Tourney fishermen battle the elements
By Hookemharry

Posted: June 13, 2002

Anglers faced with rainy conditions and cooler temperatures when they hit the water normally will opt to stay inside where it is warm and dry. After all, isn’t fishing weather supposed to be in the mid-70s with clear blue skies?

Well, it doesn’t always work out that way. It isn’t that nice all the time. And, it seems, more often than not, the weather seems to cooperate the least when you have paid an entry fee to compete in a tournament.

That was the case last weekend for a couple of tournaments that were held on Hauser Lake, north of Helena, and the Big Dry Arm of Fort Peck, south of Glasgow.

Wayne Knudson (Walleye Wayne), Jim Farringon and I teamed up to try our luck at winning $500 in the Sunrise Rotary Fishing Derby on Hauser Lake. This one-day tourney is in its ninth year.

It was started back when Hauser Lake was billing itself as the Kokanee Capital of the World. Over the past few years, the kokanee have fallen upon hard times in the lake and so have the number of anglers competing.

When Saturday morning greeted us with rainy skies along with a wet and cold forecast, that seemed to keep the anglers who hadn’t bought a ticket to compete in the derby from buying one and left the 60-plus anglers who had already spent $15 apiece in advance wondering at the boat ramps if they really wanted to fish.

Once we headed down the lake toward the Causeway, we were encouraged by the numbers of boats we saw, or should I say, that we didn’t see. The field in our estimation was small enough to give us a real chance at winning.

All we had to do was catch the biggest fish, which would either be a trout, walleye, or salmon. Our thought process in deciding what game fish to go after led us to walleye fishing.

After all, a kid just last week had caught a nine-pound walleye out of the Causeway and we, of course, consider ourselves veteran walleye anglers.

Walleye Wayne hooked into a nice walleye after we were fishing for about an hour. It weighed in at 2.8 pounds. Maybe not big enough for first place, but certainly he could be in the running for the $200 second-place prize. That ended up being the only weighable fish we landed all day and it was not enough to place in the money.

Maybe one of the reasons we didn’t see that many boats is because a few had headed to the face of the dam below Canyon Ferry Reservoir, which is on the opposite end of the lake from the Causeway. At least, that is where the two eventual winners fished.

Ray “Haywire” Bennet caught a 5-pound, 6-ounce trout for second place and Richard MacDonald from Helena brought in a 6-piund, 2.5 ounce rainbow for first place. MacDonald told me he had been drifting below the dam dragging sucker bait on the bottom and had actually caught quite a few trout with the technique. He caught the winner about a half-hour before the 2 p.m. deadline.

Walleye Wayne’s walleye did happen to be the biggest walleye that was weighed in that day, but it didn’t win any cash. All he did get was a couple of “atta-boys” from Farrington and myself.

The other tournament anglers last weekend were fishing the Rock Creek Tournament on Fort Peck Reservoir. They saw winds up to 55 miles per hour and rain for both days of the two-day event.

Chuck and K.C. Garfield, of Wolf Pint, zeroed out of the first day and then came back the second day to catch five weighable fish totaling 20.66 pounds – good enough to win the tourney. They competed against 95 other teams.

The largest walleye of the tourney weighed 11.74 pounds and was caught by the team of C.B. Schantz and Bernie Hildebrand of Miles City.