AYA Championship hits Lake of the Woods

In what has become an annual event, the Lund Boat Company once again held the Angler-Young-Angler Championship fishing tournament in Kenora this past weekend.
The AYA program holds regional walleye tournaments across North America, with the winning team from each event qualifying for the championship on Lake of the Woods.
Teams travelled from as far away as the Northwest Territories and Michigan, with several states and provinces being represented.
The tournament series has a unique format that functions really well. Each team consists of an adult angler matched with two youth anglers. For the championship, each team had to get to Kenora, where they were matched with a guide for the tournament here.
It’s a great deal because there is no entry fee for the championship so teams just had to show up and they are able to hit the water with an angler that has experience on Lake of the Woods.
Most of the guides were Lund pro-staffers, including Alex Keszler, Gord Pyzer, Blair Dingwall, and Roy Lemay, among many others.
It was basically a winner-take-all event. The top finishing team won a trip to Disney World while the second place team earned a fly-in fishing trip.
The AYA Championship also was unique in that it utilized a catch-photo-release format so that no fish had to be brought in. Walleyes are much more fragile than bass and during the summer months, many fish are caught in deep water, so putting them in a livewell and then bringing them through the weigh-in process can be tough for them.
Anglers catch fish, record the length, and take a picture of the fish on a ruler, then release them. A formula then is used to determine the weight of the fish.
It worked out pretty good.
First place went to the Dryden team of John Butts, partnered with his son, Aidan, and his friend, Luke Turcotte. Those of you who follow fishing might recognize John’s name because he was a touring walleye tournament pro for many years.
He is one of the top walleye anglers in the region, so it was no surprise that he smoked the field with a six-fish limit that came in at more than 46 pounds. That’s nearly an eight pound per fish average!
Incredible. So they are going to Florida this winter.
I’ve taken part in this event for the past five years, participating as one of the guides, and it has been a great experience each time. This year I was matched up with a good friend of mine from Minnesota, Chad Johnson and his two kids, Jacob and Jordan Boyd.
Chad fishes the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship every year and I’ve become good friends with him over the years.
Although the guides are not allowed to fish, we drive the boat and offer assistance on spots and fishing techniques.
Saturday was one of the best fishing days that I’ve seen on Lake of the Woods. Our team finished fourth out of a 16-boat field with a six-fish limit that topped 42 pounds.
We caught about 25 walleyes more than 20 inches in length, with our top six in the 25- to 27-inch range. We caught them all on a quarter-ounce Northland Fireball Jig tipped with a leech.
In all, four teams had catches that were over 40 pounds on the weekend, proving that Lake of the Woods is one of the best walleye fisheries in the world.
I talked to anglers who travelled from North Dakota, Saskatchewan, Michigan, and Wisconsin and had never been to Lake of the Woods before. They all said it was some of the best walleye fishing they had ever experienced.
And they all said they would be coming back for sure.
A combination of lower limits and the decline in commercial fishing surely is the reason why the lake has the healthiest walleye population it’s seen in many years.
The AYA program is great because each year it introduces hundreds of kids to competitive fishing. It’s all about the kids and everybody has a great time.
If you are interested in getting involved in an AYA tournament in 2012, there are regional events taking place in Red Lake, Dryden, Thunder Bay, and Lac Du Bonnet, Man.
You can view the program’s website at www.angleryoungangler.ca

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