EWC chairman reflects on 2013 tournament

Prior to the start of the Emo Walleye Classic, many anglers were expecting some big bags to be weighed in during the course of the two-day event.
But as they were minutes away from starting Friday morning, the general consensus suddenly was that it might be tough sledding for everyone involved after they had some struggles in pre-fishing.
Needless to say, no one really knew what to expect as the competition got underway. But in the end, it was a two-day weight of more than 20 pounds that finished at the top of standings as Oliver Gibbins and Les Morrison captured the 2013 title.
“It was great to see a big bag take the championship this year, and it was really interesting to see how it played out,” said EWC committee chair Lincoln Dunn.
“I thought we would see a lot of big fish this year, but the spawn hasn’t happened yet really and a lot of the anglers have said to me that the fish have yet to move into the Lake of the Woods yet.
“With the cloudy water, high water levels, and cold temperatures that were out there, it changed things up quite a bit for many of the anglers,” Dunn added.
Those difficulties were noticed in the top 10 as only one former champion team (Dan Pollard and Dale Hartlin) joined former event winner Gibbins at the top of standings Saturday.
“We saw quite a number of those former champions finishing lower than you would expect them to,” noted Dunn.
“However, it was great to see Oliver come back and win again, especially [since] he was one of our inaugural champions.”
Heading into this year’s tournament, one of the biggest changes was the fact that the boundaries to the west of the launch site in Emo had been expanded.
Instead of the traditional western boundary, which was located where the Pinewood River enters the Rainy River, the EWC committee elected to extend the line to Wheeler’s Point, which is near the mouth of Lake of the Woods.
While tournament organizations weren’t sure how far teams went during the weekend, Dunn felt the expanded boundaries did make an impact.
“On the first day, only a quarter of the teams went west at the start of the day,” he noted. “But almost half of the field went that way to start off Day 2.
“We’re going to do a little bit of work here and talk to the teams now that the event is over,” added Dunn. “But I know from talking with a few of the anglers already that having that extra bit of river to fish in made a huge difference for them.”
But for all of the positive aspects of this year’s tournament, the one noticeable issue was the fact that the number of teams involved had dropped once again.
Having last filled their maximum entry list of 65 boats in 2007, the number of entries in the EWC dropped slightly over the next two years to 62 teams, with that number slipping to 53 and 52, respectively, in 2010 and 2011.
Since then, though, that number has dropped even more. Only 42 teams took part last year while just 38 entered this year’s competition—the lowest number of entries in the tournament’s 12-year history.
Nonetheless, Dunn was pleased with the number of entries that they had given the economic uncertainty in the region.
“The easiest disposable income to not spend when things are tough are on fishing and fishing tournaments, as it’s basically one step from a lottery,” he reasoned.
“We understand that it’s a tough go for people to spend that kind of money right now, but we’ll see what happens next year.
“With the way that things will hopefully change around here in the next year or so, I think you will us picking up some more teams,” Dunn said.
Preparations for next year’s EWC already are in full swing. Organizers currently are setting up angler advisory committee to see what can be done to make the event more appealing to anglers in the district.
“We’ve made some changes not just this year but every year of the tournament, and a lot of that comes from the feedback that the anglers give us,” Dunn noted.
“Over the next week or two, we are going to be talking with the anglers to see what they would like to see when it comes to the tournament and the tournament format, especially since it will be so fresh in their minds,” he remarked.
“I think you are going to see some pretty significant changes in the event’s format for next year,” Dunn revealed. “But part of it will come from the feedback that we will get from the anglers leading into it.”