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In search of Oahe overs

In search of Oahe overs
A field of 113 boats prepares for takeoff from Spring Creek on Lake Oahe on the opening day of the final National Guard FLW Walleye Tour event of the 2011 regular season.

PIERRE, S.D. - It's all about the overs in this week's National Guard FLW Walleye Tour event on Lake Oahe, according to last year's Oahe champion, Eric Olson. As the 2011 regular season draws to a close over the next three days in central South Dakota, the 113 walleye pros and as many co-anglers fishing the tournament will all be in search of walleyes as far over the 20-inch mark as they can find.

The strategy

The pro from Red Wing, Minn., elaborated on the elements of strategy that will make or break the competitors in the fourth Walleye Tour event of the year: On any given day, a pro and co-angler partner may return from this Missouri River reservoir with eight fish in their possession, weighing the best five walleyes, all of which must be at least 14 inches in length. However, only two fish may surpass 20 inches, and upgrading is not allowed.

What that means is every walleye caught that measures longer than 20 inches - an over - will create an instant conundrum: to keep or not to keep, and the decision must be made at the moment the fish is measured.

"Having eight fish - that's crucial. Make sure you have your overs," Olson said of a basic strategy. Regarding how the tournament will be won, he added, "It's, `Who's going to make the right call at the right time?' That's what it's all about."

Olson - who has amassed eight top-10 finishes in his walleye career with FLW Outdoors, including one earlier this year on Minnesota's Leech Lake - knows a thing or two about tournament strategy, a trait that put him in the winner's circle here last summer. He said he has been catching larger overs this year - in the 25- to 27-inch range - but as far as the slot fish between 14 and 20 inches, "there seem to be fewer of the solid 18- to 19-inch fish.

Good fishing instincts will help the anglers comprising the 113-boat field this week, but each will also have to also stay mentally sharp to keep up with changing conditions as well as make the right decisions about keeping fish to weigh. Olson predicted it will take about 15 pounds over the first two days to make the top-10 cut and likely 18 pounds a day to win the tournament.

The fishing

The walleye fishing has been strong on Oahe this summer, but downstream flooding at the hands of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has added fishing pressure to the massive reservoir above the Oahe Dam, where this week's tourney is taking place. However, limited access to Lake Sharpe below the dam was recently granted and the bite there is hot, so that could alleviate some fishing pressure from recreational anglers on Oahe this week.

Corps releases from the Oahe Dam have been at all-time highs since May, but with the upstream pool levels finally reaching safer levels recently, the releases have been decreasing. Still, many Walleye Tour anglers reported drops of 2 to 4 feet in the water levels where they have been practicing, which could stymie those who have been fishing submerged treetops or shallower points.

And while the fishing has been good in the lower portions of Oahe near the takeoff site of Spring Creek, there is always a good bite - if not better - upstream (north). In past Oahe tournaments out of Sunrise over Spring Creek on Lake OaheSpring Creek, some competitors have gambled on long runs as far north as 90 miles or more to Mobridge, S.D., or points in between.

"The fish are farther south this year," Olson said, adding, "but there are lots of guys considering the run up north."

While a jigging bite is always an option anywhere walleyes swim, well-known walleye pro Ted Takasaki of Sioux Falls, S.D., said most of the anglers competing in this week's tournament are likely to either troll live-bait rigs around points (1 mph or less) or troll crankbaits at a faster pace.

"I got some nice fish rigging and some nice fish trolling," he said, adding that he has been live-bait rigging with night crawlers or trolling crankbaits in fire-tiger or other bright colors in depths of about 16 to 19 feet.

Olson said he has been catching walleyes at various depths while trolling crankbaits, but as deep as 35 to 40 feet. Clearly there anglers will have multiple choices of where to find feeding fish in the water column depending on where they are.

"The fish are scattered," Olson said.

The stakes

In Walleye Tour competition, pros and co-anglers are casting for top awards of up to $63,000 in the Pro Division and $10,500 in the Co-angler Division. They are also competing for valuable points in the hope of qualifying for the 2011 National Guard FLW Walleye Tour Championship held on the Missouri River in Bismarck, N.D., Sept. 22-25.

Additionally, competitors are vying for the coveted Angler of the Year title, which secures them a place Walleye pro Ted Takasaki prepares his tackle.in the 2012 Walleye Tour Championship as well as $10,000 for the pro and $2,500 for the co-angler. As the final tournament of the 2011 regular season, the Walleye Tour Angler of the Year and Co-angler of the Year will be determined this week on Lake Oahe.

Tournament details

Anglers will take off from Spring Creek Resort & Deep Water Marina located at 28229 Spring Creek Place in Pierre at 7 each morning. Weigh-ins will also be held at the marina beginning at 3 p.m. on Thursday and Friday. Saturday's final weigh-in will be held at the Walmart located at 1730 N. Garfield in Pierre beginning at 4 p.m. Prior to the final weigh-in, FLW Outdoors, in conjunction with the NPAA, will host a free Family Fishing Clinic, where children can receive free rod and reels plus other great giveaways. Fans will have the opportunity to interact with professional anglers, ride a Ranger boat simulator, enjoy interactive games and activities, and learn more about the sport of fishing. All activities are free and open to the public.

This week's tournament is hosted by the Pierre Area Chamber of Commerce.

For complete tournament details and updated information regarding associated events, visit Walleye Tour at Lake Oahe home.

On the Web

Today's weigh-in will be broadcast over the Intenet via FLW Live. Show time begins at 3 p.m. CDT.

For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the Walleye Tour on Facebook at Facebook.com/FLWWalleyeTour and on Twitter at Twitter.com/FLWOutdoors.

Thursday's conditions

Sunrise: 6:56 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 63 degrees
Expected high temperature: 93 degrees
Water temperature at the ramp: 78 degrees
Wind: ESE at 10 mph
Maximum humidity: 70 percent
Day's outlook: sunny with increasing winds; temperatures warming into the upper 80s to low 90s; winds SSE at 15 to 20 mph through 1 p.m.

Tags: patrick-baker  morning-story  2011-08-25-lake-oahe 

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