Possibly nothing for most of us, but for the professional angler, $200,000 in prize money will be at stake when the Cabela’s National Team Championship comes to Lorain for a three-day walleye fishing tournament that begins at sunrise on June 8. As you can imagine, the pace will be anything but relaxing.
“Teams come from Washington, Texas, Pennsylvania and everywhere in between,” says Lara Herboldsheimer, a brand partnership program manager at Cabela’s, which is hosting the event.
The tournament invites 250 teams to attend. Teams consist of husbands and wives, fathers and sons or friends — anyone, really, as long as teams contain two people. To enter the tournament, each team has to qualify at a tournament put on by The Walleye Federation qualified associations.
This is how it works: Teams set out each morning with their marine band radios set to the official tournament channel. They must stay in Ohio waters, but are permitted on any rivers, creeks or canals connected to Lake Erie.
At the end of every day, each team’s bounty is weighed. Teams are allowed to catch up to five fish, each of which must be 15 inches or longer (a legal requirement by the Ohio Division of Wildlife). If a team submits a fish that does not meet the 15-inch rule, that fish doesn’t count — and the team receives a 1-pound penalty. The top 25 teams from the first two days compete on the third day. Then, the total weights from all three days are combined to determine the winning team, which receives $25,000.
So why Lorain?
“Lake Erie is certainly one of the top walleye fishing destinations in the country,” Herboldsheimer says. “And the Lorain Port Authority has been instrumental in bringing it to Lorain specifically.”
The goal is to showcase our region. “We love to promote this beautiful asset we have, and a fishing tournament is a great way of doing it,” says county commissioner Matt Lundy. “We are trying to focus a lot more on the lakefront area. This tournament will show people that this is a place that you want to come back to — whether for a Lake Erie Crushers game or a great meal.”
But the tournament isn’t just for competitors. Herboldsheimer says that, wherever it is held, it usually draws a few hundred spectators. She suggests timing your visit for either the beginning or the end of the day, when boats are departing or arriving at the Black River Wharf Boat Launch. “I would suggest checking out the take offs in the morning as they go through all the boats and cheer them on as they head out to their fishing spots,” she says. “Or come for the weigh-ins to watch the action and see the big fish coming across the stage.”
There is also some benefit to the needy in the community. When Lois Pozega heard about the tournament, she worked with the port authority to see if the fish could be put to good use through Family Promise of Lorain County, where she is the executive director.
She doesn’t know exactly how much fish her group will receive, but she’s prepared to handle it. The plan is to have the fish processed by local professional fish cleaners. Then each of the group’s host churches will receive fish fillets to use throughout the year to feed local families.
“The fish we receive is a true blessing,” she says.
For more information on the event, visit walleyefederation.com.
How to Hook a Walleye
These 10 tips, offered by Cabela’s pro staffers Steve Shelton and Mike Frisch, will help turn your fish-less outings into family meals.
2: Do some research on the specific lake you intend to fish prior to putting your boat in the water. Understand the primary food source (forage) for that lake and know where the food source is located at that lake for that time of year (species, location and depth).
3: Once you arrive at the lake, measure the water temperature and select your lure based on that. Remember, the colder the water, the slower your presentation should be.
4: Pay attention to the wind speed and direction and understand its effect on the sub-surface currents and the bait fish locations. Extend the low-light time periods by fishing the shorelines that are in the shade the longest.
5: Be aware of recent weather changes in that area and fish accordingly (the hardest time to catch walleye is after a cold front has moved through the area). Use live bait, slow down, fish during low-light time periods, fish deeper and downsize your jigs and line weight.
6: If the fish aren’t biting, change things up every 15 minutes or so. Switch from a “bait bite” technique to a “reactionary bite” technique. Change speeds, locations, lure types, casting angles and depths until you figure out what the fish want on that specific day and lake. The goal is to develop a pattern that works and, once you do, don’t leave fish to find fish.
7: Spring is the best time to target walleye if you don’t have access to a boat. Fish the tailwaters, faces of dams and any available causeway openings from shore, especially at first and last light.
8: Walleye are very finicky eaters and usually prefer live bait, but there are times when they will hit artificial lures.
9: Walleye swim in schools, so once you find one, you will usually find others. They like to hang near structures such as rocks or docks.
10: A 1/-8th-ounce Stand-Up Fire-Ball is an ideal jig for fishing in smaller lakes, often in a bright color pattern, like parakeet or sunrise. Bright colors are preferred as lots of these shallow lakes have somewhat off-colored waters and the bright colors help attract walleye.