UPCOMING EVENT: T-H Marine BFL - 2019 - Grand Lake

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Skarlis surges ahead on Missouri River

Skarlis surges ahead on Missouri River
Evinrude pro Tommy Skarlis of Waukon, Iowa, took over the lead on day two of the 2011 National Guard FLW Walleye Tour Championship. He won the same event here on the Missouri River at Bismarck, N.D., in 2008.

BISMARCK, N.D. - The community hole that powered most of the top-10 performances on day one of the National Guard FLW Walleye Tour Championship dried up for almost everyone Friday - everyone but Evinrude pro Tommy Skarlis, that is. The walleye veteran from Waukon, Iowa, brought an impressive 21 pounds, 1 ounce to the scale today for a two-day total of 40-14 and first place.

The 40- to 50-yard stretch that brought in boats like ants to sugar resembled bumper boats at a carnival early Friday, as half the field jockeyed for position over a steep drop that contributed to more than one 20-pound-plus bag Thursday. But it was as though Skarlis was the Pied Piper of walleyes on day two.

"I went to the honeyhole; it was boat to boat," he said. "My Evinrude kept bumping into other guys' trolling motors. I caught seven of them in there."

It's the same place, some 20 miles downriver from the launch site at Hazelton Access Area, that gave Keith Kavajecz his nearly 27-pound limit yesterday, but he and other pros who went back for more today were largely left empty-handed. Groups of walleyes were moving through the deep drop from the backs of bays toward the river channel, but it was only Skarlis who got on a big bunch today.

Skarlis said: "I'm pretty much jigging and rigging (live bait). I'm using Spiderwire Stealth and Berkley Fireline ... it's so important to be able to feel those bites. I'm fishing with a lot of Gulp and PowerBait (both from Berkley), but also getting a few scoops of minnows each day - though they seem to be hitting the soft baits a lot better.

"It's just been a phenomenal, exciting bite. They are just smoking it."

With only a 3-pound, 5-ounce lead heading into day three of a four-day championship, one question is whether Skarlis can continue his success, especially when he's thus far focused on a community hole that has been nearly decimated this week. Not a problem, said the pro who also won the FLW Walleye Tour Championship here in 2008.

"I know this river pretty well ... I've got another spot I was excited about in practice, and I checked today and the fish are there," he said. "I think I could get 16 to 17 pounds from it tomorrow if I need to."

Skarlis has more secondary spots as well, indicating he has "a milk run" that he can follow upriver from the community hole, which he left today at about 11:30 a.m., if it is completely depleted tomorrow.

Kavajecz drops to second

After landing the heftiest five-walleye bag of the tournament thus far on day one, 26-12, Mercury pro Keith Kavajecz of Kaukauna, Wis., had a much tougher go of it Friday, bringing in five fish that only weighed 10-13. Though it was a precipitous drop in weight, he only fell one place in the standings today to second and is still positioned well to compete for the title, trailing the lead by 3 pounds, 5 ounces with a two-day total of 37-9.

"We determined there were more boats in the area today than walleyes caught, which is never a good thing," he said. "It was very crowded, and the walleyes disapproved."

After catching only two fish at the community hole in three hours, Kavajecz "left there and scrambled. He ran upriver to the McLean Bottoms area about 14 miles south of Bismarck to catch a couple more keepers and then landed his final weigh fish close to the launch site.

"Where I was fishing yesterday, there was no current," he said, explaining his shift in method from vertical jigging to trolling crankbaits, No. 7 Flicker Shads, on leadcore line in about 18 feet of water. "Where I went to later was all current."

Kavajecz said most of the baitfish and even white bass had left the deep-cut area the group was fishing, which helps explain why fewer packs of walleyes were moving through there today due to the pressure, but like Skarlis, he'll give it one more try Saturday.

"Tomorrow the field gets cut in half," he said. "I'll run down there first, but won't stay as long."

Stier stays in third
In third is EverStart pro Dan Stier of Mina, S.D., nine walleyes, 36-11.
EverStart pro Dan Stier of Mina, S.D., only weighed four walleyes today, but they were good ones, weighing 15-7 to give him a two-day total of 36-11 and third place.

"My honeyhole didn't produce any honey today, so I had to scramble to get these," he said. "The shad were gone, white bass gone - these are the two key elements you have to have."

Stier gave up on the crowded area by noon and started working his way upriver. His second and third spots didn't produce any keepers, but his fourth area gave up a 21-incher, followed by a 20- and a 19-incher at his fifth stop. After attaching a different propeller to his boat tonight, he said he should have the option of running to a productive spot some 45 miles downriver from the takeoff site tomorrow, getting close to the South Dakota border where the river widens, if necessary.

