UPCOMING EVENT: TACKLE WAREHOUSE PRO CIRCUIT - 2020 - Lake Erie

Vande Mark ventures east for Big win

Vande Mark ventures east for Big win
Steve Vande Mark and Trent McLaughlin hold up their winning walleyes from Big Bay de Noc.

ESCANABA, Mich. - Mother Nature finally got the best of the top walleye anglers in the world. The action was slow on day four of the Wal-Mart FLW Walleye Tour event on Bays de Noc. And slow was just fine with pro Steve Vande Mark, who calmly caught his two "overs" and earned a $100,000 check for his first tour-level victory.

While the majority of the field was running south toward Green Bay, Vande Mark took a shorter, easier route east to Big Bay de Noc. That was an important decision, as anglers battled 6- and 7-foot waves thanks to 25-mph winds Saturday.

"That was the key to winning the whole thing," said the Linwood, Mich., pro. "My fish never moved because the water temperature never changed. My spot was landlocked."

That spot was an area known as Garden Peninsula, located roughly 35 miles from Escanaba Harbor in Steve Vande Mark holds up his trophy for winning the Bays de Noc Walleye Tour qualifier.Big Bay de Noc. While 35 miles sounds like a long run, other competitors were traveling 75 miles each way. Vande Mark caught four walleyes on Saturday, but was only allowed to weigh two of them. A slot limit restricted anglers to only two walleyes over 23 inches.

Throughout the week, the pro winner was catching his fish in 22 feet of water on crawler harnesses that were trolled at 1.1 to 1.3 mph. He used bottom bouncers to present them on the bottom of the water column, and he increased his trolling speed as each day progressed. He preferred gold blades and chartreuse beads to give his presentation extra flash.

Under cloudy skies, Vande Mark decided to switch it up at approximately 10 a.m. It was a subtle change, going from 22 feet of water to 25 and switching to black beads with a gold, iridescent blade. But it paid dividends almost immediately, as his first fish was in the boat at 10:30. He caught three more in the next hour and decided it was time to come in. He knew he had roughly 18 pounds, and with a 7-pound lead, all he had to do was make it back safe.

"Getting back was really treacherous. We left at just before noon to get back by 3 p.m. We fished for three hours and drove for five."

Pro Steve Vande Mark and co-angler Trent McLaughlin hold up their winnerVande Mark won by an incredible 18-pound margin. Unofficially, it is the second-largest margin of victory ever recorded on the Walleye Tour. His two pigs on day four pushed his four-day total weight to 76 pounds, 3 ounces.

Two weeks ago Vande Mark and his fiance had a fire claim their home and most of their belongings.

"A couple of weeks ago was the lowest moment in my life. But you've got to rebuild, and this is a start. It's like a dream come true."

Klemm ascends to second

Twenty-two-year old Kelly Klemm made the most of his first appearance in the top 10. He began the day in fifth place and moved all the way to second via two walleyes that weighed 13 pounds, 14 ounces. While he was never a serious threat to unseat Vande Mark, he did cash a $40,000 check for a four-day total weight of 58 pounds, 10 ounces.

"I'm very happy with second," said the Beardsley, Minn., pro. "Anytime you're in the top 10, it is great. But to be in contention is even better. Competing and succeeding against this caliber of fishermen is overwhelming. Hopefully we get to do it again some day."

Klemm was also pulling his spinners in the Garden Peninsula area of Big Bay de Noc.

Pro Kelly Klemm and co-angler John Hammond finished second in their respective divisions."The fish in there were just feeding. We caught everything from walleyes to bass to perch to sheephead."

Klemm said he worked the entire column with purple blades. He tried to keep his trolling speed at 1.1 to 1.2 mph, but the surge of the waves prevented that at times.

In roughly two months, Klemm will be competing at the Walleye Tour Championship in Cleveland as the fifth-ranked pro. He'll be doing so as the youngest pro to ever qualify for a no-entry-fee championship.

Morris boats one

Despite having a single fish on day four, Troy Morris dropped only one spot from second to third in the Pro Division. That one keeper weighed 3 pounds, giving Morris a four-day total of 54 pounds, 1 ounce. Up until Saturday, Morris had brought a tournament limit of five walleyes to the scale each day.

