The wind picked up on day 2 and blew the bait – eventually pushing some walleyes – to his secondary area = an adjacent shoreline piece of structure in 17-24’.
On the shallower spot, he’d have his cranks ticking the tops of the rocks – trolling ’em 100-120′ from his Off Shore Tackle Planer Boards.
> “On my way back, I stopped at a jigging spot within sight of the ramp. At 3:48, I popped a 5-lber on a jighead and pork-tail minnow [fluke-style plastic]. That fish gave me a 3-lb upgrade.”
2nd: Tommy Kemos (10 fish) 42.72 lbs:
Dude made a 110-mile run south [!] near Alpena. He described the journey as the second toughest of his long career – the other led to him missing his check-in time.
> “We would stop for fuel at Presque Isle on the way down. On the way back up, we would get gas at DeTour Pass.”
Making that long of a jaunt left him with just 2.5 to 3 hours to fish. Knowing that the wind was increasing on day 2, he gave himself 3 hours to return…checked in with 7 min to spare!
Caught his fish tourney day(s) pulling crankbaits with snap weights:
> “I was basically following the smelt migration. The walleyes move to follow the smelt. In my area, the water was crazy clear. What I found is that they wanted the more natural colors – blue or blue chrome, and silver with white and chartreuse bellies.”
Was fishing in 45-50′. Said the fish were positioned near the bottom, but in the crazy-clear water they’d come up 15′ to hit the crankbait:
> It’s weird. You actually want to make them work for it in the clear water. If it’s too close, they get too good of a look at it.”
Said his Garmin LiveScope was crucial for spotting fish…was actually able look out ahead of the boat in the clear water:
> “The fish were definitely spooking off the boat. …would come across a small pod of 2, 3, or 4 fish. When I saw them, I would adjust my speed. If they were real low, I would slow down because I was using snap weights. But I would also get a lot of bites speeding up so the baits would rise. My normal speed was 2 mph, but if I was trying to crank them up I would go 2.2.”
3rd: Steve Vandemark (10 fish) 37.33 lbs:
> “We stayed right in the river system. Nobody was fishing close, so we made a pact to poke around and find fish close, and it worked.”
Would start his day 8 miles from the launch by trolling spinners over matted grass in 12-16’. Once the sun would come up, he would switch to jigging deeper water.
> “We jigged both the mouth of Lake George and the Garden River. I was using lead-head jigs, either a 1/2- or 3/8-oz tipped with half a crawler. This year, the fish were positioned right on the breaks where there was no current. If you get in the seam, you catch them.
> “As someone who fishes this system often, I’m surprised the long runs paid off [for 1st and 2nd place]. They got extremely lucky to make it 2 days in a row. It’s never that calm. I’ve made those runs when I was younger, and I know what it’s like. Those guys earned it.”
Casting vs trolling debate:
So both in 2019 and 2020 it was won by someone primarily trolling cranks, and maaaaybe picking up 1 or 2 of their 10 weigh fish over 2 days casting. But of course the hand-to-hand-combat crowd was nipping at their heels….
Garmin Panoptix LiveScope was released the summer of 2018 (👀 yup it’s been out for over 5 years now) but of course not as many pros were running it that early on when the NWT first visited “The Soo.”
I’ve never personally fished there, but it sounds like the type of place where people can fish to their strengths – catch ‘em how they want to catch ‘em. I’ll be super curious to see how it goes down this year now that more folks are spending their time “sniping” fish with forward-facing sonar…. 🎯