounds ahead of day one leader Jim Orcutt, Ely, Minnesota. Ohio pro Mark Brumbaugh is another pound back for third, while Pro Jon Thelen, Crystal, Minnesota is fourth one pound behind Brumbaugh. Todd Riley and Dave Andersen, both from Amery, Wisconsin are fifth and sixth within a quarter-pound of Thelen. Leading the amateur/co-angler race is Al Denninger, Theodosia, Missouri. One-third of the amateur field hails from either Arkansas or Missouri, and they are learning the tactics that will make them better anglers on their home lake.
Bull Shoals Lake expanded back into the trees and shoreline brush with heavy spring rains. “So did the fish,” Orcutt said, “Now it’s a matter of finding and catching them.” Many pros wrestled with and had tug-of-wars with big walleyes that dug into the trees, snagging lines. In those cases, the walleyes usually gained their freedom.
The pros and their co-anglers lauded the efforts of the community and the volunteers for making the weigh-in ceremony work despite the conditions. The launch ramps are open; boating is safe and easy; and in addition to walleyes, the PWT anglers caught about everything that swims in Arkansas (except trout).
Three anglers weighed 15 pounds for their 5-fish limits each day. Ortiz’ walleyes pushed the scale to 17.17 pounds; Dave Anderson, Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, had 17.38 pounds; and Mike McMaken, Cedarville, Michigan, had 16.37 pounds on day two.
This is the second stop on the PWT tour, with Pro-Am tournaments set for Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and Hudson, Wisconsin in September and October. A special artificials-only CAN-AM Super Pro is set for Dryden, Ontario in August.
The PWT web site is loaded with photos, results, statistics, and more information that may be utilized by media. That site is www.professionalwalleyetrail.com.
The PWT is an integral element of the In-Fisherman Communications Network headquartered in Baxter, Minnesota, and InterMedia, America's leading producer of targeted media. PWT promotional partners include: Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, Optima Batteries, Minn Kota, Realtree, Outdoor Channel, Starcraft Marine, Northland Fishing Tackle, Fin-Tech Tackle, StowMaster, Reef Runner, Yo-Zuri Quality Lures, Smooth Moves Seat Mounts, Kwik Pfyt Mud Flaps, Yellow Bird Planer Boards, Live Target, Allstar Graphics, Ram Mounts, Element Edge, Pflueger, Plano Tackle Systems, Cannon, Bull Shoals Boat Dock (870.445.4424), Bel’ Arco Resort (870.4454242), Resort Owner’s Committee (870.405.0830) and White River Chamber of Commerce (870.445.4443).
Returning to the winner's circle, Wisconsin's Bill Ortiz claimed another victory at Bull Shoals Lake. He scored a convincing win in the Outdoor Channel Pro-Am, presented by MinnKota, June 25-27.
This is his third In-Fisherman Professional Walleye trail top finish. He won at Bull Shoals in 2005. He is now eighth on the all-time PWT money list with $359,782 in winnings. He was one of only three anglers to weigh a 5-fish limit each day for 45.84 pounds. He won $21,266.
This was especially memorable for Ortiz, who fished and traveled with PWT winner and Angler of the Year Shannon Kehl, who was killed in a car accident last week. Kehl's funeral was Friday, the final competition day, which Ortiz described this way, "My day went great; didn't miss any fish; and I know someone was looking down on my boat. It was tough to lose a friend, especially in the prime of his life. This win was for Shannon."
Ironman Todd Riley finishes second (WalleyeFIRST Photo)
Also racking up 5-fish limits were second place angler Todd Riley with 39.86 pounds for $7,008, and third place angler Dave Andersen. He brought 38.25 pounds to the scales and netted $5,075. Both pros are from Amery, Wisconsin. Top amateur/co-angler honors including a Lowrance LCX-37C sonar/GPS unit went to Norb Belz, Nixa, Missouri. PWT amateurs/co-anglers fish with three different pro anglers and use the pro's tackle in the best learning/educational seminar in the fishing world.
