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Skarlis stays on top

Evinrude pro Tommy Skarlis of Waukon, Iowa, caught five walleyes weighing 17 pounds, 2 ounces Saturday to maintain the lead on the third day of the National Guard FLW Walleye Tour Championship on the Missouri River. Here he is interviewed by FLW Outdoors host Jason Harper.

BISMARCK, N.D. - Evinrude pro Tommy Skarlis won the 2008 championship on the Missouri River at Bismarck, N.D., and on Saturday he positioned himself to make National Guard FLW Walleye Tour history by sacking another strong limit weighing 17 pounds, 2 ounces. He now has a three-day total of 58 pounds, nearly a 5-pound lead heading into the final day and a solid shot at a repeat performance.

If the walleye master from Waukon, Iowa, seals the deal tomorrow, he would be the first pro to win two FLW Walleye Tour Championships - and on the same fishery, no less. Though Skarlis - who is known for his energy and ability to talk - was certainly excited about his position Saturday, he remained humble about the prospect.

"I've been here before, but I've still got one day," he said.

Skarlis will enter the final day of championship action Sunday with a 4-pound, 14-ounce buffer, but current runner-up Dean Arnoldussen weighed an 8 1/2-pound walleye today, illustrating how quickly the tables can turn on this stretch of the Missouri River.

Another potential obstacle for Skarlis will be whether his honeyhole near the Beaver Creek Bridge on Highway 1804 can hold out - it's been fished hard all week and already disappointed several of the pros who parlayed its bounty into big weights earlier in the competition.

But somehow Skarlis has strung together three good days by working his way up and down the shelf that is about 40 to 50 yards in length and holds a steep drop down to about 30 feet as its key feature. Pro Tommy Skarlis of Waukon, Iowa, reacts to his day-three partner Todd Dankert of Anoka, Minn., winning the co-angler title at the National Guard FLW Walleye Tour Championship on the Missouri River.He gave much of the credit for his success today to his co-angler partner, Todd Dankert, who was crowned the champion of his division at the end of Saturday's weigh-in.

"I had a very strong co-angler today. Man, Todd put them in the boat," Skarlis said. "Yesterday I was on; today he was on - hopefully tomorrow I can bring it back."

Skarlis has been vertically jigging with Gulp Minnows on Northland jigs, finding most of his best walleyes over the edge of the cut in 15 to 25 feet of water. After reeling in a limit from the area this morning, he moved upriver to about four miles north of the Hazelton Access Area and found more weigh fish.

According to Skarlis, they missed several bites today. If he has the same problem tomorrow when he goes out solo, he said he will either try to live-bait rigging to finesse some bites or - his preferred method - upgrade the size of his jigging baits and speed up his presentation to "make them eat it," possibly bringing stinger hooks into the mix. He said he may also change up his fishing line to Trilene XL or XT "so the fish can suck the bait in a little better."

"If you see it through and persevere, you can get it done," he said.

Arnoldussen's big walleye paves way to second
Walmart pro Dean Arnoldussen was happy to have John Solek as a co-angler partner on day three. Solek caught this near 9-pound walleye.
Walmart pro Dean Arnoldussen had a funny story about the 8 1/2-pound river monster he weighed in today, helping pave the way to a 19-10 limit that gave him a three-day total of 53-2 and a six-place ride up the leaderboard.

After giving up on trolling with leadcore line, Anroldussen told his co-angler John Solek (fourth place) that they needed to change things up, so they ran to an area about five miles upriver from the launch site where a blue drainage pipe empties into the river to fish, bouncing between that location and a little trough directly across the river that drops from 4 to 8 feet deep.

"I said we had to go jig ... it's not happening," he said. "I showed John how to rig minnows on the jig. Later John puts his line down and said, `I'm snagged.'

"I said, `Take your time - that could be a fish.' Then he said, `I think that's a walleye - a big one.'"

After seeing the massive fish surface, Arnoldussen netted it and swung it in the boat just moments before the jig popped out of its mouth. Needless to say, the pair continued with that presentation using Northland Fireball jigs tipped with minnows for the rest of the day.

"I feel pretty confident about tomorrow; my spot keeps replenishing," the pro said, adding that he jigged about 15 pounds of walleyes out of the trough in less than an hour yesterday.

Shimota continues to slowly rise
National Guard pro Bill Shimota is in third place after day three.
National Guard pro Bill Shimota of Lonsdale, Minn., continued to lend credence to the folk wisdom that "slow and steady" can win the race - or at least keep securely in the running. He weighed a 17-13 limit on day one, a 17-6 limit on day two and a 17-5 limit Saturday for a three-day total of 52 1/2 pounds. He climbed one spot in the standings to third.

Shimota's main area is about four miles upriver from the launch site, and he has a nearby secondary location. He said he has seen Arnoldussen and Skarlis at different times from where he is fishing, but they are not sharing spots.

"I'm not going any farther than four miles," he said. "I'm going to get four days of fishing out of one tank of gas ... that never happens."

Shimota continues to handline and poleline for his fish with a large weight to keep the double monofilament leaders near the bottom, "zig-zagging" shallow-diving crankbaits on the ends in water anywhere from 8 to 25 feet deep.

"They have been pretty cookie-cutter days," he said of his methodical approach. "I have to go through about 10 small fish for every good one."

Andersen climbs a slot, Stier drops two

Pro David Andersen of Amery, Wis., made a big move Friday and then caught another five-walleye limit today for 16-6 giving him a three-day total weight of 51 1/2 pounds. He moved up the leaderboard one more slot to fourth place.

Andersen has been fishing current breaks in four or five spots roughly 30 miles north of the takeoff site and has not had to deal with any fishing pressure so far, which is the way he likes it. He reported catching his fish by pulling Berkley Flicker Shad baits on leadcore.

EverStart pro Dan Stier of Mina, S.D., dropped two slots today to fifth after weighing in a 13-11 limit for a three-day total of 50-6.

Stier's success has dwindled daily at the busy spot near the Beaver Creek Bridge downriver, and he said he didn't have a single fish in the livewell today by 1:30 p.m., so he changed locations a few times EverStart pro Dan Stier talks about his day three with weighmaster Alan Gray.to cobble together a limit.

"We got a really key fish, which was great," he said, "but we lost another good one ... or we'd be sitting really good."

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pros who will fish the final day of the National Guard FLW Walleye Tour Championship:

6th: OFF! pro Chris Gilman, Chisago City, Minn., 15 walleyes, 50-6
7th: Keith Kavajecz, Kaukauna, Wis., 14 walleyes, 47-1
8th: Kevin Carstensen, Merrill, Wis., 15 walleyes, 44-14
9th: Tom Kemos, Oconomowoc, Wis., 15 walleyes, 44-13
10th: National Guard pro Mark Courts, Harris, Minn., 15 walleyes, 43-14

The final day of championship action will kick off at 8 a.m. Sunday at the Hazelton Camp Ground and Access Area located 31 miles southeast of Bismarck on Highway 1804. The final weigh-in 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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