Emo Walleye Classic anglers prepare for another high-water competition

By Daniel Adam
Staff Writer

Northwestern Ontario’s premier walleye tournament is set to return this weekend. As of printing, 28 teams are registered to compete in the Emo Walleye Classic on Friday and Saturday.

Though water levels aren’t as high as in 2022, the Front St. berm is still underwater, so boats must once again launch from near the Golden Age Manor.

“It’s not as bad, but it’ll be the same — watch for deadheads again in the water,” said Colleen Vennechenko, tournament director. “I noticed there’s quite a few logs sitting down by the park.”

But no matter how high the Rainy River is, anglers know there’s still walleye — it’s just a matter of finding them.

“I don’t think it’ll be a challenge,” said Vennechenko.

Oliver Gibbons, who’s won the tournament four times, said he expects this year to be another shallow bite.

“It’ll be the same for everybody,” said Kelvin Caul, a two-time champion who’s fished the Walleye Classic every year but one. “It should be a good tournament.”

With a later spawn this year, Caul said he expects there to be heavier bags across the board. Last year’s average weight was 23.37 lbs per team.

Boats can bring home four walleye or sauger per day. Two of them can be over 18 inches, and the others must be between 12 and 18. The team with the heaviest weight after two days wins. Weigh-ins from the arena begin at 4:30 Friday afternoon, and at 4 on Saturday with the top-10 boat parade to follow.

The Walleye Classic website expects to crown a tournament champion at 6 p.m. Based on 30 teams, the winning pair will earn $6,000.

Vennechenko couldn’t quite say which team spectators might want to keep an eye on.

“You never know,” she said. “You have past winners, you have newcomers, all it takes is one big fish.”

Vennechenko said she’s looking forward to seeing bigger crowds. During last year’s tournament, Canada was not far removed from the end of the mask mandate and people may have still been a bit wary to attend. This year, she said she expects a bigger turnout.

On top of a larger expected crowd, there are a handful of changes to note for the weekend.

This year’s fish fry is a fundraiser for the Fort Frances Lakers. The team will be hosting the dinner at the arena starting at 5 p.m. Saturday night. The meal will include walleye, wild rice casserole, coleslaw, beans, and buns. Kids 10 and under can get in for $15, while anyone else can buy a plate for $22.

The usually-annual dance is set to return in full swing Saturday night as well, running from 8 p.m. to midnight. Party Rock Sound Services will be DJ-ing the event. Entry is $5, age of majority required.

In terms of the fishing itself, young anglers should take note of the Classic’s newest prize sponsored by Jon Barker Logging. The Junior Angler Award is worth $500 and is awarded by draw to any team whose combined age is less than 50.

Check the Fort Frances Times next week for full results, photos, and more.