All amateurs/co-anglers won merchandise from PWT sponsors. The complete list of winners, pros and amateurs, is posted on the PWT web site, www.professionalwalleyetrail.com. Their monetary or merchandise prize values are also listed. Five amateurs won bonus Mercury rebate gift certificates for Mercury outboards in the amounts of $1,500, $1,200, $1,000, $800, and $500.
Pros winning the top incentives from Lund included fourth place pro Jim Muzynoski, Bozeman, Montana, $12,000; Mark Brumbaugh, Arcanum, Ohio, fifth place, $5,000; and ninth place finisher Jim Orcutt, Ely, Minnesota, $3,000. The top place Mercury owner, Andersen will collect $12,000.
Leading the Starcraft Marine Angler of the Year race is Ortiz, followed by Riley and Muzynoski. The winner at the end of the season wins a Starcraft STX 2050 boat rigged with a Mercury outboard on a tandem deluxe trailer and Lowrance electronics valued at $44,000.
With Bull Shoals up more than 40 feet from average levels, shoreline trees and brush proved the winning ticket. Walleyes (and most game fish) were in the trees, from the bottom all the way to the uppermost branches, about 20 feet under the surface. "The key for me," said Ortiz, "Was to fish crankbaits or spinners and crawlers through, around, over and in the trees. Keep snags to a minimum, but sacrifice lures and rigs, and haul out the fish." The patterns were explained in detail on stage to the many walleye fans, and will be illustrated on the PWT television series shows in early November on the Outdoor Channel. They will also be described in an upcoming issue of the Walleye In-Sider magazine.
A special award was delivered to Mark Jones, chair of the Resort Owners Committee and a Chamber of Commerce board member, recognizing all the assistance and volunteer help they provided. Another achievement award went to Ricky and Steve Eastwold, co-owners of the Bull Shoals Lake Boat Dock, for their amazing support.
Pros and amateurs/co-anglers lauded the fishery, the numbers of walleyes they caught, said the future would be fantastic, and couldn't wait to fish it when the water dropped. The minimum size limit is 18 inches. If it had been 15 inches like many other waters, almost all anglers would have weighed limits. Gary Parsons, 3-time PWT Angler of the Year, said, "I really enjoy fishing here, and this will be a world-class walleye water soon. I will be back."
The next PWT event is the CAN-AM Super Pro, an artificials-only event in Dryden, Ontario, in August. Two Minn Kota Pro-Am series tournaments follow in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, and Hudson, Wisconsin.
The PWT is an integral element of the In-Fisherman Communications Network headquartered in Baxter, Minnesota, and InterMedia, America's leading producer of targeted media. PWT promotional partners include: Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, Optima Batteries, Minn Kota, Realtree, Outdoor Channel, Starcraft Marine, Northland Fishing Tackle, Fin-Tech Tackle, StowMaster, Reef Runner, Yo-Zuri Quality Lures, Smooth Moves Seat Mounts, Kwik Pfyt Mud Flaps, Yellow Bird Planer Boards, Live Target, Allstar Graphics, Ram Mounts, Element Edge, Pflueger, Plano Tackle Systems, Cannon, Bull Shoals Boat Dock (870.445.4424), Bel' Arco Resort (870.4454242), Resort Owner's Committee (870.405.0830) and White River Chamber of Commerce (870.445.4443).
WalleyeFIRST, in cooperation with the In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail, is once again webcasting a 2008 PWT event: The PWT Pro/Am at Bull Shoals, Arkansas.
The LeaderBOARD is available in two flavors, the first is live streaming video of the weigh-in, available at both the PWT site and here at WalleyeFIRST, OR in an audio-only format for those with low-bandwidth connections, with play-by-play from the guys at WalleyeFIRST.
For days two and three, the option will be available for viewing the video, and listening to either the stage audio or the play-by-play from the WalleyeFIRST crew with the video.
Flash, the world-wide standard for internet video, is all that is required to view either option. The Flash player is a free download, is installed on 99% of all browsers in the world and is compatible with all browsers and OS's (including Macs).
