Pro-angler Dan Stier brought in a two-day total of 84.67 pounds of walleye to win the pro-angler category of the season-opening event for the Cabela’s National Walleye Tour (NWT) at Trenton, Mich. on April 25-26.
After a strong showing on day one, Stier went into day two in second place and fought off the competition to take home a total of $73,780 in cash and prizes. Heading back to Lake Erie and the same productive water he fished on day one, Stier endured a 37-mile ride in 4- and 5-foot waves to the North Bass Island area. Stier and his co-angler partner tried a few spots unsuccessfully before they found the winning fish along the north reef.
“We caught 18 fish over seven pounds and six over 28 inches in a matter of about an hour,” said Stier. “Yesterday all the fish were set up on the south reef. Today they were tucked up against the north reef.”
With years of experience on Lake Erie, Stier knew the walleyes were biting on spinners. He focused his efforts on 18 to 22 feet of water with spinner rigs set 25 to 35 feet back.
"The spinner bite was so strong I stuck with it all week. The key for me was that I was going super slow - like .7 to .8 mph. If I went over 1 mph I wouldn't hardly get bite,” Stier said.
First-day leader Brian Bjorkman brought in a disappointing 34.43-pound bag of fish on day two to fall back to ninth place. Stier took home over $73,000 in cash and prizes, including a new Ranger 620VS with a 250 hp Evinrude motor.
Second-place finisher on the pro side, Ronnie Rhodes, of Sheffield, Ohio, moved up from seventh place with his day two bag of 42.85 pounds, earning him $17,124. Fishing on the west side of North Bass Island, Rhodes ran crankbaits 20 and 22 feet over 32-35 feet of water.
“I used Off Shore planer boards and had 80 feet out on the outside boards and 120 feet out on the inside boards,” said Rhodes. “Eighty would get me down to 20 feet and 120 would get me to 22. On both days speed was everything. I trolled faster with my crankbaits - 1.3 to 1.5 mph."
Known for his abilities to fish river systems, Bill Shimota, of Northfield, Minn., opted instead for the big waters of Lake Erie. The angler’s second stringer of 42.75 pounds propelled him from eighth place to a final day third-place finish. The angler added Ranger and Evinrude contingency winnings for a combined total of $16,959.
Brett King (fourth), Bob Henton (fifth), Rick Olson (sixth), Tom Kemos (seventh), Pat Byle (eighth), Brian Bjorkman (ninth) and Nick Schertz (tenth) round out the top 10 pro-anglers.
After signing up late to the event and being put on the waiting list, first-place co-angler John Hoyer, of Orono, Minn., received a call from the NWT to let him know he could compete. Competing in his first NWT event, Hoyer paired up with Ryan Buddie for the first day and brought 43.34 pounds to the scales.
Day two, Hoyer paired with pro-angler Steve Miller. Their weight of 42.58 was enough for Hoyer to eclipse the 84.92 mark set by second-place co-angler Chris Hammond. The angler took home $7,085 and a quite a bit more experience.
“Winning is great, but I think I doubled my walleye knowledge with four days of pre-fishing and two days of tournament fishing,” said Hoyer. “You would just never learn this much if you're not in a tournament scenario. I got to pre-fish with Dusty Minke, Korey Sprengel and Bill Shimota. Watching them put it all together was fun."
Chris Hammond (second), Chuck Jones (third), Chuck Jones (fourth), Jeff Felhaber (fifth), Joshua Olson (sixth), Richard Landerschier (seventh), Bret Rogers (eighth), Jason Maraskine (ninth) and Chris Schmitt (tenth) round out the top 10 co-anglers.
The next stop for the Cabela’s National Walleye Tour is the Missouri River event at Mobridge, S.D., June 27-28. Registrations for the event are already being accepted online and by calling 612-424-0708. Anglers who are participating in any of the numerous contingency prize programs are encouraged to submit all pertinent information before the event to remain eligible for any potential bonus money.
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.
First-place pro-angler Dan Stier (left) and first-place co-angler John Hoyer (right) pose with their respective trophies at the Cabela’s National Walleye Tour event.