BISMARCK, N.D. – Todd Dankert of Anoka, Minn., has come close to a tournament title before with three prior top-10 finishes in walleye events operated by FLW Outdoors, including a runner-up finish on Lake Oahe last year. When he finally got his win Saturday, it was a big one – a championship title.
Dankert was crowned king of the Co-angler Division in the 2011 National Guard FLW Walleye Tour Championship on the Missouri River today at the Bismarck Civic Center, and he earned $5,000 plus a $2,000 Ranger Boats bonus for his efforts. He graciously praised the host community, tournament officials, sponsors, the fishery and – perhaps most thoroughly – his pro partners, all before he even knew he had won.
“This is an amazing, healthy fishery … and look at this community – It just couldn’t be any better,” he said. “I’ve fished a lot of these events, and I look at all the different anglers I’ve been able to fish with and learn from. This week I was very blessed to fish with the three guys I really wanted to fish with.”
On day one Dankert was paired with OFF! pro Chris Gilman, last year’s championship winner and a former FLW Walleye Angler of the Year, with whom he sacked a limit weight of 21 pounds, 6 ounces. On day two he fished with pro David Andersen, a Professional Walleye Trail standout who is now asserting himself on the Walleye Tour, for a 20-4 limit. Today he fished with Evinrude pro Tommy Skarlis, who is currently leading his division and won the championship here in 2008, for a 17-2 limit. Dankert’s three-day total weight was 58-12.
Skarlis was quick to return the praise: “Todd, in all essence, earned this one today. He caught five of the six weigh fish we brought back.”
“I’ve been asked this week if I was nervous – not really,” Dankert said. “We had a little hiccup today early; we had a couple fish get tangled up. But I told myself, ‘It’s not that big of a deal. Just do what you do and keep fishing.’ From that point on, we talked and fished and had a great day.”
Before winning the title, Dankert said he didn’t care that much about the “big cardboard check” or the trophy; he just loves fishing and enjoys his experience as a co-angler in FLW tourneys, regardless of where he finishes. In addition to the money and hardware, he will also be able to take home something intangible that means as much to him as almost anything else – the high praise of a top pro.
“At one point we were fishing today, jigging, and I caught my fourth fish,” Dankert said. “Tommy walks up to me, he puts his hand on my shoulder and says, ‘What are you doing to catch those?’ How cool is that – to have Tommy Skarlis say that to you?”
John Mickish of White Bear Lake, Minn., earned runner-up honors among championship co-anglers with a three-day total weight of 55-1. He fished with Mercury pro Keith Kavajecz on day one for the tournament’s heaviest limit thus far at 26-12, and then added 11 pounds on day two fishing with pro Nick Schertz. Today he fished with National Guard pro Bill Shimota for a 17-5 limit and a lesson in handlining.
“Today was my first time handlining, and I tell you, I think I caught more fish today than I did the other two days combined,” Mickish said. “My wife’s birthday is coming up – I think I know what I might get her.”
With $2,500 in prize money, the co-angler should have enough to get her something nice above and beyond a handlining rig.