PWT LeaderBOARD Webcast Can be accessed from Professionalwalleyetrail.com, or directly at this link.
The live broadcasts will begin at approximately 4:45 PM CST. Of course, WalleyeFIRST's Industry-leading Tournament Coverage is brought to you by another industry leader, Lund Boats.
While you are waiting, check out our video upload service, OutdoorsFIRST Upload, at OFUpload.com. Register an account and upload an unlimited amount of hunting and fishing video from your own archives, at one of the world's largest repositories of user-produced hunting and fishing videos.
The skies are cloudy this morning, much to the relief of most of the Pros WalleyeFIRST talked to this morning. The fish will bite all day. but many had a shallower bite going that changed yesterday with the high skies.
Temps are forecast to be in the high 90's today again, with the possibility of a thundershower this afternoon, so the skies will clear and the sun take over before the morning is out.
Rigging and trolling Cranks are the tactics talked about most this morning, and when trolling cranks...losing LOTS of lures. It's not just the tree's overall old canopy that is now underwater that is an issue, it's the one tree that sticks up 10' higher than what used to be the canopy that catches the presentation and causes a lost bait.
The majority of the field are working flooded points, a structure element Bull Shoals has plenty of to allow everyone lots of room.
Stay with WalleyeFIRST for our signature live audio and video this afternoon brought to you by Lund Boats at 5 PM. The weigh in begins just up the hill from the Bull Shoals Boat Dock.
The subject of WalleyeFIRST's second ever rant is, surprisingly, the same subject as our first rant. What is it with this PWT event at Bull Shoals that has the walleye community saying such strange things?
Our second rant focuses on some of the coverage out there. Headlines from the first two days like "Zeros Galore" and "Limits Scarce Again" make me wonder out loud, "Have these guys ever walleye fished, or followed the tours when they make their occasional visits to 'progressive' walleye waters?" Zeros Galore is, say, the Illinois River six feet over flood stage (there's nothing wrong with 5th place), or for you history buffs, a GNWC WI Championship on Green Lake, WI (that's $4723.93 per pound) - not the usual handful of empty baskets every tournament seems to have.
The answer ... when you look for negative, that's what you'll find.
Bull Shoals is a southern reservoir, far out of the traditional walleye range, one of a few reservoirs in the south along with Norfork that contains a fishable walleye population.
Conditions are far from ideal. The lake is 35 feet over normal pool after a hellish spring and early summer filled with more rain than you can imagine. The weather is oppressively hot. The fish have the option of burying themselves so far in the now flooded timber that you can burn through 100 cranks in the blink of an eye attempting to pry one out. There is an 18" minimum size limits that makes the majority of normally keeper-sized fish off-limits.
As one pro put it, "We can't fish memories from '04 and '05, since neither the fishermen or the walleyes have ever experienced the water conditions we have at this event."
Despite all this, over the first two days of the event 35 double-digit weights have crossed the stage out of a 56 boat field. Four of those were over 17 lbs, a very respectable weight just about anywhere. Compare this to some of the other PWT and FLW events over the past several years on better known bodies of water. Moreover, guys like Bill Ortiz and Mark Brumbaugh are putting on a show - showing us why they are pros - demonstrating how they attack a lake during high water conditions that have never been seen on this lake in its history.
Bull Shoals isn't exactly a walleye destination, but with action like this maybe it should be?
Clear skies and temps in the 70's greeted fifty-six pros this morning as they prepared to launch or ready their rigs at one of the area landings or from a slip at Bull Shoals Boat Dock.
The water is VERY high, probably 30 plus feet, but the overall bite has been pretty good. Pre-fishing was good for most, with some nice fish and reasonable numbers caught.
Trees and brush are the rule, but there are no memories to fish from previous events here because of the high water. Some anglers are avoiding cranks altogether because there is SO much wood submerged, the loss of baits would be too much.
Temps are going into the 90's today, so it will be warm out there.
Watch for images and video from the morning of Day On at Bull Shoals.