Emo Walleye Classic called huge success

From the first boat in Thursday’s parade on Front Street to last call at the Emo-La Vallee Arena on Saturday night, the third-annual Emo Walleye Classic was a huge success.
Even while the 53 boats were out on the Rainy River, there was plenty to do back at the arena.
People milled about, some getting an early start at the bar, some visiting the penny table, and other buying raffle tickets in hopes of winning the $20,000 Crestliner boat, motor, and trailer package donated by Tompkins Home Hardware and eventually won by Darryl Horton.
On Saturday, youngsters were entertained at the children’s activity centre, with minnow races, a colouring contest, and face-painting to name a few.
But despite the distractions, it was clear on both days that everyone was waiting with bated breath for the anglers to return with their catches.
That’s when the real party began.
The minute the contestants started to trickle back for the weigh-in, the excitement grew ten-fold. The volume rose steadily and the beer flowed more freely as everyone watched the anglers one by one (or rather, two by two) step up on stage to present their bounties and have them weighed.
There was much speculation as to what kind of weights this year’s tournament would bring in, given the unseasonable cool weather and high water level, but the crowd was not disappointed.
The big fish on both days was brought in by Dale Hartlin and Dan Pollard, who went on to win the tournament—and the $10,500 first prize—with a total of 20.26 pounds.
They pocketed an additional $1,800 for the biggest fish of each day (6.16 and 4.58 pounds, repectively) as well as the heaviest weight for Day Two (10.02 pounds).
More than 400 fish were caught over the two-day derby, bringing the total pounds of walleye up to 1,709.46—the heaviest catch in the Emo Walleye Classic’s history.
Between the success of the fishing, some of the nicest weather yet this spring, and a vibe of excitement palpable in the air, it was clear everyone was out to have a good time.
“It’s awesome!” tournament emcee Lionel Robert said of the derby. “The turnout was great, it’s a very vibrant community. There are good supporters in the community from spectators to volunteers to organizers.”
Lincoln Dunn, the director in charge of stage and technical services, was very impressed with this year’s volunteers and thought they were running a very tight ship.
“I think it all went really well this year. The weather co-operated for us. It was nice to have big fish and big catches,” he said. “And we had amazing volunteers—they did such an awesome job this year.
“They really shone on the waterfront, getting the boats up.”
Denis Barnard, who was in first place after Day One with partner Peter Van Drunen before settling for second place Saturday with an 18.24-pound total, agreed the tournament went very smoothly and he couldn’t be happier with the outcome.
“The community does a really good job of putting it all together,” said Barnard, who also is a former champion of the Fort Frances Canadian Bass Championship.
“A lot of real good, experienced volunteers and sponsors. It was a real good event and you can’t help but be happy.”
Barnard’s son, T.J., who joined his dad on stage when the team went to accept their prize money, held the envelopes and said to the laughing crowd, “Can I keep it?”
Van Drunen and Barnard won $5,300 for finishing in second place, $600 for the heaviest weight on Day One (10.90 pounds), and $50 for the boat parade.
Coming in third place were Wade Mose and Wayne Both (17.24 pounds), followed by Peter Hapka and Gary Kreger (16.76) and last year’s runners-up, Frank Grunewald and Frank McWhinnie (15.76).
Rounding out the top 10 were Dennis “Radar” Smith and Marlin Carr (15.28 pounds), the husband-and-wife team of Andrea and Cameron Trembath (14.36), Patrick Langevin and Michael Hilborn (13.76), Bill Godin and Ralph Galusha (13.56), and brothers Trevor and Kevin Croswell (12.96).
Ed Carlson, the angler liaison director for the tournament, resigned last week to compete in the derby with Ron Skyberg. But Carlson is expected to step back into his position at this Wednesday’s meeting.
It was a little disappointing for the director and his partner, though, who brought in just 6.22 pounds over the weekend. But they still had a great time.
“It was probably our best tournament ever, in many ways,” said Carlson. “The organization went very well, there were so few problems. The community just really supports it in a big way.
“I pretty much guarantee that there will be a waiting list for next year.”