Changed River Greets FLW
While it is always a goal to be angler of the year, the bigger goal for Tom Keenan this year was to win a qualifier. After taking second place at the first event at Lake Erie and watching Jeff Graves stand right next to him with that big trophy, it put even more of a fire under Keenan to do well. His goal this week is to take it all in the championship.
The Missouri River near Bismarck, ND is where Keenan will look to do so on what he described as a "wild river" with few houses, and a lot of gorgeous scenery. For Keenan, who hasn't been there in two years, fishing memories won't be an option due to all the high water earlier this year. "From what I hear, a lot of things have shifted and changed. I'll be looking for new spots to fish."
Keenan plans on spending the first couple days of prefishing trolling, as that is his strongest point. He also figures it will be a good way to cover ground and look for places that he may want to come back and jig if he has to. He also feels that the time of year will play into his trolling strong point. "With the water cooling, you tend to catch more big fish on cranks and what a great opportunity to give it to them."
One of the people who Keenan thinks will be a strong contender is Mark Courts, who also said that the sand has moved since his last trip out west and there is a lot of debris in the water.
According to Courts, the water is still going down daily from the highs hit this summer and is expected to go down more by tournament time. At least during prefishing, expect to see Courts with a jig rod in hand or pulling cranks, as these are two of the methods he will be using to try to find fish.
Courts figures it will take 14-15lbs daily to make the top ten. Even with the changes to the system, "There are a lot of guys who are fishing that have won here in the past” said Courts, who expects the competition to be strong.
Coming into this year, Chase Parsons knew it was going to be a bit of an adjustment going back to a tournament format where you have to work within the catch and keep rules governing a particular body of water, such as slots and culling. However, it wasn't that big of a deal, because those were the types of tournaments he had grown up with and was familiar with.
He was also looking forward to fishing with a lot of his buddies again and fishing more than four tournaments each year. While he made a few strategic mistakes on the water this year, he is looking forward to fishing both the FLW and AIM again in 2012. He hopes to make a good run for the Angler of the Year again next year.
He is also excited for this tournament and the location the FLW chose for it. "The FLW made a great decision to hold a championship where the legislation isn't too tough and we can weigh any fish, instead of a place where there is a slot. I'm going to go for broke and be aggressive," he said.
Parsons also spoke about the changes to the system due to flooding. "Places where there were breaks in the past are no longer there. While you can catch 14-16 inch fish easily, you might only find one big fish per hole. I believe their migration path is off. The key will be to find a spot consistently holding big fish."
Parsons believes you will need 15-20lbs daily to be at the top of the field.
With all of the changes it will be hard for anyone to fish memories this week, but one person who is truly fishing this stretch for the first time is Brian Brosdahl. Seeing opportunity everywhere, lots of rods are in his boat. "You can troll cranks, jig, long line super braids, pull lead core, just about anything. As the new guy with nothing to go by, I'm just fishing slack water, structure and rocks,” he said.
A lot of time is also being spent plotting trails, to mark where deadheads are and get around sandbars. If the wind picks up you can't see the deadheads or the ripples on the edge of the sandbars.
As for the bite, he said the fish are on the move and you have to stay on top of them. "Once you get on a bucket of them though, they don't stop biting.” He feels that you will need a consistent four pound average and one day with a good kicker fish to make it to the finale.
The tournament starts this Thursday with 40 pros and 40 cos. On Saturday only the top 20 pros and cos will fish. The last day will be the top ten pros only.
Take-off will be at 8am daily from the Hazelton Boat Ramp. Weigh-in will begin at 5pm each day at the Bismarck Civic Center.
There will also be an Outdoors Expo at the Civic Center from 1pm-5pm on Saturday and Sunday. Stay tuned to Walleye Central for more coverage.