UPCOMING EVENT: YETI College Fishing - 2019 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir


Carstensen clinches Leech Lake crown

Co-angler winner Alan Wegleitner (left) and pro winner Kevin Carstensen hold up their biggest walleyes from day three on Leech Lake.

WALKER, Minn. - In a slot-limit tournament, keeping your mental composure is often equally important as on-the-water execution. Just when you think you've pinned the winning fish, it measures 25 1/2 inches and instantly has no value. But a select few walleye pros have learned to favor slot tournaments because of the game planning involved. While most anglers search high and low for specific areas that hold unders or overs, Kevin Carstensen found two that held both.

Carstensen commenced the three-day tournament on his deep-water area. But his shallow-water spot produced best, so on day two he started there and was done fishing by 10 a.m. The third and final day wasn't quite as fast and furious, but this off-the-wall spot more than delivered enough for Carstensen's first National Guard FLW Walleye Tour win.

Kevin Carstensen celebrates after winning the FLW Walleye Tour qualifier on Leech Lake.The spot, located near the Federal Dam on the northeast side of the lake, was essentially a channel where the lake became the Leech River. Carstensen described it as a rock bar-sand transition with a 12-foot hole nearby. The channel itself is only 20 feet wide and Carstensen said the sweet spot was just 10 feet by 10 feet.

"When it was cloudy they'd be as shallow as 2 feet adjacent to cane beds and when the sun came out they were in 4 to 6 feet on the transition line," he explained.

The really neat part is that the spot was most effective when boats were coming in and out. The spinning propellers would stir the baitfish and crayfish in the area and trigger the walleyes to bite. He found this spot at last year's championship and remarked how his co-anglers at first greeted it with immense skepticism.

When they arrived, Carstensen would set them up with rigs and a variety of live bait. His rigs had 6 1/2-foot leaders with 3/8-ounce weights. He found that long night crawlers worked best for the big fish, but they had to be presented tight to the bottom.

While the bite was once again strong Saturday, Carstensen had some nervous moments as his livewell malfunctioned due to a battery issue. As a result, all five of his keepers died and he took a 2 Leech Lake champion Kevin Carstensen holds up his trophy.1/2-pound penalty. He still weighed a 12-pound, 11-ounce stringer for a three-day total of 41 pounds, 11 ounces.

"Oh man, I can't believe this is happening. I had my two overs by 10 a.m. and I thought life was good. Then my livewell went down and I thought I was in trouble. My gut was just churning. I knew with Courts and Shimota so close behind me that one of them would get their two overs and the penalty would just kill me. I am so happy and so fortunate right now."

Carstensen won by a 4-pound margin and claimed $63,000.

"I've had several top 10s on the MWC, but this is win No. 1 and I can't think of a better place. I'm starting to like Leech Lake now. It's a heavy trophy but I'll carry it all the way back home to Wisconsin if I have to."

Shimota second

National Guard pro Bill Shimota retained his second-place position after catching a limit Saturday weighing 10 pounds even. The Lonsdale, Minn., resident finished the tournament with 37 pounds, Co-angler Kurt Zins and pro Bill Shimota caught a five-fish limit Saturday weighing 10 pounds even.11 ounces, earning $21,750 after contingencies.

"I had an OK prefish, but I never expected to get this many overs," said Shimota, who recorded four walleyes over the course of the week in excess of 26 inches.

To catch his fish, Shimota employed the standard two-pronged approach. He rigged (1/2-ounce bullet weight and 8-foot snell) with creek chubs in Walker Bay's deep water for his overs. And for his unders, he hit the main lake with night crawlers - either rigging again or trolling spinners with bottom bouncers over large rocks.

He'd start on the overs, then leave for small ones, then come back to the overs once he got his slot fish. When he rigged in deep water, he'd move the boat at .6 to .8 mph until he saw an arc on his graph.

"We caught that big one early and it was the only bite I got in four hours fishing in Walker Bay. So I was fortunate today in that regard."

Courts third

After taking fifth at last year's championship, Mark Courts once again was in contention for the win on Leech Lake. This year he finished third with a total weight of 37 pounds, 5 ounces, earning $15,500 with Ranger and Evinrude bonuses. His day-three stringer of four walleyes weighed 10 pounds, 8 ounces.
Co-angler Tim Depooter and pro Mark Courts hold up their four walleyes from day three on Leech Lake.
Like Carstensen, Courts mainly fished in extremely shallow water. He was concentrating on a flat in 5 to 8 feet located near Pelican Island. The walleyes were drawn to the spot because of the shiner spawn, which is triggered by the impending full moon. Courts could visually see the balls of batifish spawning between rocks. The walleyes would sit on the edge of the dirty water and Courts would drift the 500-yard area.

