by Mark Walters
Life as a Pro Fisherman
This past week I stayed at a cabin on Green Bay near Oconto and prefished for an AIM “Angler’s Insight Marketing” walleye tournament with eight tournament pros that I did not know until this trip took place.
Saturday, July 19th
High 82, low 55
I met Ben Bertram after dark on the Fox River while fishing walleye a few years back.
On June 24th I met him again when he joined a new KAMO Chapter out of Green Bay and he invited me to fish with him and his friends.
Today I met Ben and a whole bunch of what I would learn is the “Keep it Reel Fishing” group, which is maybe 8 pros and I would find out they’re all important partners for prefishing.
In the world of fishing tournaments, at least at this scale, prefishing generally starts on a Friday or Saturday for a tournament that begins the following Thursday or Friday. A pro needs one or two people in their boat so that six or maybe even nine lines can be used which mathematically helps him or her to figure out both location and technique for a hot bite on a big fish.
Today I would fish with Ben Bertram and Justin Schnieder of Chilton. Justin, who like Ben, is in the 30-year-old bracket is a project manager “mechanical contractor” for a family owned business.
Before we even pulled the poles out of the rod locker we went across Green Bay on a 14-mile ride and let me tell you, Justin does not hold back the horses when driving over the top of high seas.
My initiation would begin as soon we began setting up to troll by remote control with an electric motor or 9.9 outboard. Justin would work the structure of the reef he wanted to fish, while Ben set out 4-poles rigged with crankbaits of which 3 were on planer boards and one was straight back. I would do the same on the opposite side of the boat.
Today I learned that this AIM tournament is rather unique in a very good way. There are two pros in each boat and each day they get a new co-angler who is urged to help with the fishing and takes part in the measuring of each fish and photographing of the fish on the bump board.
In other words, walleye are not put in a livewell for this tournament; they are measured, charted, photographed, and released. A big plus being that a team gets to use their biggest fish of the day. In a tournament where pounds of fish per day will probably have to average 40 or better to win, the ability to change fish can really help.
Justin does not like to use a net when prefishing and as soon as he catch’s a walleye or two, the rods are pulled and another boat ride takes place.
These guys learned a thing or two about me today when I caught a gobie and Justin told me he would give me $10.00 if I ate it. Long story short I bid them up to $40.00 and ate the gobie while being filmed. You can check out this video at www.keepitreelfishing.com and I have to warn you the fish crunching between my molars is kind of gross.
Sunday, July 27th
High 81, low 51
There is so much more to say in a story like this but because of space limitations I am not able to.
Like yesterday, Kent Anderson (who is the National Sales Manager for Warror Boats) caught a 31.5-inch walleye.
Last night about ten of us shared a meal cooked by Ben of moose steaks and then I watched these guys have a serious meeting about their day of fishing and the next days plan.
Today, I would fish with Robert Cardenas who is from Gem Lake, Minnesota and when he is not on the tournament trail is a nurse at a hospital in St Paul. Robert runs a Warrior 2121 that is pushed by a 300 horse Yamaha.
Today we would be using crawler harnesses “meat” and like yesterday putting big miles on the water all in a quest to win what might be $18.000 – 30.000 (depending on the amount of entries) by the end of the week.
Robert has it figured out that each tournament costs him about $3400.00 to fish and as I would learn sponsors are huge in this way of life.
Like yesterday we caught about ten flathead catfish and sheephead for every walleye but it was a real eye opener to learn of the comaradery, expenses, and challenges that these outdoorsmen and women live through on the tournament trail.
Enjoy your day! Sunset
THIS WEEK’S COLUMN: Cedar Country Cooperative