Near-50-pound bag wins first walleye event

Oak Harbor, Ohio — Described by tournament leaders and competitors alike as the smoothest tournament launch ever, the first 2014 Lake Erie Walleye Trail, hosted by Magee East Marina and Campground, was held April 12.

Forty-eight pairs of anglers left the channel and headed toward the nearby reefs, where the majority of Lake Erie’s walleyes were gathered in various stages of their annual spawning activities.

After a winter during which 10 pound-plus walleyes were piled onto the ice on a daily basis, it was anticipated that it could take well over 50 pounds of fish to win or even place in the contest. Last year’s winning team brought in 51.86 pounds to the scale, including the 14.21-pound biggest fish of the tournament at the March 29, 2013, LEWT event.

This spring, there was still ice across the marina and the channel leading to the lake less than two weeks before the originally scheduled April 5 kick-off event. Tournament Director Joe Yingling met with Western Basin Sportfishing Association officers and decided to delay the event until April 12. The result was pleasant weather during the event, with highs in the 70s on-shore and moderate winds on the lake.

Pre-fishing on the days prior to the event confirmed that the fish were still at their maximum pre-spawn weights, due to their mature eggs, with many pushing 13 pounds. Just as important, they were willing to strike slow-trolled plugs such as Rapala Deep Huskie Jerks, with a few using Reef Runner skinny sticks and other personal favorites.

At the weigh-ins however, it became clear that many of the fish arrived at the scale spawned out and much lighter instead. As a result, the winning weight was still an impressive, but more modest 46.44 pounds. They were caught by Jason Pelz and Matt Clifton, anchored by the biggest fish of the tournament – a 12.17-pounder. The “hero lure” was a Halloween pattern Deep Husky Jerk.

Second place went to Gary Bowman and Paul Curmi with a catch of 44.01 pounds and third place went to 2013 Angler of the Year Randy Eyre and his 2014 partner Corey Miller with 43.32 pounds.

There were only seven fish over 10 pounds weighed this year, compared to 17 last year. Even though the on-week delay knocked nearly a full pound off the 8.3-pound average weigh of walleyes checked in compared to last year, Lake Erie still remains the envy of the walleye fishing world. The 7.4-pound average fish that was weighed in this year would be the biggest fish of the tournament on many other popular bodies of water in North America.

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