Pro-angler Keith Kavajecz, of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, brought in a two-day total of 53.50 pounds of walleye to win the pro-angler category of the Bays de Noc event for the Cabela’s National Walleye Tour (NWT) at Escanaba, Michigan, on Aug. 29-30.
With the victory, Kavajecz took home a new Ranger 1880 Angler boat powered by a 175hp Mercury outboard, valued at $46,000, and $15,000 in cash. Kavajecz took advantage of contingency prize opportunities and added $1,815 in Anglers Advantage cash and another $1,000 with the Mercury bonus.
High winds and three-foot waves limited travel and casting presentations on day one of the third Cabela’s National Walleye Tour qualifier. Kavajecz, a veteran tournament pro, found the right recipe amid less than ideal conditions.
“We started the day by making a very long run south, two hours almost,” said Kavajecz. “The first fish we caught was a 28-incher. Then we caught a 24 and then we pulled a 30-incher. So at 10 a.m., after only an hour of fishing, we had our two overs.”
Kavajecz then scratched out three slot fish, all coming from different areas. On the day, he and his co-angler partner, Bob Luellen, caught roughly a dozen overs and just the three unders. Their official weight for five fish was 27.80 pounds.
Day two brought calmer waters and the chance to outperform the trolling anglers using a new casting presentation. Kavajecz’ first stop was a hump where his co-angler partner whacked a 30-inch walleye on day one, approximately 35 miles south of Escanaba.
“I made four casts and I had a 24, a 28, a 26, and a big sheepshead,” said Kavajecz. “Since it was so difficult to get my slots yesterday, I decided to leave and target those fish immediately. We hit probably 20 spots and we caught a lot of fish, but they were all overs. My partner did catch a 28 1/2 that upgraded the 26.”
Tournament anglers were restricted to Michigan waters and per state regulations, only two walleyes over 23 inches in length could be kept per day as pros and co-anglers fished together in a boat as a team.
Kavajecz then ran up to the Ford River area, a place where he and practice partners Gary Parsons and Chase Parsons had been catching numerous slots in practice.
From there, Kavajecz was able to fill out his limit and his two-day total of 53.50 pounds was more than five pounds better than the other 99 competitors. Foregoing the standard Bays de Noc presentation of trolling, the angler caught his limit casting and ripping a No. 3 Moonshine Lures Shiver Minnow.
Charging hard at his good friend and practice partner was Gary Parsons, one of the few pros who improved their catch from day one to day two. After boating 22.92 pounds on day one, Parsons brought in 25.10 pounds on day two, which gave him a total weight of 48.02 pounds.
Parsons ran nearly the exact same program as Kavajecz although they fished mostly different water.
“I didn’t go nearly as far south as Keith,” said the pro from Glidden, Wisconsin. “And I was fishing fairly steep breaks in 22 to 32 feet of water. Keith would fish more singular fish up shallower where I was targeting bigger groups.”
Parsons won a total of $17,677 for his efforts.
Derek Parker, of Skandia, Michigan, scored big on day two with 24.10 pounds to catapult him to third place. The only trolling angler to place in the top three, Parker sat on only three fish with two hours of fishing left on day two. He switched to targeting weed walleyes up in eight feet of water, which proved to be the ticket to filling his limit.
“I’m happy that among the trollers, I got first place,” said Parker. “My hat is off to Keith and Gary; those guys are unbelievable. But what made the difference for me is that I just knew to stick it out. I only caught those five fish.”
Ryan Dempsey (fourth), Don Loch (fifth), Jason Przekurat (sixth), Glenn Chenier (seventh), Ross Grothe (eighth), Tom Kemos (ninth) and John Gillman (tenth) round out the top 10 pro-anglers.
Marty Barski, of Crystal Lake, Illinois, brought in a two-day total of 46.16 pounds to win the $6,000 first-place co-angler prize. The angler fished with pro-angler Jim Carroll on day one, pulling crankbaits down around the Cedar River area.
Barski found himself paired with pro-angler Don Loch on day two. The team fished the Cedar River area with night crawlers and spinners.
With only four fish in the livewell, Barski didn’t think he had a chance at winning. After weighing in early, he began to get optimistic as he saw more and more anglers come in with light bags.
“I had my fingers crossed, but it was such a long wait being in the first flight,” Barski said.
Pat Schmidt (second), Karl Sprengel (third), Sid Ernest (fourth), Randy Sterr (fifth), Justin Villard (sixth), Ancil Reynolds (seventh), Michael Bertrand (eighth), Steve Beasley (ninth) and Tom Samp (tenth) round out the top ten for co-anglers.
The next stop for the Cabela’s National Walleye Tour is the NWT Championship on Lake Winnebago at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, on Sept. 18-20. The Lucas Oil Angler of the Year award is up for grabs. With the top-ten points leaders only separated by 46 points, many anglers will have the opportunity to win the coveted title, along with Lucas Oil rings and paid entry fees for the 2015 NWT tournament season.
Anglers that have fished all three regular season events, in addition to the top points leaders, will qualify for the three-day, entry-fee championship. Two fully rigged Ranger boats are guaranteed for the championship event. The first-place finisher in the pro division will take home a new Ranger 619FS Fisherman, plus $15,000 cash for a total prize value of $79,000. In addition, the second-place pro receives a new Ranger 1880 Angler valued at $44,000. Both figures have the opportunity to go even higher with sponsor contingency. Likewise, the winner of the Co-Angler category will take home $6,000 cash, with the opportunity to nearly double with contingency money thanks to NWT sponsors.
For more details, anglers are encouraged to call 612-424-0708 or check out the new website at www.nationalwalleyetour.com. From here, site visitors can learn more about the NWT, view the TV schedule and learn more about what’s in store for 2014.
2014 Remaining Scheduled Events
Championship – Sept. 18-20 – Oshkosh, Wis. – Lake Winnebago
Blue Heron Communications
Image courtesy National Walleye Tour