by Jim Kalkofen and pro walleye anglers
It has been a pleasure to have met and fished with so many wonderful people throughout my 40 year career in the fishing, marine and tournament business. I have had to say goodbye to many after those faraway fishing trips. But, I knew the chance of getting back to those favorite fishin’ holes would probably occur down the road.
That will not happen with friend Dave Andersen. He died last week at age 61, and was not only in the prime of his fishing career, but in the prime of his industry career as co-owner of Warrior Boats. Dave was a fixture on tour driving his big tiller Warriors, and a regular at the top of the tournament standings. His biggest payday came in 2005 when he won the Professional Walleye Trail championship on Milford Lake in Kansas.
He netted 24.51 pounds, a six pound advantage over second place finisher Chase Parsons. Dave won cash and boats totaling well in excess of $100,000, and his ever-present smile was even bigger that day. We talked later about the honors, and Dave told me that all his hard work and determination were rewarded that day when he received the Champion’s trophy.
Dave joins too many friends from the walleye tournament game who passed away early in life: names like Norb Wallock, Kim “Chief” Papineau, Ron Seelhoff, Shannon Kehl, Gary Gray, Rick LaCourse, Dave Anderson, Leon Luker and others come to mind. It proves that no matter what you do and how you do it, the end will come. When it does, the guys at Teen Challenge remind me that Heaven’s door is wide open, and you can get there by professing Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior.
I expect that Dave’s years fishing the PWT where we crossed paths on the water, on the stage, in the parking lot, at sport shows and in meetings exemplified his character the preceding decades of his life. Dave was the one guy who never complained. Sure, there were days when the walleyes did not cooperate, but you could never tell that by his appearance or spirit. He would talk with the top dogs and anybody on the dock or among the amateur/co-angler ranks. Dave’s cheerful take on life definitely impacted those who shared his boat. As PWT executive director, I heard many stories. The best conversations were with Dave’s partners. They said he talked with them as equals, and taught them everything he could about the techniques being used. And, he spent time on the “Whys” of walleye fishing, in addition to the many “What’s.”
Some pro anglers offered their take on Dave and what he meant to them and the fishing community. Their comments follow:
Perry Good: “The fishing industry lost one of its greats in Dave Andersen. Not only was he an accomplished fisherman, but he was the most humble, kind and generous guy I’ve ever known. A pillar in the fishing world, he will truly be missed.”
Jim O’Rourke: “Dave was a good man…easy going, soft-spoken, a true gentleman, but also a fierce competitor. He was very respectful of his fellow anglers and always wore a smile, even when he didn’t have a good day on the water.
“His angling successes, like his championship PWT win, were well earned rewards for his hard work and intelligent approach to the sport. He left us way too soon and will be greatly missed. I am praying for comfort for his family as I recall the many warm memories of his life.”
Jimmy Bell: “If you would look up ‘integrity’ in the dictionary, a picture of Dave Andersen would appear. If he told you something, it was gospel, and you could count on it. He did not stretch the truth, and was just pure honesty day in and day out. Even though he was a man of few words, when he spoke, all those around listened.
“I have said for many years that there are now a lot of great anglers that can catch fish, but not as many who can find them. Dave did not need a team of anglers to help put him on the bite. He was old-school, and just simply knew how to find and catch them.
“I do not pretend to always understand God’s plans. What I do know is I lost a friend and fellow competitor too early in life. My faith is stronger than my will to understand and this is how I get through things like this.”
Charlie Moore: “My memories of Dave involve his greeting. He would walk up with his big grin, give me a hug and ask how I was doing. He did this at every tournament while I was tourney director. He was very sincere in asking, and after talking for a while, he always ended our conversation with the same comment, ‘Well, I appreciate what you do for us Charlie. I do not envy your job, but you are excellent at it.’ He was a big guy with a really sincere heart.”
Pat Neu: “I have competed against hundreds of anglers over the past 20 years and David Andersen was always one of my favorite competitors. He was always a gentleman, win or lose, on and off the water. I will miss seeing his smile and that Warrior tiller with David at the helm.”
Brett King: “I have admired Dave since the beginning of my pro fishing career in 2002. He was never afraid to share. I thought I knew a lot about fishing, but Dave made me realize I had a lot to learn. So teach me, Dave did!
“A classic example occurred at a Chamberlain PWT tournament. I had a good practice and was confident. I even did ok the first 2 days, but on day 3, I watched the veterans like Dave clean up on me. At weigh-in he unknowingly told me I did not pick up on the change in current, and my baits were too deep. Then he gave me that Turbo smile and said a half-crawler on the back of a crank didn’t hurt either.
