The enigmatic winter that Minnesota enjoyed this year may have left residents free of backaches from shoveling snow and sunbathing a month early, but it is really going to challenge professional walleye anglers as the National Guard FLW Walleye Tour presented by Evinrude gets underway with the season opener on the Mississippi River in Red Wing, Minn., April 19-21, 2012.

Hosted by the Red Wing Visitors & Convention Bureau, the tournament will feature a full field of the world’s best walleye anglers in each of the pro and co-angler divisions. They will be casting for top awards up to $63,000 in the Pro Division and $10,500 in the Co-angler Division.

“The big story for this tournament is going to be the low water levels and the slow currents,” said FLW Walleye pro Bill Shimota of Lonsdale, Minn. “The river right now is about 4 feet below normal. It’s really unbelievable. The fish aren’t where you normally would expect to see them. Anglers are literally going to have to relearn the river.

“With the low water levels guys are going to have their opportunity anywhere on the river. Pool 4, Pool 3 … just about anywhere,” Shimota continued.  “I wouldn’t be surprised to see one or two 35-pound bags caught, but it is going to be tough to duplicate. You are going to see a lot of small and male fish caught. However, the key is going to be staying on those big females as they leave spawning areas and head out to their summer haunts. To make the cut I think anglers are going to have to bring in 17 to 18 pounds per day.

“Guys are going to have success throwing a jig in the lower, cleaner water, and there will still be enough of a current in the narrow stretches of the main river to do some hand-lining. Guys that do live-baiting could also do some damage. It’s going to be interesting.”

Shimota, who won the last FLW walleye event on the Mississippi River in 2010, believes that despite the warm temperatures, the spawn is still on track to take place the same time it typically does, making this a post-spawn event. According to Shimota, the water is cleaner than he remembers it ever being this time of year, which will help increase the bite. He believes that spring fishing on the Mississippi will be phenomenal.

Anglers will take off from Ole’ Miss Marina/Bay Point Park located at 1429 Levee Road in Red Wing at 6:30 each morning. Thursday and Friday’s weigh-ins will also be held at Ole’ Miss Marina/Bay Point Park beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday’s final weigh-in will be held at the Walmart located at 295 Tyler Road S. in Red Wing beginning at 4 p.m.

Fans will be treated to the FLW Expo at Walmart on Saturday from noon-4 p.m. prior to the final weigh-in. The Expo includes the opportunity to interact with professional anglers, a trout pond, and interactive games and activities. The NPAA will be offering a free Youth and Family Fishing Clinic beginning at 2:30 p.m. Prizes, including rods & reels, will be given away after the clinic. All activities are free and open to the public.

FLW Walleye Tour pro anglers will be on hand to sign autographs, take pictures and talk fishing to fans of all ages prior to the event when Red Wing Chevrolet, located at 2500 W. Highway 61 in Red Wing hosts Chevy Pro Night Tuesday, April 17, from 6 to 8 p.m. Scheduled to appear are Jason Przekurat, Dean Arnoldussen, John Balla, Brian Brosdahl and 2011 FLW Walleye Tour Champion Dan Stier.

For complete details and updated information visit FLWOutdoors.com. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow us on Facebook at Facebook.com/FLWFishing and on Twitter at Twitter.com/FLWFishing.

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