Tough fishing at Emo Walleye Classic

I was on the road again last week to the Rainy River to participate in the annual Emo Walleye Classic, but my results had me thinking that maybe I should just stick to bass tournaments.
Fishing on the river was super tough last week. The general consensus amongst many of the anglers I talked to was that the combination of an early spawn and low water caused many of the walleyes that were in the river a month ago to retreat out to Lake of the Woods.
As always, no matter which tournament you talk about, somebody always catches fish.
Taking home first place—and an $8,000 payday—were Devlin anglers Bill Godin and Ralph Galusha, who had a two-day total of 11.23 pounds for eight walleyes.
Their catch included a 3.5-pound kicker on Day 2 that put them over the top for the second time (they also won the EWC in 2007).
Godin and Galusha’s strategy over the two-day tournament was to make the long boat ride from Emo to the dam in Fort Frances, where they patiently waited for walleyes to show up.
A number of teams in the top 10 employed the same strategy.
Second place went to former EWC champs Todd Grennier and Eric Lessman, a couple of local river rats. Their two-day total of 10.17 pounds left them about a pound behind the leaders.
They had a different strategy that involved increasing their fishing time by opting to fish close to Emo—and it paid off for them.
James Asplund and I had a tough weekend, only managing to catch two small keeper walleyes on Day 1. The minimum size for this event was 12 inches and we caught a number of short fish that did not make the weigh-in.
The Day 2 was even worse. We spent most of our time trolling crankbaits to try and catch a big fish—and we blanked. We caught small walleyes, pike, and bass, just no big walleyes.
Still, there were several stories over the weekend that kept the tournament interesting.
Day 1 leaders, Monte Mann and Ron Parks of Red Lake, caught the big fish of the tournament only minutes into the first day—a 7.24-pound whopper. They also managed three smaller walleyes to end the day with a 9.81-pound total.
They failed to catch a keeper on Day 2 and still ended up in fourth place thanks to their big fish on the opening day.
A number of anglers had some unfortunate luck and learned the hard way how treacherous the upper part of the Rainy River is. With the low water, there were plenty of hazardous sand bars, rocks, and logs that several teams met up with.
The local prop shop should be busy this week!
The tournament itself was a lot of fun, despite the tough fishing. All of the local anglers I talked to who know the river mentioned that the bite was extra tough this year.
Usually the fishing is much better. It is a great place to host a walleye tournament because the fish do not have to deal with many of the stresses that they face at other venues.
Walleyes in the Rainy River generally are shallow, so fish are not being put in a livewell after coming out of deep water. The water temperatures at this time of year also are good for walleyes.
I did not hear of any dead fish at this tournament, which is always a good thing.
Thanks to all the great volunteers in Emo who helped make this tournament happen. We will be back next year to try our luck again.

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