UPCOMING EVENT: Costa FLW Series - 2019 - Lake Mead

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Championship begins on misty Missouri

National Guard FLW Walleye Tour Championship competitors begin the four-day march to the title on the Missouri River near Bismarck, N.D.

BISMARCK, N.D. - Though the FLW Walleye Tour has visited the Missouri River at Bismarck, N.D., for three championships in the past four seasons, the nation's best marble-eye anglers will work a distinctly different fishery in 2011. To borrow a phrase, the playing field has been evened.

Changing water

Boating restrictions have been in place on the river in the Bismarck area from spring through most of the summer due to flooding and high-water conditions. So whether the 40 best pros and 40 best co-anglers from the National Guard FLW Walleye Tour have competed here regularly or even in one of the two recent championship events, they will face a decidedly different Missouri River this week than what they may remember.

FLW Outdoors Director of Operations Mark Dorn said: "It's brand-new water for everyone out here. The fishery was basically shut down for most of the season ... the channels are different throughout here from what they were in the past.

"We probably won't see those real long runs south like we have in past years (to where the river widens near the North Dakota-South Dakota border). The fish are spread out throughout the system, from what I hear."

The championship field took off onto changing water under a thick blanket of fog Thursday morning, but rapidly rising temperatures were likely to burn it off quickly, and mild, calm weather should give anglers a great day on the Missouri River.
Travel South Dakota pro Lynn Jurrens is ready for Walleye Tour Championship action.
The fishing

Despite scattered fish and challenging river navigation with rapidly lowering water levels, debris and sandbars, Dorn and a few pros surveyed Thursday prior to the 8 a.m. takeoff from the Hazelton Access Area about 30 miles southeast of Bismarck predicted big weights this week.

Pro Lynn Jurrens of Watertown, S.D., said: "We're real excited to fish ... especially a couple of spots we've found here. We think we can get 25 pounds today."

Pros and their co-anglers can keep eight walleyes a day over 14 inches in length and weigh their best five. Upgrading is not allowed, so anglers must make a decision on whether to keep a walleye each time they bring one to the boat.

"Almost every presentation works here," Dorn said.

To be sure, a variety of baits and tactics will be employed today by the championship field to kick off the four-day event. Pro Richard Zachowski of Milwaukee, Wis., was talking about handlining, jigging and pulling live-bait rigs - all in a single day of championship fishing - and then there are the trollers who will pull crankbaits or other reaction baits at higher speeds. Jurrens was excited about a soft-plastic shad bait he had rigged with a spinner and flasher. Eggo pro Brian Brosdahl of Max, Minn., said Eggo pro Brian Brosdahl prepares his boat prior to takeoff on the first day of the 2011 Walleye Tour Championship.just about any presentation is working at present.

"It's been an absolute blast," Brosdahl said of his three and a half days of prefishing. "I've caught a zillion fish. I think I'm prepared."

Brosdahl said he had over 30 spots on the Missouri targeted for the championship, but dropping water has left him with "about 15 spots and five good ones." At takeoff this morning, he said he wouldn't know where to head first until he sees "where the field is going."

At the 8 a.m. takeoff, a majority of the 40 boats appeared to head south from the Hazelton Access Area, but several also had bows pointed upriver. What presentations and locations worked best will be revealed early this evening when the day-one championship weigh-in begins at 5 p.m. Central.

Tournament logistics

The top 40 pros and top 40 co-anglers will compete this week for top awards of up to $70,000 in the Pro Division and $12,000 in the Co-angler Division.

Anglers will take off from Hazelton Camp Ground and Access Area located 31 miles southeast of Bismarck on Highway 1804 in Bismarck at 8 each morning. Weigh-ins will be held daily at the Bismarck Civic Center located at 315 S. 5th St. in Bismarck beginning at 5 p.m.

Format for this tournament will be the full field of 40 pros and 40 co-anglers fishing the first two days. On day three the top 20 in each division will fish, and a co-angler champion will be crowned. On Sunday, the final day, the field drops down to the top 10 pros fishing for the title.

Fans will be treated to the FLW Outdoors Expo at the Bismarck Civic Center on Saturday and Sunday, Sept. 24 and 25, from 1 to 5 p.m. prior to weigh-ins. The Expo includes Ranger boat simulators, free seminars, the opportunity to interact with professional anglers, enjoy interactive games, activities and giveaways provided by sponsors, and learn more about the sport of fishing and other outdoor activities. The first 300 kids 14 and under on Sunday will receive a free Zebco rod and reel combo compliments of 103.3 US Country. All activities are free and open to the public.
The National Guard FLW Walleye Tour start boat flies the American flag along with the National Guard flag during the national anthem on day one of the championship on the Missouri River.
In conjunction with the FLW Walleye Tour Championship a National Guard FLW Soldier Appreciation Tournament will be held on Sat., Sept. 24. Members of the North Dakota National Guard, most of who have had at least one tour of duty in Iraq or Afghanistan, are invited to participate. FLW Tour pro anglers will take teams of two National Guard members fishing to compete amongst their peers. Each team is allowed to bring in three walleyes. Weigh-in for the Soldier Appreciation Tournament will be held at 4 p.m. at the Bismarck Civic Center just prior to the final Championship weigh-in. FLW Outdoors along with the National Guard is operating this tournament to show appreciation to our service members of the National Guard.

On TV, Web

Coverage of the FLW Walleye Tour Championship will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) on VERSUS. "FLW Outdoors" and will air Nov. 13 from 1 to 2 p.m. Eastern. "FLW Outdoors," hosted by Chip Leer, is broadcast to more than 500 million households worldwide.

For walleye-fishing fans unable to attend the festivities in person, you can catch all the weigh-in action live at FLWOutdoors.com with FLW Live. Show time starts at 5 p.m. Central today.

Thursday's conditions

Sunrise: 7:28 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 32 degrees
Expected high temperature: 66 degrees
Water temperature at the ramp: 54 degrees
Wind: calm
Maximum humidity: 99 percent
Day's outlook: mostly sunny with temperatures warming rapidly; winds light and variable

Tags: patrick-baker  morning-story  2011-09-22-missouri-river 

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