LAKE VERMILION— A Birch Point resident and his Michigan fishing partner took the top spot in last weekend’s City Auto Glass walleye tournament here, helped by their first catch of the …
LAKE VERMILION— A Birch Point resident and his Michigan fishing partner took the top spot in last weekend’s City Auto Glass walleye tournament here, helped by their first catch of the day—a 27-1/2-incher caught on a jig and a minnow in just seven feet of water.
“It was a great weekend, that’s for sure,” said Steve Krasaway, who operates Vermilion Walleye Hunter Guide Service when he’s not out scouting for a tournament. He’ll now share the $17,000 first-place prize with his partner, Mike McPherson, of Detroit.
The angling duo has placed as high as third place in the tournament in the past, but they narrowly edged the second-place finishers this year by just three and a half ounces. Those extra ounces proved the difference between the first-place prize and the $5,000 purse for second place.
The winners are selected by a weigh-in at the end of the day at the Fortune Bay Marina. Each team enters its top-six walleye in hopes of achieving the highest combined weight. Walleye within Vermilion’s protected 20-26-inch slot don’t count, but that left room for the 27-1/2-incher caught by McPherson.
It came from a spot that the two men had located in the week ahead of last Saturday’s tournament, a shallow, sandy bay that held a number of large walleye, according to Krasaway’s front-facing sonar. The big fish, which had likely just come off spawning, did not appear to be very hungry. Krasaway said they’d been trying to entice the fish to bite for about 45 minutes and were about ready to give up when McPherson latched into the big one.
Despite the hundreds of dollars that Krasaway and McPherson spent on fancy lures ahead of this year’s tournament, it was the tried and true— a 25-cent jig and plain hook that finally enticed the big one that put them over the top.
Krasaway said it was a tough year to find large walleye since the late ice-out means the water is still quite cold and the big females are still recovering from a later-than-usual spawn. In fact, only two anglers in the entire tournament, including 125 teams, managed to land a walleye over the slot.
Smaller walleyes were plentiful. Krasaway said he and McPherson boated a total of 65 ‘eyes, and they were able to add five fish over 16 inches to their final weigh-in. They did have to release a few slot fish, including a couple late in the day that they had initially thought might come in over the slot, allowing it to be kept. “Those ones got our heart beating almost more than the first one,” recalls Krasaway.
The tournament, traditionally the first one of the season on Vermilion, has arguably become its most popular. It’s a fundraiser for Kiwanis Key Club, which donates to scholarships for area youth. Since its inception 18 years ago, the event has donated more than $300,000 to the scholarship fund.
Krasaway said the week leading up to the tournament each May is his favorite of the year. “It’s better than Christmas,” he said. “It’s a very fun event. Everybody really looks forward to it.”
The participants tend to keep coming back each year and that makes it a chance to catch up with other serious walleye anglers from around the country, mostly the Upper Midwest.
Under the rules of the tournament, it’s all catch and release, so the vast majority of the fish survive to fight another day. Krasaway said the cold water this year helped ensure that almost all the fish were successfully released.
“We watched all ours swim away,” he said. Yes, even the 27-1/2-incher.