Young anglers overcome obstacles

Of all the pleasant surprises on this year’s Emo Walleye Classic leader board, the 11th-place finish of young Jared Baker and James Kaemingh of Emo ranks pretty high.
The two teens went into the tournament as Team 55. But things changed dramatically when they caught a 5.57-pounder on Friday—winning that day’s big fish award.
“We just kind of went in it just for fun, but after catching that big fish yesterday, we said ‘Whoa, we got a shot at this,’” Kaemingh said before the pair collected their winnings on stage Saturday evening.
The two actually brought in 10.20 pounds of fish over the two days—enough to earn them sixth place. Unfortunately, they came in two minutes late and were docked two pounds from their total.
Youthful inexperience?
“That was our stupid part, there,” admitted Kaemingh. “We actually thought we were supposed to be in around 4:30. We looked around and saw no boats and thought, ‘Oh s—!’”
“Pretty much that was stupid,” Baker agreed. “It was our mistake.”
He added that they took “quite a bit” of ribbing from their fellow anglers.
“We like to fish ’til the last minute,” Kaemingh joked.
Even if Baker and Kaemingh didn’t reach the top 10 goal they had laid out for themselves on Saturday morning, they’ve got years ahead of them—Kaemingh is 18 while Baker is just 16.
This was their first walleye competition, having entered a handful of bass tournaments and winding up with finishes that Baker smiled and succinctly admitted were “not good.”
Along with their $1,200 windfall, the two gained some notoriety in local fishing circles with their high finish—not bad for a couple of kids who grew up attending the EWC and volunteering in younger years for their high school community service hours.
But between the docked two pounds and a two-day haul that yielded only six of the maximum eight fish, there’s plenty of room for improvement.
As for the strategy employed by the team, the boys say they simply trolled crank bait—and were on the lookout for that five-and-a half pound lunker they knew was out there.
“The weird thing was we caught that same fish pre-fishing on Wednesday,” Kaemingh noted. “That was our second fish of the day, and we caught him right in the middle of the day in 10 feet of water.”
And, strangely enough, when Doug McBride and Steve Ballan bagged the walleye that eclipsed theirs as the biggest of the tournament, Kaemingh and Baker were there, watching it “right in front of us,” Kaemingh said.
“It was right by where we caught our big one, too. . . we were thinking, ‘That could’ve been our fish.’”
The two are looking forward to more strong finishes in the future, and doing them as a team. While they’re both at the beginning of their adult lives, they intend to keep the team together “as long as we can,” Baker said.
But even though they admit they’re taking competitive fishing a lot more seriously with this year’s finish, the big reason they’re gearing up for a summer full of fishing is that they enjoy the challenge.
“Oh yeah. It’s lots of fun to do,” Baker said. “It’s just the fun of being in a competition, competing with other guys in fishing.”