Good fishing at Kenora tourney

The first-annual Kenora Walleye Open took place on Lake of the Woods this past weekend.
Some 113 teams showed up for the tournament—the first open walleye tournament of its kind on the Canadian side of the lake. The field consisted of local anglers and those visiting from out of the area; some veterans to walleye tournaments and some new to Lake of the Woods.
The organizer of the tournament, Winnipeg native JP Kennedy, had been running a tournament in early July out of Minaki for the past several years. But due to restrictive walleye regulations on the Winnipeg River, he was forced to move it somewhere else.
Kenora and Lake of the Woods—being as close as they are to Minaki—were the perfect fit, especially when you consider the excellent walleye fishing on the lake.
This tournament was a two-day event and teams were allowed to bring in four fish per day. One could be over 23 inches in length while three could be under 18 inches.
Teams had to catch a big fish and also have good “unders” or “slots” (as the tournament guys were calling them). There is some strategy here because walleyes that are close to, but not over 18 inches, can weight almost two pounds but a 16-inch walleye barely might weigh a pound.
In the end, it was Minaki native Mike Pinerho and Winnipeg angler Dean Guarino who took home the $20,000 first-place prize with a two-day total weight of 27.87 pounds.
They caught an eight-pound plus fish each day and matched those big fish up with some quality “slots,” beating a very stiff field of competitors.
The top finishing Kenora team was that of Matt Agnew and Richard Woloschuk, who had a two-day total of 26.34 pounds.
Jay Samsal and I teamed up for this tournament and had a great time even though we came up way short of where we wanted to finish. We had practised for a couple of days before the tournament and found several areas where we caught big fish.
We spent a lot of time in one section of the lake and on Day 1 we just never got lucky and caught a big fish. We felt like we would not have any problem catching a 26-inch walleye because we caught several while we were practising.
But on Day 1, our biggest fish was only 24 inches to go along with some decent “slots.” Unfortunately, that had us in the latter half of the standings.
We managed to put a 28-incher in the boat by lunch time on Day 2, then spent the rest of the day trying to catch some good “slots.” We improved greatly on Day 2 and ended up in 40th place—though still well short of the top 20 cut to earn a paycheque.
Still, we had fun and probably caught about 75 fish each day. If it was a day of fun fishing or a guide trip, it would have been a good one. My hands hurt from all the little nicks and cuts I had from grabbing and unhooking walleyes.
We caught most of our fish (about 90 percent of them) on quarter-ounce jigs tipped with soft plastic minnows like the Jackall Clone Fry and the Impulse Smelt minnows. We fished in shallow water, around weeds for the most part, and the plastic was much easier to fish through the weeds than live bait was.
It seemed like the fish liked the snap jigging we were doing with the baits, as well. It created a total reaction strike.
I’m actually headed back out this week to film a TV show on how good these soft plastics work for walleyes, just as an alternative to using live bait when the conditions are right for it.
The big fish of the tournament was a 9.79-pounder caught by Winnipeg anglers Cindy and Glen Hayward.
As for the organization of the tournament, I was very impressed with how smoothly everything went over the weekend. The weigh-in was quick and the fish were well taken care of.
The facilities at the new Tall Pines Marina in Norman were excellent, as well.
The bass tournament circuit gets going in Sunset Country this weekend, with the Shoal Lake Bass Classic taking place Saturday and Sunday and the “Castin’ For Cash” tournament on Lake Despair this Friday and Saturday.
My wife, August, and I are headed down to Lake Despair to try our luck. We missed this tournament last year but we’re looking forward to getting back down there.
We always have a lot of fun renting a cabin at Lake Despair Lodge and enjoying all the camaraderie with everyone over the weekend!