Monster walleye cements EWC crown

If you had to select just one word to sum up the 2005 Emo Walleye Classic, it would be “big.”
As in big turnout. The fourth-annual EWC boasted a full field of 60 teams for the first time while spectators packed the Emo-La Vallee Community Centre to take in the daily weigh-ins and other festivities.
As in big fish. Steve Ballan and Doug McBride reeled in a 10-pound walleye en route to claiming the EWC crown title—breaking tournament records for biggest fish, biggest catch, and biggest two-day total.
As in big talent. The 10 acts that took the stage in the inaugural Emo “Walleyedol” competition wowed the crowds with near-flawless performances.
And, most of all, as in big expectations—for next year, that is.
Indeed, the EWC, which was held Friday and Saturday on the Rainy River, was a big success.
“Things went great,” beamed Ed Carlson, a tournament organizer who also fished it. “The feedback was very positive.”
Carlson noted the many kudos the organizing committee has received from anglers and spectators alike since the event wrapped up Saturday night are even more meaningful given the poor conditions everybody had to cope with.
By Thursday morning, the boat launch and dock used in past years was submerged and organizers had to quickly switch to Plan ‘B,’ using an older launch further west.
“It was absolutely amazing how the committee put together a plan to handle the high water conditions,” Carlson said. “The way they worked with the anglers and the volunteers to get the guys out was amazing.”
“From my perspective, that’s the single biggest thing: how well the anglers and the volunteers down at the waterfront handled the conditions,” echoed EWC co-chair Geoff Pearce.
In addition to the high water levels, last week’s heavy rain also stirred up plenty of debris—just one more challenge the anglers had to contend with on the unpredictable Rainy River.
Dale Hartlin and Dan Pollard, the defending champs, even reported seeing a picnic table floating downstream on Day One.
But the sub-par conditions didn’t stop Ballan and McBride, who claimed the $11,000 top prize with a two-day total of 25.82 pounds.
Of course, a good chunk of that weight came from Ballan’s prize catch—a 10.02 marble eye he reeled in Saturday morning. It was his biggest walleye ever.
“It just doesn’t get any better than that,” enthused Ballan. “It was pretty exciting.”
“It was one of those days you wait for,” added McBride. “Things went really well for us.”
Dale LaBelle and Wayne Angus placed second with a two-day total of 14.54 pounds, including the biggest fish caught on Day One (a 4.10-pounder). Mike Vacura and Mike Svir, Jody Shypit and Gary Noga, and Janet Lambert and Jamie Hanke rounded out the top five.
But not everyone had good fortune. Fifteen teams were skunked on Friday while 29 more—nearly half of the field—came back with just water in their live wells on Saturday.
In all, 11 duos, including the defending champs and the 2003 champs (Todd Baker and Greg Stahn), weighed in no fish for both days.
“I knew there would be guys coming back with not much, but I didn’t quite expect it would be that bad,” Pollard said.
“That river, she’s a definite challenge,” agreed Carlson, who was skunked on Day Two. “She can make you a hero one day and a zero the next.”
The top 50 teams from this year’s event are guaranteed a spot in the 2006 EWC. Pearce said 10 anglers already have signed up for the draw that will determine the final 10 entries.
“I’m optimistic we will have a significant number of teams wanting to participate,” he noted. “We’ll be at 60 until we decide otherwise.”
“I would be very surprised if you didn’t see every single one of [the qualifiers] back.” added Carlson. “This is an event that is going to be around for a long, long time.”
In related news, the inaugural “Walleyedol” singing competition was won by Fort Frances resident Sarah Hebert. Rainy River’s Shantelle Davidson and Fort High student Brittany Hayes finished second and third, respectively.