The steady rain that settled in late Thursday didn’t hamper walleye pro Tommy Skarlis of Waukon, Iowa, and his co-angler Jimmy Cox of Bono, Ark., on the first day of the National Guard FLW Walleye Tour presented by Evinrude. They brought in a limit of five walleyes weighing 36 pounds, 12 ounces to take a dominating lead on day one of the season opener being held on the Mississippi River in Red Wing, Minn.
The pair holds an 8-pound, 13-ounce lead over their closest rivals where pros are fishing for a top award of $63,000 and co-anglers are working for a top award of $10,500. The event features 110 pros and 110 co-anglers representing 15 states and Canada.
“I am speechless,” said Skarlis, whose last FLW win was the 2008 Walleye Tour Championship. “This is the kind of day where you have to be modest and very thankful.”
Grieving the loss of Sonny Reynolds, FLW Walleye Tournament Director for the past 11 years, Skarlis referred to the heavy rain as tears from heaven as Sonny watched over all the anglers on day one of competition.
“The reason I moved back to Iowa was so that I could get back to river fishing,” Skarlis went on to say. “I grew up fishing the Mississippi River and I have a lot of fond memories of fishing in Red Wing. I learned a lot of tricks here and I am back to learn even more.
“Today I used a lot of home-made sinkers and jigs that I created with Do-it Molds and am having a lot of fun with it. Also key for me was the 7-foot St. Croix Legend LX 7-0 MHM rod that I used. It’s really over built but I need the sensitivity in the handle so that I can feel the snaggly bottom.
“Of the four programs I have identified for this tournament I only used one today,” Skarlis added. “I am confident that if I am left alone, the way I was today, I can catch the same quality of fish for the next two days. But I can’t stumble; I am fishing against the best caliber walleye anglers in the Midwest and I can’t afford a misstep.
Rounding out the remainder of the top 10 pros and co-anglers after day one on the Mississippi River are:
2nd: Robert Bruegger, Wabasha, Minn., and Jimmy Cox, Bono, Ark., five walleyes, 27-15
3rd: Brian Bjorkman, Fargo, N.D., and Tim Lessila, Milwaukee, Wis., four walleyes, 25-8
4th: Tom Brunz, Madison Lake, Minn., and Keith Hahn, McHenry, Ill.., five walleyes, 24-10
5th: Paul Meleen, Isle, Minn., and Larry Oleson, Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., five walleyes, 24-0
6th: Matthew Ernst, North Oaks, Minn., and John Mickish, White Bear Lake, Minn., five walleyes, 22-6
7th: Steve Lotz, Lena, Ill., and Brett Lilienthal, Brooklyn Park, Minn., five walleyes, 22-2
8th: Rich Mealey, Westerville, Ohio, and Jeffery Kittelson, Arden Hills, Minn., five walleyes, 21-13
9th: Randy Stevens, Rochester, Minn., and Nicholas Werner, Demorestville, Ontario, five walleyes, 20-12
10th: Brent Afseth, Preston, Minn., and Harold Johnson, Fridley, Minn., three walleyes, 19-9
Overall there were 432 walleyes weighing 1,192 pounds, 3 ounces caught by 110 boats Thursday. The catch included 67 five-walleye limits.
Anglers will take off from Ole’ Miss Marina at Bay Point Park located at 1429 Levee Road in Red Wing at 6:30 each morning. Friday’s weigh-in will also be held at Ole’ Miss Marina at Bay Point Park beginning at 2:30 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 is proud to announce that the 2012 FLW Walleye Tour will feature six pros running sponsor-wrapped boats for the upcoming season. 2011 FLW Walleye Tour Champion Dan Stier will represent EverStart; 2011 Angler of the Year Tom Keenan will don the Straight Talk colors; Dean Arnoldussen will be in the Walmart boat; John Balla will represent Dr Pepper; driving the Eggo boat will be Brian Brosdahl and representing Chevy is Jason Przekurat. The six boats are just one of the many exciting facets of the 2012 FLW Walleye Tour. The weekly television show ‘FLW’ will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) on NBC Sports Network and the Red Wing tournament will air Sept. 23 from 1 – 2 p.m. ET. ‘FLW’ is hosted by Chip Leer and is broadcast to more than 559 million households worldwide, making it the most widely distributed weekly outdoors-sports television show in the world.
In Walleye Tour competition, pro and co-anglers are competing for valuable points in the hope of qualifying for a shot at the 2012 National Guard FLW Walleye Tour Championship which will be held on the Mississippi River in the Quad Cities Sept. 25-28. Anglers are also vying for the coveted Angler of the Year title, which earns them a place in the 2013 Walleye Tour Championship, as well as $10,000 for the pro and $2,500 for the co-angler.
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.