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2008 Walleye Steelhead Pro Am


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FINALLY!

For the first time in 3 years, we didn't drop the ball...

Kind of...

Day 1: No pre-fish, and actually hadn't fished in PA water since very early July we went on a hunch that steelies at least would be in the VERY deep water, where temps were more favorable to them. Also knowing that some of them are getting ready to return to the natal streams, mostly on the west side, we figured they would be ganged up on the western edge of the deep. Didn't know about our 12 'eye allotment, but figured at least a few natives and some migrants would have found the cold water before the warm water "fence" set up, way west. The big temp "break" was down between 80 and 85 feet and was really all over the place. above the break was 70+ water and just below in the high 50s. Worked like crazy most of the day basically pre-fishing the western side, picking a fish here and there, an 'eye here and a steelie there. Around 12:30 (could only fish until 2:30 due to delayed start) we popped an 'eye and watched another boat go by us and pop one. Hmmm. the bait pic was good, but very, very few marks. Worked the area around pretty good and monkeyed with depths on riggers and divers until we started to knock a couple fish around. Once we started dialing in (speed and depths), we worked the bait on a N/S troll and started boxing 'eyes that we had been missing in our alloted 12 to weigh in. From 1 to 2:30 we boxed 2 steelies and missed 3 others including a MAG off the deep rigger that threw the hook 30 feet behind the boat. We also boxed 5 walleyes to get to 11 and lost another 3. The sad part was, we dropped 5 fish in the last 1/2 hr. and were 1 fish short on our 12 'eye allotment and 1 steelie short of our 5 allotment. We honestly thought that the 5 dropped fish that would have filled allotments was gonna kill our chances. We got to the marina and found out that pretty much EVERYONE had struggled. NO FULL BOXES. Hmmm? Long story short, end of Day 1, we're in 2nd place, 18 pts. out of first (box the mag steelie and we're leading or bag 1 small steelie and an 'eye and we're leading). The leader had fallen a couple short on 'eyes but had all their steelies (averaging a bit bigger, and actually had boated 12 steelies day 1). At the end of the weigh in, it became clear that only 5 boats had a legitimate shot, based on the skinny bags a lot of the field had. Not bad, and hey; we've been in 1st before after Day 1 and ended up 5th. It is 2 days for a reason as we had learned from the past 2 years.

Day 2: Long, rough ride out (1 1/2 hrs.) to get to our marks due to the stiff N rollers that had formed overnight. Basically got there 45 minutes after lines could go in. Knowing the rough seas would make it a tough north run, we started a little bit north of our "hole", a mere mile and a half or so of productive water. I honestly got scared early on in the pass, because the bait had dispersed DRAMATICALLY from Day 1. As I was debating my next move, the 95 rigger fired and we somehow managed to bag an 8# steelie that was bound and determined to screw something up. It went from 95 down to the surface in less than 30 seconds and went west crossing a wire diver and a flat wire line on the port side. EEEK! fluorocarbon rubbing on braided and monel steel wires! Thankfully, he decided to commit suicide and run to the back of the boat while Jimmy held the two encumbered rigs with one hand net him with the other. Whew! Dropped everything back and long story short, starboard side wire diver pulled 8 of our 12 'eyes over the next couple of hours. Every south pass we made through our fish, the action slowed. 5 fish, 4 fish, 2 fish, 1 fish. We hit the mid-day "lull" with 11 'eyes and 1 steelie. Uh oh, here we go again, 2nd day, dropping the ball. With only 2 hours to go, decisions had to be made. Go "turn and burn" and try to get some chrome and maybe get lucky on an 'eye or keep working our hole and hope steelies would enter the mix and we would get our last 'eye. Go for broke! We ran to just inside the International border and began, set lines and started a "turn & burn" program to try to box some steel. With 3 of our alloted 6 lines in the water, the port outside diver takes a whallop and steelie on! Wow! maybe we can box a bunch of steel out here. We boxed our second steelie, a mediocre 5 pounder and began the burn. For the next hour and a half we worked the extreme north and did not move a rod. Here we go again, half hour left, don't have all of our fish. I decided to "shake it up" and switched out a rigger spoon and and inside diver spoon and turned her towards home figuring we would make 1 last gasp through our old hole. Hadn't made it south for 3 minutes when the inside diver I had just changed fired and we brought our 12th 'eye to the boat. YEAH! At least we boxed our 'eyes, keep 'er burning to the end and maybe we can pick up 1 maybe a double on steel. Never fired a rod...

The long ride in was an intraspective "what if" and rationalization that maybe everyone else had struggled again, yeah right, not the way we do in this thing. Pulling into the no wake zone, VQ IV pulled up and asked what we had done, only to find out he had the exact same box. Wow, maybe? Shortly thereafter, we tidied up to the loading dock and the day 1 leader, the Capt. of Team Round UP, fell in right behind us and looked concerned as he asked how we had faired. I looked at him with a half-disgusted grin and said "short again". 'Slayir asked how much and I told him we only had 14 of the alloted 17, he hung is head and said that they had only boxed 12. Hmmm, maybe there is an offbeat chance, but there are still 3 other boats to be concerned with and 'Slayir's box could be big enough to offset the now 1 fish advantage we had. The weigh in revealed that 2 of the other boats we were concerned with had not had stellar days either and were now out of contention. Oh boy, nail biter. Ironically, the 3 boats of the 5 in contention now found ourselves back to back to back in the weigh in line. Discussions certainly ensued and open box lids revealed it was gonna be close! The team in 4th place after day 1 (Rock 'n Reel, the western cup of Lake O winners) had 15 fish and some biggies. They had started the day 22 points behind us, but had 1 more fish, Uh oh. Round up, the first in the string weighed in their box and it was apparent it now became a weight issue as far as our box and their's, we stepped to the scale and put a decent number on the board, more weight than day 1 with 1 less fish. We had taken the lead, but Rock 'n Reel was next and they had the 1 fish advantage and a very good weight. Scale reads....

Uh oh, this IS gonna be real close! Finally the official tally was completed and their points posted...

YEEE HAW!!!! We eeked it out by a mere 6 points! Congrats to all the top 5 for a very competitive tourney with tough fishing being the theme.

In summary, we had fun, we went through the ups and downs and I learned how valuable the probe is for temps, breaks, and speed. No Depth Raider and I don't think we make top 10. All fish were taken within 15 feet, either side of the temp break and the walleyes were few and far between if you exceeded 1.8 on the down speed. On Saturday, I was shocked to catch several walleyes 95 feet down. Honestly had never fished water that deep in Erie, let alone park a rigger there. It was honestly a walleye and steelhead tourney that fished like a salmon tourney, never got a fish shallower than 65 down. It took a probe for speed and temp, wire divers to get baits DEEP and deeper than I ever could imagine fishing on Lake Erie, riggers.

At the risk of being redundant, congrats to the 2nd and 3rd place teams, you really made it interesting and you have both had PHENOMENAL years. 'Slayir and the monster Lakers and June King as well as EPSFA Team of the Year. Rock n' Reel, you guys won the Lake O western cup, its really saying something to take that on waters any of us seldom fish. I'm pretty certain that with no pre-fish and some lucky breaks that we got, Storm Warning I was giving us a hand from higher places...

Thanks Jack.

Look forward to next year and another run at the silver and gold.

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