First place Co-Angler Joe Jordan with Gillman at awards ceremony
Second place Pro Chris Gilman with Co-Angler Cody Lubeley
Third place Pro Chris Perry with Co-Angler Dan Kraft
Lined up at the launch on Catawba
Friday, June 14, was to be the first day of the Cabela’s National Walleye Tour in Port Clinton, but day one was cancelled due to a small craft advisory issued that morning.
The 260 Professional Anglers and Co-Anglers from across the country fished in more enjoyable conditions Saturday. Fishing was cancelled again on Sunday, but there were many happy anglers at the 10 a.m. Father’s Day awards ceremony.
Huge weights dominated the stage Saturday, where often times the five fish limit was too big for the scales. They used two large fish bags to divide them. Then both bags were weighed separately and added together for a final weight that both the Pro and the Co-Angler share.
Leading at the end of Saturday, and ultimately the tournament winner, with his personal best total was Pro Angler John Gillman. Gillman, along with Co Angler Joe Jordan, had a weight of 51.7 pounds for their five fish total.
When asked how it felt to be sitting in the number one spot after day one, Gillman said, “It’s good, obviously. Having a 4 pound lead, it’s great. You know what I mean? That’s a nice cushion here. It’s fun! The Great Lakes are what I love to do. I love to troll. And, I’m due”, he laughed. “I’ve gone too many years of not winning”, he said, shaking his head.
When asked how many years he had tournament fished, Gillman said, “I’ve been fishing 12 years now. I started with the MWT (Michigan Walleye Tour). Then I fished the PWT (In Fisherman’s Professional Walleye Trail), and then, obviously, the FLW (FLW Walleye Tour). And now I am fishing the Cabelas’ National Walleye Tour (NWT).”
When timidly asked what he was doing to catch his fish (because it’s typical of a Pro to save that information until the tournament is over) surprisingly Gllman was willing to share what he knew: “Believe it or not, I’m pulling Reef Runners, and I hate pulling Reef Runners. They’re great baits, but I’m just not good at them. It was just unbelievable”, he says shrugging his shoulders and grinning widely, remembering. At the very end of the day I did switch to spinners, because it laid flat and I moved off the structure a little more. I caught a 28 and a 30 and another 28, and I just told Joe, ‘I cannot catch anything more than this. Unless I catch a 12 pounder, and that’s like winning the lotto.’ I just said, That weight is so big, we’re out of here.’ ”
When asked how fast he was pulling his Reef Runners, he said, “It’s really, really, really weird. There’s a lot of current in the Great Lakes, depending on where you’re at, and down there, I never experienced current like that in my life. One direction I was pulling at 0.4-.0.5 mph and the other I was going 1.7 mph. There’s a difference in the current. You watch that bait in the water, and you see how it reacts to the current, then you’ll know that’s the speed you need to be going, and I adjusted accordingly. Because I knew going with the current, that I would need to adjust my speed to make the action of my baits work the way they’re supposed to. I also had to change my leads to get into the zone where the fish are.”
As with many of the Pros, it was Gillman’s first trip to Port Clinton. “I am definitely coming back,” he said.
Only four pounds behind Gillman was Pro Chris Gilman and his Co-Angler Cody Lubeley, with a five fish limit of 47.54 pounds.
In the number three position was Perry Good and his Co-Angler Dan Kraft, with another heavy weight of 47.16 pounds.
Perry echoed what many anglers found: “The pre-fishing was great. The hard thing (on tournament day) was deciding where to go.” The teams fished the western basin as far east as Avon, as far north as Pelee.
Another angler said that he had never thrown back so many seven and eight pound fish.
The NPAA (National Professional Angler’s Association) held a Children’s Clinic after Saturday’s weigh in where rods, reels, and t-shirts donated by Cabela’s and other sponsors were handed out to the attending kids and their families.
For full results go to www.nationalwalleyetour.com/tournaments/results. The Port Clinton tournament will be televised on NBC Sports network and other networks later this year.
Photos by Julia Davis and Donna Lueke.