Courts had his co-anglers rig while he pitched a 1/8-ounce Northland Slurp jig (rainbow color) with a shiner. The spot was ineffective Saturday because of the lack of wind and bluebird skies. In that shallow of water, there needed to be something to break up the light penetration as any movement spooked the fish. Courts preferred the spot because it had a mix of both unders and overs and the fish were fat and healthy as they were gorging themselves on protein-rich shiners.

"We had to abandon my primary area and ended up running around a lot," said the National Guard pro. "My partner got on a little hot streak there banging a leech against rocks and that really helped."

With perfect slot fish, one additional over might have been enough to bring Courts his first Walleye Tour win. But one more slot would have given him second place.

"You only get the opportunity to do this every now and then. When you do, you have to go for the win."

Meleen fourth
Paul Meleen finished in fourth place with a total weight of 32 pounds, 14 ounces.
Just like Courts, Paul Meleen has a special connection with Leech Lake. The reigning Angler of the Year finished third at last year's championship and took fourth this year with 32 pounds, 14 ounces, earning $11,100. Meleen has been rigging for over 20 years and he put that experience to good use this week.

"I've got a lot of confidence rigging chubs," he said. "I've learned from the best."

Early in the tournament, he fished shallow water on the south end of the lake. When the wind died, he resorted to Walker Bay's deep water. On day one, the Isle, Minn., pro caught a 30-inch walleye that had to go back because he already had his two overs in the livewell. Today, he lost a giant minutes before he caught his lone over of the day.

"For my bigger fish, I was dialed in on the shiner spawn over rocks in 8 feet of water," said Meleen. "For my slots, I focused on main-lake weed lines with jigs and shiners."

At last year's championship, Meleen sampled multiple rock reefs on the eastern side of the lake.

Olson fifth

Fifth-place pro Eric Olson holds up his biggest fish from day three on Leech Lake.Climbing to fifth place was Red Wing, Minn., pro Eric Olson. Olson started the tournament in 28th place, and then made the cutoff in 10th. Today he rose to fifth on the strength of an 11-pound, 15-ounce limit.

Olson started the day on unders. After he got four, he left for big fish. He stopped at an area near the mouth of Walker Bay and popped his 28-incher.

"For my big fish, I used chubs and a 6-foot leader with a 1-aught hook," said the 2010 Lake Oahe champion. "For my unders, I pulled crawler harnesses over emergent weeds at .7 mph. The key to my unders was green hooks. That really seemed to make a difference."

Olson also credited Pete Harsh with helping him fine tune his technique as a rigger.

Thanks to $2,500 in contingencies, Olson earned $9,150.

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pro finalists at the National Guard FLW Walleye Tour event on Leech Lake:

6th: David Bjorkman of Fargo, N.D., 29-2 (three-day total), $5,700
7th: Tom Kemos of Oconomowoc, Wis., 26-13, $4,750 + 1,000 Ranger bonus
8th: Rick Olson of Mina, S.D., 26-10, $3,800 + $1,500 Evinrude bonus + $1,000 Ranger bonus
9th: Mark Christianson of Walker, Minn., 24-12, $3,325
10th: Scott Larson of Mayville, N.D., 21-15, $2,850 + $1,500 Evinrude bonus

Wegleitner wins Co-angler Division

In his first Walleye Tour event, Alan Wegleitner won the tournament on the co-angler side, taking For winning the FLW Walleye Tour event on Leech Lake, co-angler Alan Wegleitner took home a check for $6,000.home a check for $6,000. The Somerset, Wis., native fishes Leech Lake often with his friend, who has a family cabin on the lake.

"I just tried to keep it simple and have fun," said Wegleitner. "My partners taught me a lot."

Wegleitner weighed 11-4 on day one, 14-8 on day two and 12-11 today with Carstensen.

"I will say that when we moved up to our first spot today I thought Kevin was nuts."

Wegleitner then reflected on his unexpected win.

"I might as well do a few more of these. It was a great time."

Kurt Zins of Nicolett, Minn., placed second for the co-anglers, followed by Tim Depooter, Edward Piekutowski, and Dan Meisner. James Stigen took sixth, Randal Sterr seventh, Tyrone Larson eighth, veteran co-angler Boyd Strissel ninth and Dan Soehren 10th.

The next National Guard FLW Walleye Tour event is scheduled to take place July 21-23 on Green Bay in Oconto, Wis.

Tags: brett-carlson  headline-story  2011-06-09-leech-lake 


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