Skarlis Wins National Guard FLW Walleye Tour Season Opener on Mississippi River


Pro Brian Bjorkman of Fargo, N.D. tried to make the final day of the National Guard FLW Walleye Tour on the Mississippi River presented by Evinrude exciting by bringing in a 28 pound 11 ounce sack, the heaviest sack of the day, with his co-angler Keith Keivens of Toledo Ohio. It would fall short and Pro Tommy Skarlis of Waukon, Iowa, and co-anger Tim Lessila of Milwaukee, Wis., who caught four walleyes weighing 14 pounds, 15 ounces was enough for Skarlis to get  his first title on the Mississippi River. Skarlis’ three day total of 14 walleyes weighing 72 pound, 8 ounces was nearly 9 pounds greater than Bjorkman’s in an event featuring anglers from 15 states and Canada. Skarlis win earned him $63,000.

“I feel like Indiana Jones,” Skarlis joked. “This is the ark for me. I have wanted a Mississippi River title for a long time and this one is pretty special. My dad didn’t fish, but he gave me gas money and so I was able to go fishing with a lot of guys and who taught me this river.”

Conditions on the river changed on a daily basis. Thursday’s rain caused the river to rise over 2 feet changing water levels and more importantly current. Many anglers were left scratching their heads, but not Skarlis, he never missed a beat. The pro claimed he employed a unique style he learned from river anglers Jeff Lahr and Marty Burns throughout the tournament. Skarlis said he fished jigs, three-way rigs and crankbaits over rocks.

“Figuring out the current is what fishing this river is all about,” said Skarlis. “Look for any place the current breaks. Rocky points, eddies, wing dams, any place you find a bulge or a seam in the current.

There was no one area that was key for me,” Skarlis continued. “I was all over the river. The river is full of sauger and the walleye love to feed on them and as long as there are sauger there will be walleye. This river really is a gift from God.”

Rounding out the remainder of the top 10 pros on the Mississippi River are:
2nd:    Brian Bjorkman, Fargo, N.D., 14 walleyes, 63-10, $16,000

3rd:     Brett King, Claremont, Minn., 15 walleyes, 52-12, $11,000

4th:     Rich Mealey, Westerville, Ohio, 15 walleyes, 49-13, $9,000

5th:     Robert Bruegger, Wabasha, Minn., 10 walleyes, 49-12, $8,000

6th:     Tom Brunz, Madison Lake, Minn., 14 walleyes, 48-2, $7,000

7th:     Joe Whitten, Toledo, Ohio, 15 walleyes, 46-15, $6,000

8th:     Chad Schilling, Akaska, S.D., 14 walleyes, 42-8, $5,000

9th:     Brent Henriksen, Tea, S.D., 13 walleyes, 38-5, $4,500

10th:   Nick Schertz, Tomahawk, Wis., 12 walleyes, 34-15, $4,000

A complete list of results can be found at

Keith Keivens of Toledo, Ohio, earned the victory in the Co-angler Division to take home $8,500. His three-day weight totaled 68 pounds 3 ounces.

Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers are:

2nd:    Tim Lessila, Milwaudee, Wis., 14 walleyes, 55-3, $3,000

3rd:     Jesse Proffitt, Eau Claire, Wis., 15 walleyes, 54-9, $2,000

4th:     Keith Hahn, McHenry, Ill., 15 walleyes, 51-11, $1,600

5th:     John Mickish, White Bear Lake, Minn., 15 walleyes, 51-1, $1,400

6th:     Jim Milewsky, Bondurant, Iowa, 14 walleyes, 49-12, $1,200

7th:     Jimmy Cox, Bono, Ark., nine walleyes, 49-5, $1,000

8th:     David Klamfoth, Waverly, Iowa, 12 walleyes, 44-0, $800

9th:     Brett Lilienthal, Brooklyn Park, Minn., 13 walleyes, 39-9, $700

10th:   C.J. Johnson, Monticello, Iowa, 12 walleyes, 36-3, $600

Overall there were 39 walleyes weighing 131 pounds, 1 ounce caught by 10 boats Friday. The catch included four five-walleye limits.

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.

The FLW Walleye Tour season opener on the Mississippi River will be featured in the Sept. 23 episode of ‘FLW’ which will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) on NBC Sports Network 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.

The National Guard FLW Walleye Tour on Lake Erie will be the next tournament being held on May 10-12 in Port Clinton, Ohio. The event will be hosted by the City of Port Clinton and boats will launch from West Harbor County Launch. For a complete schedule visit

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