Tournament season set to get busy in Sunset Country

Now that summer officially is here, the tournament fishing season across Sunset Country is about to get busy.
While there have been a few walleye tournaments already, like the Dryden Walleye Masters on Wabigoon Lake and the Emo Walleye Classic on the Rainy River, the bass stuff has not started yet.
The bass season is open year-round on most waters, but catch-and-release only regulations until July 1 mean bass cannot be held in a livewell, so there are no tournaments until July.
This is a good regulation that allows our bass to get finished with most of their spawning activities before anglers really start targeting them.
While no bass tournaments are going on this weekend, the Kenora Walleye Open is taking place on Lake of the Woods on Saturday and Sunday. A full field of 135 boats will be hitting the water trying to win the $30,000 first-place prize.
Kenora anglers Dave Bennett and Dean Howard were the champs last year and these guys are eager to get out there to defend their title. Both anglers have extensive time on Lake of the Woods and will be hard to take down, for sure!
My friend, Bryan Gustafson, and I are going to team up for the walleye tournament this weekend and we’re looking forward to having some fun in the boat. We have competed against each other for years in all of the bass tournaments around the region, but this will be our first time sharing a boat together for a tournament.
We both consider ourselves bass anglers more than walleye anglers, but we both have the competitive bug so we’re up for any kind of competition. As a guide on the lake, I have many days of walleye fishing under my belt out there so we will have no shortage of places to fish.
It will be all about putting together a good strategy for the format of this event.
Teams can bring in four fish each day, of which one can be greater than 23 inches and three can be under 18 inches. To be competitive, anglers need to catch more than 12 pounds per day, which is not an easy task.
Three quality “slot” fish, what we call the under-18 inchers, will weigh between five and six pounds. So that means we need to have a six- or seven-pound plus walleye each day as our big fish to be a player.
Lake of the Woods has a lot of big walleyes and last year several fish topping 10 pounds were caught, including an 11-pounder caught by Phil Killeen and Carson Allaire, which was the big fish of the tournament and helped them take home second place.
To get in on the action this weekend, the weigh-ins for the Kenora Walleye Open will be starting at 4 p.m. each day at WSL’s Tall Pines Marina in Norman. Look for plenty of big fish to cross the scale.
Next week, the bass schedule gets busy with the annual “Castin’ For Cash” tournament at Lake Despair Lodge taking place July 7-8 while the Shoal Lake Big Bass Classic runs July 8-9.
Both of these long-running events always get a good turnout and are a bunch of fun to fish.
After a long winter, many of the anglers across the region are itching to get out there and get our short tournament season underway.