Kenora hosts AYA Championship

Eleven years ago, Andrew Klopak, president of the Lund Boat Company, started a walleye tournament at Lac Du Bonnet, Man. that he named Angler-Young-Angler.
Six teams, consisting of an adult and two kids, took part in that initial event.
This year, 26 regional events took place all over North America from New York to the Northwest Territories, with the winners of each tournament earning a trip to Kenora for the annual Angler-Young-Angler Championship that took place on Lake of the Woods this past Saturday.
Klopak started the original tournament with a dream of getting more kids and families involved in fishing and competitive fishing. This year, 4,000 families were influenced by his idea and took part in the regional events.
The events have grown dramatically in the last few years and are becoming popular with anglers all over the continent.
The 26 teams that made it to Kenora each won their own regional event, and were fishing for a winner-take-all prize of a trip for four to Walt Disney World in Florida and a fly-in fishing trip next summer.
For winning each regional event, teams already had won a Lund boat-and-motor combo.
The AYA Championship in Kenora had a unique format for all the teams involved. Because of the high costs associated with travelling to a tournament so far away for many of the teams, Lund arranged to have each one hooked up with a guide and a boat.
The guides were not allowed to fish, but were able to navigate the lake, take the teams their favourite spots, and share their best techniques for catching big walleyes.
Each team could bring in the three biggest walleyes they could catch.
This was a very unique opportunity for all of these teams because they were paired with top anglers that have a lot of experience on Lake of the Woods—guys like Gord Pyzer, Alex Keszler, and Scott Dingwall just to name a few.
Although the weather was not perfect on Saturday, and anglers were greeted with wind and rain throughout the day, the fishing on Lake of the Woods did not disappoint as all 26 teams brought in a limit of three walleyes.
Congratulations to the winning team of Bill Coates and Bryce Dombrowski from Green Lake, Wis., who were teamed with my brother, Ben Gustafson, as their guide.
They had a catch that weighed in at 19 pounds, 15 oz. and included the biggest walleye of the day at 7 pounds, 14 oz.
But the best story of the day came at the conclusion of the exciting weigh-in on the Harbourfront in Kenora. The second-place team of Shane Spooner, Cheyenne Spooner, and Olivia Stanley from Arlington, S.D. came very close to winning and were guided by Doug McKim.
Upon discovering that they were beaten, both of the little girls (about eight or nine years old) became very emotional that they had just missed out on a trip to Disney World.
Don Price, who owns a company called Ryjus and is a sponsor of the Angler-Young-Angler initiative, then jumped up on stage, grabbed the mic, and announced that he would send the second-place team on their own trip to Disney World.
It was a very kind and generous act, so on behalf of everybody, thank you, Don.
Ryjus makes all kinds of great fishing apparel and accessories which can be found at their website (www.ryjus.com), so please check it out and support this cause.

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