It has been rumored that walleye tournament fishing is so much fun. In most cases, there is too much water to fish and you often have too little time under all sorts of conditions. Let me describe to you a situation I faced a few years ago.
During a tournament on Lake Oahe out of Mobridge, South Dakota, the first two days of the tournament were cancelled. Sixty-mile-per-hour raging winds had driven rain through the walls of my log cabin and, on the third day, I found myself staring at a reservoir full of fish all stirred and shaken. Even though I had spent several days finding fish prior to this tremendous storm, I knew that the catching could be very different.
Since I had been stranded on shore for two days, my task now was to brave the remnants of Mother Nature’s fury and motor down the lake while pounding my boat into the still-choppy waters. There was one last tournament day left. For miles I trudged on as windswept spray splashed into my eyes, making navigation incredibly difficult.
Every minute was consumed with doubt as to the conclusion of my mission. Would my fish still be there, or was I taking a beating with no hope of reward? The spoils of victory seemed incredibly remote as my spine was being crushed by the pounding of every wave.
Remarkably, I finally arrive at my Shangri-La of spots. This is THE spot of all spots, the mother lode of walleyes, and the answer to my dreams of riches beyond belief. Sponsors will be knocking down my door and the paparazzi will be clamoring for my picture.
But wait, I must catch the fish first.
Even getting the rods out of storage and putting bait on my hooks was proving to be tough. The wind was still strong and the waves were rocking me ever so violently. Catching fish was quickly becoming an issue. In fact, I caught nary a one over the course of several hours. The thought had crossed my mind to change spots, but to move would require a lot of time and time was becoming short. Time to weigh in was quickly approaching and I had to begin the arduous, back-breaking trek back soon.
I clearly remember thinking: what should I do?
Finally, not only is time slipping away, but so is my battery power. I am slowly losing ground to the wind on this miraculous spot that hasn’t produced one fish. With less than an hour left, I need to do something. Throw the anchor now.
But it won’t hold. It is losing its grip on the slippery rocks below. Toss the anchor again. No luck. One more toss or I’ll have to find something closer to the weigh-in to fish. Finally, the anchor held. Was this a gift from above? There were only 45 minutes left to fish, and then it would be time to motor back. Even thinking about driving the boat back through those seas made my back hurt worse.
Even though I was finally anchored in place, there were still nagging questions about what my presentation should be. This spot hadn’t given up a fish in more than five hours of steady fishing. I was already “all in,” so it was time to just sit back and soak some minnows.
Unbelievably, those minnows must have been magic, because I was suddenly catching fish after fish, and next thing I knew there was a limit swimming in my livewell! Amazingly, these were the same minnows that were put into service to catch fish earlier. Golden glory hallelujah!
There was just enough time left to race back, bask in the glory and reap the riches of fame and fortune. As it turned out, I wound up in third place, just ounces short of a win. Finishing near the top of the leaderboard brought a healthy check and made it easier to ignore the soreness in my back over the next few days. In keeping with the reality of what it’s actually like to be out there on tour, a few hours later I was winding my way down the highway by myself, realizing that I’m only as good as my next tournament finish.
But hey, for that one day, things were pretty good. And as I drove through the night, I remember wondering whether someone was looking out for me, or whether we should just chalk it all up to plain old blind luck.
Images courtesy Ted Takasaki and Scott Richardson