When I’m fishing a walleye tournament, I have to completely change gears in the way I fish and how I fish. As a guide, I want my customers to catch fish, and I may fish some to determine the size of fish we’ll catch. But in the tournament, I’m on my rod all day long. Tournament fishing is the polar opposite of guide fishing. When I get in the boat on tournament day, I’m trying to catch the most fish I can to put the most weight in my livewell, and I want to fish at the highest level I possibly can.
The walleye tour is a completely different competition from the way the bass fishing circuits are set up. The walleye tournaments include a pro and an amateur fishing together. In our tournaments, the weight of the amateur’s fish is added to the weight of the fish I catch. So, some teaching goes on in a tournament, because I do want the angler in the back of the boat to catch as many walleyes as he or she can. If someone catches a nice 7 to 8-pound walleye, and that weight will count as my weight also, then I’m all for them. But on the guide trip, I spend most of my time teaching and trying to help my clients catch fish.
I’m also focusing on a completely different walleye in a tournament. On a guide trip, we do a lot of catch and release, and my clients take some fish home to eat. But in a tournament, I’m trying to catch the five biggest walleye that I possibly can catch. If I can get five ripe bites in an 8-hour period, then that’s really all the walleyes I need to catch. Having said that, I really enjoy tournament fishing, and I really enjoy guiding and teaching anglers where and how to catch walleyes when I’m running a guide trip. I feel very fortunate that I can participate in both types of fishing because these two sides of walleye fishing build on each other. Lessons I’ve learned guiding have come in handy when I’ve competed in tournaments, and there’s a lot of lessons I’ve learned as a tournament angler that’ve really helped me on my guide trips.
One advantage we have in fishing tournaments is that the amateur in the back of the boat is most often a walleye fisherman, and he has signed up to be an amateur to learn how to fish like the pros do. In golf, you won’t have a professional golfer paired with an amateur who’s never swung a club before. I know that the bass tournaments no longer have amateurs riding in the boats with the pros. Now they have marshals. Our amateurs have caught walleyes in the past, but when they’re in the boat with me and the other pros, they try to learn as much as they can. Then when they go back home, they can apply some of the lessons they’ve learned from fishing with us on their home lakes. Most amateurs are good anglers and don’t need much guidance from the pros. Although, perhaps, we pros can teach them different ways to find and catch walleyes that they haven’t considered before. That’s the side story. The main story is me trying to find and catch those big walleyes from the start of the tournament to the weigh-in.