“He taught without even knowing he did with a simple, straight forward approach. I became a Warrior ambassador when Dave helped bring back the Warrior brand in 2011. I was very fortunate to know Dave — he will be truly missed. Every time I turn the key on my Warrior, I will pray, ‘God speed Turbo.’”
Chip Leer: “News of Dave’s passing was certainly a shock. Over the 2016 NWT season and his outstanding run for AOY (he finished fourth) we had some great conversations. I met him at the PWT and FLW tournaments, but it wasn’t until the NWT that I began to really understand the real Dave Andersen.
“He was genuine. I admired the fact he never looked to be the focal point or made stage comments just to gain camera-time or forced sponsor mentions. He let the walleyes do his talking.
“He never boasted about a big catch. If you asked him how he was catching fish, he shared solid information. Away from the tournament stage, he was the exact same person: quiet, confident and happy. He loved to fish, liked the people and enjoyed the competition.
“We lost a passionate walleye angler who woke up each day looking to better our sport. That’s a somber way to launch the off-season. After the Mobridge Championship I ran into Dave and congratulated him for a fantastic year. We joked about him needing to lighten-up on the young sticks just starting their tournament careers. Dave fished tournaments enjoying every second, the same as he did life.”
Doug Erickson, owner of Highway 3 Marine, and a Warrior dealer for four years was the young man who coined the phrase, “Quiet Salesman.” It is an apt description of Dave, and Doug eventually became a boat dealer because of Dave, after meeting him at a PWT tournament on Lake of the Woods in 2003. Doug fished as an amateur and drew Dave on the second day.
“It was unbelievable fishing with him,” Doug said. “I was a 21-year old kid, and we talked all day about boats, about walleyes, about life. He was laid back, relaxed and treated me very respectfully. My biggest takeaway was what he felt about Warrior Boats. He told me he could get free boats from other manufacturers, but he preferred a boat that was so fishable, and would pay full price for his Warrior.”
Erickson was impressed, because at subsequent tournaments, Dave greeted him, talked, and they became friends. “He encouraged me to fish more, and I did. He invited me to Iowa to hunt with him. I did. My dad and I both bought Warrior Boats because of him. I met his son Kent, and we eventually fished team tournaments together. This led to me opening up a dealership between Brainerd and Merrifield. Working with him was wonderful. He not only wanted to build a quality boat, but he knew how to take care of us little dealers,” Erickson said.
He summed up his time knowing Dave by talking about how Dave kept his cool, never complained, was always personable, and “He never had a bad word to say about anyone.”
One of Dave’s business partners, Chuck Barth, said Dave was the face of Warrior boats. “He promoted 365 days every year at sport shows, at tournaments, at dealerships, at open houses, and wherever people and boats came together. He would point out the advantages, features and benefits with a smile,” Barth said. The entire 17-person crew and the owners were devastated. “He meant an awful lot to all of us.” During the past five years of Dave and associates owning Warrior, they grew from a few dealers to 25, and from a production of 35 boats to 110 so far this year. Warrior has eight models, and all reflect Dave’s desire for them to be the ultimate fishing boats.
Back in 2011, I interviewed Dave upon his purchase of Warrior. He said at the time, “This was a dream of mine ever since the plant closed. This is too good a boat not to build for the walleye world.” Despite only signing papers a few days before the interview, Dave said, “Plans are already afoot to update the interior fit and finish and to deliver the quality customers expect.”
At that time, Dave had the 2005 PWT Championship trophy on his mantle. He was in the money in 23 of 45 PWT tournaments. He won the famed Wave Wacker event on Mille Lacs (and pocketed about $200,000 at numerous Mille Lacs tournaments), and had collected more than $400,000 in total earnings. He was actively fishing several other circuits (FLW and NWT) and his knack for finding fish resulted in more checks cashed since then, with his lifetime winnings at nearly half a million dollars.
I talked with Dave about a technique that he kept under wraps for many years. In my opinion he invented what is known as “Power Bobbering.” He would know from his electronics how certain size walleyes showed up when they were suspended on Mille Lacs. He would use his big motor and cruise at about 5 to 8 mph, intently watching his graph. In his hand, he had a slip-bobber rod rigged at the depth he was seeing the fish he was targeting (just under the slot size).
When even one fish showed, he would immediately throw the outboard in neutral and simultaneously toss the slip (already baited with a juicy leech) right where he estimated the walleye was lurking. Often the bobber kept going out of sight. He repeated this over the depths, and came in with walleyes that were perfect “slot” fish and tournament winners. Now, many anglers use this technique…and it really works! Thanks Dave.
The famous newspaper editor of the mid 1850’s said something that could have been meant especially for Dave. Horace Greeley said, “Fame is a vapor, popularity an accident, riches take wings, only one thing endures and that is character.”