A different kind of Tournament….Reelly!!

7 05 2012

No it’s not a typo, just a creative play on words.

As many of us already know the Detroit River is one of the premier fisheries for tournaments every spring. Local clubs, charities and the professional circuit all take advantage of the spring run and the fantastic fishing the river offers. The preferred method of fishing these tournaments is of course jigging. While jigging is a very effective way to target these big Spring fish for some anglers it is not their preferred method for catching walleye. This was the determining factor that helped bring about this tournament. A tournament designed for handliners.

Several years ago I was sitting with some of the DWF board members at our first Perch tournament. We were discussing some changes to the yearly club tournament format and one of the topics was having a captain for each tournament. This person would be responsible for organizing the tournament. If this person wanted to have a “special” tournament he or she could then organize it. I then asked if I volunteered could I have a handlining only tournament. I was told yes and that was the start of it all.

That was over 4 years ago. Since I had never run a tournament before I had a lot of questions so I asked my friend Jerry Hinton how I should go about putting this together. He answered a lot of my questions and pointed me in the right direction. Most tournaments are held during the day for one day only. Handliners generally like to fish at night so I had to arrange this so fishermen could fish both in the evening and morning. I thought this would create a challenge but actually it was a lot easier than I thought. The hardest part was trying to come up with a date. One might think that this part would be easy but there are a couple of factors that have to be taken into consideration.

The first hurdle was trying to plan one around all the other tournaments that take place each spring. My own club, the Downriver Walleye Federation, holds about 3 or 4 tournaments during April and May. I couldn’t conflict with any of those because I would need the club scale and some of the other equipment. I also had to plan around all the professional tournaments and I had no idea how many there were. I had to look up the schedules of the FLW, PWT, MWC, MWT, LOL, SSP, MIA, VIP….Mouse. Most of the club handliners don’t fish in these tournaments but I didn’t want to compete with all the boats at the launch ramps. Someone would probably think that it would be easy to just pick a date after they are all done but that leads to the next problem. The annual Silver Bass run.

Every year, usually between Mother’s Day and Father’s Day, the Detroit River plays host to the annual Silver Bass (actually they are known as White Bass) run. This is probably one of the largest runs of Silver Bass anywhere in the country. They fill the river by the millions and once they are in trying to catch anything else becomes an exercise in futility. They can be a lot of fun on light tackle or a fly rod but when a fisherman is handlining it can become very frustrating and a lot of work. This year I was off by just a couple of days. As of Tuesday (5/2) there were still no reports of huge schools of Silver Bass. Back to back 80 degree plus days changed that. Oh well, can’t have everything. The alternative would be to hold it a few weeks earlier but then I run the risk of very cold and miserable weather. It’s no fun being out on the river at night with high winds and a chance of snow.

Even though the Silver Bass did interfere the participants were able to catch a lot of nice walleye. There may not have been any of the big females that the earlier tournaments produce but a lot of above average males were weighed in. This is actually one of the best times to pull wire on the river. The weeds haven’t started up yet, pleasure boats are still in storage and the walleye are hungry. After the spawning period is over the big females head back out to the lake but the males stick around and go on a feeding binge. Big Rapala’s are the norm and easy limits can be had. The crazy weather in March stabilized and April turned out to produce some of the best fishing I have ever seen. Most of the fish caught were still from the 2003 class and they are well over 20 inches in length. Catching fish this size can be fun but it is hard on equipment, especially the hands. I may start to wearing gloves now.

My team had a great night. The first hour was mostly Silver Bass. My dad and I did manage to catch a walleye while Mike just sat in the front of the boat and took pictures. Once it got dark the Silver Bass shut down and the walleye turned on. We caught 11 walleye in the next hour with many of them being over 23 inches in length. Two of the fish were closer to 25 inches and around 5 pounds each. My dad was very optimistic that we were going to place in the top this time around. I was a little more pessimistic. Based on all the boats fishing around us I figured they were doing just as well as we were. Turns out Dad was right, we ended up in 3rd place with 21.59 pounds for 5 fish.

When all was said and done we had 16 boats with 32 anglers signed up. 14 teams weighed in 69 fish for a total weight of just over 250 pounds. That worked out to an average weight of 3.6 pounds per fish. Not bad considering these were all male fish. 6 teams weighed in over 20 pounds and 1st place had a total weight of 23.72 pounds. The biggest fish of the tournament weighed in at just less than 6 pounds. Everyone had a great time, the weather was just about perfect and even though the silvers showed up we were still able to catch walleye.

Mission Accomplished.



4 responses

8 05 2012

Great job on the fish and running the tournament.

11 05 2012

we will be in next year , save a spot.

11 05 2012

No problem…..always room for another boat.

18 05 2012

That is an awesome picture of you doing the “flip”!

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