The hot seat at the Emo Walleye Classic on Saturday only must have been set to “simmer” for anglers Bill Godin and Ralph Galusha.
The duo weighed in their Day 2 catch without much fanfare, bringing up their fish before the top 11 teams from Day 1 entered the Emo-La Vallee Arena like rock stars, tossing candy to the kids as tractors towed in their boats.
Godin and Galusha sat on stage for all those proceedings, and still were seated there when Day 1 leaders Monte Mann and Ron Parks came up empty-handed to allow the pair’s 11.32-pound two-day haul to stand as victorious.
“It was hot!” cracked Galusha. “It was lots of pressure waiting for everyone to come through.
“There were lots of really good fishermen there. We didn’t expect it to go down like this,” he admitted.
“We figured somebody was going to come in with six, seven pounds and we figured it would be close,” chipped in Godin.
Godin and Galusha, both from Devlin, sat in 13th spot after Friday, weighing in just 4.44 pounds, but they came up big with Saturday’s second-biggest catch, bringing in 6.88 pounds.
“It was just one here and one there,” Godin recalled of Saturday’s fishing. “I’ve got a saying, especially on the last day of a tournament when you’re doing not too bad, it’s one fish at a time. One fish at a time.
“One big fish and you’re right back in it, and that’s how it worked out,” he noted.
No other contenders were able to bring in any game-changers. In fact, three teams in the top 10 on Friday were skunked Saturday.
“It was very tough fishing,” Godin conceded, adding even the pre-fishing was tough.
“We kind of had a game plan to go hang out at the spot out there [east] and just catch four keepers a day,” he remarked.
Godin said trying to catch four good-sized fish on Saturday was a tough task, but things just came through slow and steady as the day progressed.
“Yesterday [Friday], the nets were out quite a bit but today, it was fairly quiet,” he recounted.
“We only had one small fish in the livewell at 11 [a.m.] It was looking pretty grim.”
The win was the second for Godin and Galusha, who also won the EWC in 2007—albeit with a two-day haul of 19.47 pounds that year.
“It’s always great, it’s always awesome,” enthused Godin. “I never would have believed that we could come back and win it being in 13th place yesterday [Friday].”
The winning total of 11.32 pounds easily was the lowest two-day catch to win the EWC, smashing the previous record low of 15 pounds set by Harvey Cochrane and Oliver Gibbons in the inaugural event in 2002.
“We caught a lot more fish last time,” Godin recalled. “I think what happened here is the water warmed up so fast with the early spring and a lot of the bigger fish left the river, and it made it tough for everybody.
“There wasn’t as many fish in the river as there normally is.”
No one found that out in a more heart-breaking manner than Mann and Parks, who came down from Cochenour for the tournament.
Their Day 1 catch of 9.81 pounds was supplemented by the weekend’s big fish—a 7.24-pound lunker—but the duo was shut out on Day 2 to wind up finishing in fourth place.
Parks admitted feeling a little bit of extra pressure going into Saturday holding a 3.18-pound lead after Friday’s action.
“We felt a little bit scared,” he acknowledged. “It’s always a lot of pressure when you’re sitting in first place and we knew that the river fishing can turn on a dime.
“We were quite sure that we could get four fish in our spots, but obviously we didn’t.”
The duo had jumped out to the lead early on, catching their big fish just moments after they were sent out to begin the tournament.
“We actually caught it in the first five minutes of the tournament,” Parks recalled. “We just got to our fishing spot, dropped our lines, and caught it right away.
“We caught it in about 13 feet of water, and at first, I thought I had a snag,” he noted. “And then when it started to pump, I realized it was a big fish, and it actually came in quite quick. . . .
“We were amazed at how fast it came it.”
But the Rainy River reared its cruel side Saturday, which is what tournament rookie Parks said Mann warned him about heading into the day.
He said they got some bites Saturday, but the walleye were too small and the others weren’t walleye at all.
“We were still unsure because of how the river is at times,” noted Parks. “He [Mann] was saying that it can turn quickly.
“We caught smaller ones [walleye]. All of them were under 12 inches. We couldn’t catch nothing over 12 inches. . . .
“It was a very not-good feeling travelling home to the weigh-in after being ahead by three pounds,” he sighed.
Despite finishing fourth, Parks said he wished he and Mann had climbed into fourth on Saturday, not dropped into it.
“If somebody had told us [going in] we were going to win fourth [place], we’d have been happy,” Parks explained.
“But if it would have happened the other way, if we would have got zero the first day and 9.8 pounds the second day, we would have been a lot more happy,” he conceded.
The 2006 EWC champs, Eric Lessman and Todd Grennier, brought in 10.17 pounds overall to finish in second place.
Brendan Loney and Shane Scott took third (10.05 pounds) while Frank Grunewald and Frank McWhinnie ended up in fifth place (9.74).
Other notables included defending champs Ted Heyens and Kelvin Caul, who finished 13th with a two-day total of 7.23 pounds, while two-time champs Doug McBride and Steve Ballan ended up in 18th with 6.23 pounds.
EWC committee chairman Ed Carlson, who finished in 36th place teamed with Jason McQuaker (2.94 pounds), said that despite the record-low weights, the weekend still went down as a success.
“The fishing was really tough,” he remarked. “Those have got to be the smallest weights ever, I’m sure, for two days.
“But the tournament came off fantastic as always.”
As well, the inability of the top anglers to overcome Godin and Galusha’s total provided some drama to the final weigh-in.
“It was pretty amazing, wasn’t it?” remarked Carlson. “It just goes to show you how tough it really was out there.
“It was the same for everybody, no doubt. . . . It can easily be one or lost with one good fish.”
As for coming years, Carlson said not to expect any significant changes—maintaining that things are rolling along just fine.
“The tournament works very well, so I’m not sure that we really want to change anything,” he noted.
“You always make little changes along the line but as far as the way the tournament operates and what to expect at the tournament, I’m not sure there’ll be a lot of changes to take place there.
“We get a lot of compliments from out-of-town anglers that they’re pretty impressed with the whole show and the free meals,” Carlson continued.
“Just the whole atmosphere inside the arena, they seem to really enjoy that.
“It’d be a shame to change that,” he concluded.