Not too long ago an outdoorsy guy from California moved to Minnesota.

“What do you do outdoors here for fun?” he asked of his new neighbors and co-workers.

“Fishing,” was the dominant reply.

“Fishing for what?”

When the answer came back “walleyes,” he knew he had a lot of work to do.

Shane Kemper with a very nice “first” walleye at last year’s All-Star Walleye School on Mille Lacs. He wants to go again this year.

Our West-coast transplant’s name was Shane Kemper. The first thing Shane did was attend a few boat shows in Minneapolis and buy a boat. As summer rolled around and he picked up his new rig, he got motivated about getting his gear. Then he had an epiphany.

“I didn’t want to be that guy,” Shane retold the story a few months later. “Summers are short in Minnesota and you have to cram a lot of on-the-water time into a few short months. I needed to figure out walleye fishing—and fast.”

Shane signed up for—and attended—the All-Star Walleye School on Lake Mille Lacs. There were 13 other students in the school and seven pro instructors. Shane totally owned being the newbie in the group. “I’ve never caught a walleye before,” he confessed on the opening night of the school as guys introduced themselves around the table.

With seven pros you can imagine they get a little competitive. Bill Shimota put one student on this nice seven-pound walleye. There are fun prizes and bragging rights for biggest fish of the day.

Heads nodded. A few guys good-heartedly slapped Shane on the back. “We’ll fix that,” Chip Leer said with a smile. As host of the school, Chip introduced the top-notch walleye anglers who would teach all the ins-and-outs of catching walleyes in all conditions.

“Our seven guys are some of the best professional walleye anglers in the country,” boasted Leer. Last year’s instructors were Kevin McQuoid, Mark Courts, Brian “Bro” Brosdahl, Bill Shimota, Dan Stier, Eric Olson, and Paul Meleen. “All winners of big tournaments and big titles—accumulating more than a million bucks fishing for walleyes,” Chip reassured Shane. “I think we can get you on some fish.”

Another student in the group was Craig Sleeman of upstate New York. Craig was at the other spectrum of proficiency—he fished tournaments in the New York/Pennsylvania region and wanted to kick his performance up a notch.

Craig Sleeman, a tournament angler from New York, ramped up his skills with Ranger Boats/National Guard pro Mark Courts.

“I saw the level of instructors at this school and the diversity of anglers and realized it would probably pay huge dividends in my own walleye career to get in their boats and into their heads. To have a chance to ask firsthand about dissecting new waters with their level of expertise drew me in,” shared Craig. “It was a great two-and-a-half days and I learned a ton. I know they say this in golf—but in walleye fishing—these guys are good.”

Back for its third year, the All-Star Walleye School is available for hard-core walleye anglers like Craig or novices like Shane. This year on Lake of the Woods and Rainy River in northern Minnesota, the accommodations are at Sportsman’s Lodge near Baudette, Minnesota, August 8 through 11. Lake of the Woods is famous as the Walleye Capital of the World. Fitting.“We have classroom time as well as time on the water,” shared Leer. “To be able to get in these guys’ professionally-rigged Ranger Boats, see all their gear, talk through their rigging and equipment as well as delve into the technique and applications. It’s really phenomenal what you’ll take away from a few days with this caliber of All-Star anglers.”

The pro anglers are all back for this year and you could not get a more power-packed group.

What is amazing is that a school like this can meet the needs of a novice, never-caught-a-walleye-before-guy like Shane and a serious, competitive angler like Craig who wants to be as successful winning tournaments as each instructor.

All the pros run Evinrude-powered Ranger Boats so the students can appreciate the fit and finish of a professionally rigged tournament boat through experience.

“The unique approach is the small size of the event and the combination of time in the classroom and time on the water for each student in four different pros’ boats,” continued Chip. “It really is awesome.”

“Hey, I’m not that guy anymore!” Shane summarized. “I caught my first walleye in Bill Shimota’s boat and I didn’t lose it,” he chuckled. “Pressure was on—but I got her done.”

Now that is a way to catch your first walleye.

K.J. Houtman is author of the award-winning Fish On Kids Books series, chapter books for 8-12 year olds with adventures based around fishing, camping, and hunting. Available at Amazon and local bookstores. Find out more at fishonkidsbooks.com.

Images courtesy All-Star Walleye School

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