"I'm basically trolling until I find a pocket of fish, and then I go back and jig for `em."

Shimota climbs to fourth

National Guard pro Bill Shimota of Lonsdale, Minn., made his move today, climbing four slots to fourth place. He's been highly consistent, weighing a 17-13 limit on day one and a 17-6 limit today for a two-day total of 35-3.

"I'm not fishing in the big pack," he said, "but there were about 10 other boats in my primary spot - including some locals. I do have one other spot that I have to myself."

Shimota's main area is about four miles north of the Hazelton launch area, and he described his secondary location as a big area he has "had to go to both days."

"I'm doing all handlining and polelining," he said, in an effort to keep his bait in the strike zone on the bottom of the river even in strong current. He is using a 1 ¼-pound weight with his handlining rigs, "zig-zagging" two baits on two monofilament leaders with shallow-diving crankbaits in depths of everywhere from 8 to 25 feet.

Andersen rockets into fifth
In fifth is  pro David Andersen of Amery, Wis., 10 walleyes, 35-2.
Pro David Andersen of Amery, Wis., was the heat-seeker Friday, flying up the leaderboard from 17th to fifth place, fueled by a five-fish limit weighing 20-4. His two-day total now stands at 35-2.

"I fished by myself all day," he said. "All my spots were by myself - I don't like to fish around other people."

Andersen's penchant for personal space could serve him well if the community hole doesn't replenish over the weekend. He said he has been pulling Berkley Flicker Shad crankbaits on leadcore line across "current breaks" in four or five spots roughly 30 miles north of the takeoff site.

"I caught at least one good fish in every spot," he said. "The 21-incher was the smallest. Hopefully they'll hold out."

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pros after day two of the National Guard FLW Walleye Tour Championship on the Missouri River (the field was cut Friday to the top 20, who will fish Saturday before another top-10 cut leading into the final day Sunday):

6th: Kevin Carstensen, Merrill, Wis., 10 walleyes, 34-4
7th: Tom Kemos, Oconomowoc, Wis., 10 walleyes, 34-0
8th: Walmart pro Dean Arnoldussen, Appleton, Wis., 10 walleyes, 33-8
9th: OFF! pro Chris Gilman, Chisago City, Minn., 10 walleyes, 32-6
10th: Perry Good, Minnetrista, Minn., nine walleyes, 32-3

Todd Dankert of Anoka, Minn., leads the Co-angler Division with 10 walleyes weighing 41-10.Dankert takes co-angler lead

Todd Dankert of Anoka, Minn., leads the Co-angler Division with a two-day total of 10 walleyes weighing 41 pounds, 10 ounces. He fished with OFF! pro Chris Gilman (currently ninth) on day one and fifth-place pro Andersen today.

"With Gilman, it was like bumper boats," he said of the crowded fishing holes they worked. "With Andersen, it was like total scenic views all day long."

Since Andersen was trolling today, each angler took responsibility for grabbing whatever rod hooked a walleye on his side of the boat. The co-angler leader said Andersen reeled in the biggest of the day - a 27-incher - so Dankert netted it.

"I enjoy fishing as a co-angler ... I just like being here," he said. "I love the atmosphere. I'm really looking forward to tomorrow."

Dankert said his pairings this week have been a dream come true since he has always wanted to fish with Gilman and Andersen as well as Skarlis, who he'll be paired with Saturday.

Shepard right behind

Don Shepard of Lowell, Mich., is in second place in the Co-angler Division with a two-day total of 10 walleyes weighing 41-3.

Dankert and Shepard will fish for the title tomorrow along with the 18 other co-anglers who made the top-20 cut. While pros will face another cut tomorrow to determine who will fish in the finale Sunday, a co-angler champion will be crowned Saturday.

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers after day two of the National Guard FLW Walleye Tour Championship on the Missouri River:

3rd: Tim Depooter, Rock Island, Ill., 10 walleyes, 39-15
4th: John Mickish, White Bear Lake, Minn., ninw walleyes, 37-12
5th: Tyrone Larson, Amherst, Wis., 10 walleyes, 34-5
6th: Dave Smith, Saint Joseph, Minn., 10 walleyes, 33-15
7th: Lance Bainville, Mounds View, Minn., 10 walleyes, 32-4
8th: John Solek, Indianapolis, Ind., 10 walleyes, 32-1
9th: Jimmy Cox, Bono, Ark., 10 walleyes, 31-7
10th: Dave Barrett, Mosinee, Wis., nine walleyes, 31-3

Overall there were 174 walleyes weighing 507 pounds, 11 ounces caught by 40 boats Friday. The catch included 25 five-walleye limits.

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

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

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