Troy Morris moved up to second place in the Pro Division after catching 17-12 on day three."Mother Nature flexed her arms," said the Bismarck, N.D., pro. "It was just Perch Central today."

Each day Morris has been running to the Oconto Shoal to catch his fish. Under ideal conditions, that 75-mile run takes one and a half hours. Today it took three. Morris, who shared water all week with Jason Przekurat, said the key to his success is trolling speed. While the other boats in the area were trolling at 1 to 1.3 mph, Morris and Przekurat were trolling at 1.5 to 1.8 mph. They fished in 14 feet of water and presented their baits in the middle of the water column at about 7 feet.

"It was an excellent week. We had an excellent prefish, and we caught a limit each of the first three days. If you're catching five a day in a tough bite, you really can't ask for anything more."

Morris finished the season ninth in the points race and continued his streak of having one top-10 finish each year. For his efforts, he earned a check worth $25,000. In addition to his tournament purse, Morris may have invented a new revenue stream. Rather than just having sponsor logos on the side of his boat, Morris could easliy sell placement on the bottom of his Ranger. One of the fastest, if not craziest drivers on tour, he was the only guy smiling after a three-hour run in 7-foot waves. His 621 actually spent more time in the air then on the water.

It's official: Przekurat wins AOY

Finishing in fourth place was Przekurat, the Stevens Point, Wis., native. Przekurat caught only one walleye on day four, but it was more than enough to clinch his second Land O'Lakes Angler of the Year title. His total weight over four days was 52 pounds, 7 ounces, good enough for $18,000.

BP pro Jason Przekurat poses with his family after winning his second Land OPrzekurat is now the only walleye pro to top-10 in three consecutive tournaments as well as the only pro to have twice won AOY. His first title came in 2003.

In his last three tournaments alone, the BP pro has won $127,500. He will have a chance for an even bigger payday in Cleveland as the No. 1-seeded angler.

In a typical year, the AOY race would have been decided much earlier, but it came down to the final day as two fierce competitors scratched and clawed all the way to the end: Przekurat and Chris Gilman of Chisago City, Minn.

"I wasn't worried about winning this tournament at all. I just wanted to win Angler of the Year," said Przekurat, who had his whole family on hand. "The first one was awesome, but the second one was better. It's surreal. It's almost like you're looking at it from the outside. It's ultimately every angler's goal at the beginning of the season to win the Angler of the Year, but it takes a lot of luck and skill. I give all my success as a pro angler to the support that my family gives me. Without them I wouldn't be where I am today.

"This has been an unbelievable season. I got a win at Red Wing, I was crowned Angler of the Year, and now all that's left is a championship win. My confidence is sky-high right now, and I think I could do it."

Byle fifth

Pro Pat Byle and co-angler Jim Plummer caught only one walleye on day four. Byle finished fifth and Plummer third. Pat Byle earned $13,000 and finished in fifth place with a four-day total weight of 52 pounds, 7 ounces. On Saturday, Byle, the veteran pro who has five top-10 finishes in his career, boated one walleye that weighed 6 pounds, 14 ounces. He fished the northeast corner of Chamber's Island, which is located approximately 40 miles from Escanaba Harbor. He ran his spinners/crawler harnesses in the middle of the water column at 1.1 to 1.2 mph and varied his colors.

"I tell you what, it was tough out there today," said the Colgate, Wis., pro. "We've been getting two big ones every day, but today it just didn't happen."

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pro finalists at the FLW Walleye Tour event on Bays de Noc:

6th: Tom Keenan of Hatley, Wis., 51-2, $12,000
7th: Todd Riley of Amery, Wis., 48-1, $11,000
8th: Tom Kemos of Oconomowoc, Wis., 42-11, $5,000
9th: Mark Courts of Harris, Minn., 38-5, $9,500
10th: Dustin Kjelden of Brookings, S.D., 36-15, $9,000

FLW Walleye Tour competition resumes Sept. 27-30 as the top 50 pros and top 50 co-anglers compete in the Wal-Mart FLW Walleye Tour Championship on Lake Erie in Cleveland.

Tags: brett-carlson  headline-story  2007-07-11-bays-de-noc 

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