The warm winter of 2012 had Lake Erie about a month ahead of where it normally would have been in March for walleye habitat and spawning. So when the National Guard FLW Walleye Tour presented by Dr Pepper visits the Great Lake May 12-14 anglers may not expect to see some of the spectacular weights that have been seen in past years. Jeff Graves of Chagrin Falls, Ohio, won the 2011 event with more than 117 pounds. It is predicted that the winning weight will be right around the century mark — still nothing to sneeze about and one of the reasons anglers look forward to this stop on the FLW Walleye Tour year after year.

Hosted by the City of Port Clinton and Lake Erie Shores and Islands, the tournament will feature as many as 150 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.

According to FLW Walleye pro Joe Whitten of Toledo, Ohio, current water temperatures are right around 53 degrees. These earlier-than-normal temps have moved the walleye out of their traditional holding spots for this time of year and have spread the fish all the way from Toledo to Cleveland.

“The fish are all spawned out,” said Whitten, who is coming off a seventh-place finish at the 2012 FLW Walleye Tour event on the Mississippi River last week. “The fish have scattered; you will not see the concentrations of fish that have been seen in the past. There are no large schools of fish swimming around anymore.

“This tournament is going to be different than we have seen in any other year. Anglers are going to have to learn the lake all over again. Warm water temperatures have caused havoc amongst the walleye. The key is going to be finding decent water to fish. In the past, fishing island structures has always been a good pattern. Not so this year. The fish could be anywhere, and it is going to be finding the perfect water clarity that is going to make the difference.”

While Whitten believes that weights will be down from last year, he still thinks it is going to take 33 to 35 pounds per day to win. “The good news is that everyone is still going to catch fish. Anglers will be able to catch fish pulling crankbaits or spinners; it’s not going to matter. However, if this tournament would have been held a month ago, we would have been bringing in 50-pound sacks. But 35 pounds is still fun to catch!”

Anglers will take off from the Nor’Easter Club located at 2801 Nor’Easter Cove Road in Port Clinton at 6:30 each morning. Thursday’s and Friday’s weigh-ins will be held at Waterworks Park in Port Clinton beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday’s final weigh-in will be held at the Walmart located at 2826 East Harbor Road in Port Clinton beginning at 4 p.m.

Prior to the final weigh-in on Saturday fans will be treated to the FLW Expo at Walmart from noon-4 p.m. 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 tournament when Baumann Auto Center, located at 625 Southeast Catawba Road in Port Clinton, hosts Chevy Pro Night Tuesday, May 8, from 5 to 7 p.m. Scheduled to appear are Chevy pro Jason Przekurat, Walmart pro Dean Arnoldussen, Dr Pepper pro John Balla, Eggo pro Brian Brosdahl, Straight Talk pro Tom Keenan and 2011 FLW Walleye Tour Champion EverStart pro Dan Stier.

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