Two things hold true during every Montana Governor’s Cup Walleye Tournament. No. 1: Big fish will be caught. And No. 2, it will be hot!
The 16th annual Montana Governor’s Cup took place last weekend on Fort Peck Reservoir. How did it come out? Well, the biggest walleye caught weighed in at over 15 pounds by Gene Moore, of Fort Peck. And the temperatures hovered right around 100 degrees for most of the two-day events
A total of 185 two-person teams compteted for over $40,000 dollars in cach and prizes including $10,000 for first place. Denny Mailey, of Helena, and Dan Wetzel, from Glasgow, captured top honors with a two-day wieght of 47.38 pounds.
Last year’s defending champs, Chuck Lawson and Robert Martin of Glasgow, fell just short of winning it again with a weight of 46.22. Their team caught almost 30 pounds on Saturday to make it interesting.
The first day leaders, Bob Magnuson and Carlo Swenson of Miles City, had great day weighing in over 34 pounds of fish, including a 14-pounder. But it’s tough to put two good days back to back and they cam in with just around 4 and half pounds the second day.
The father-son team of Richard and Mike Hoffman, from Florence, had a good first day with around 22 pounds caught and they were in the top five after day one. The Hoffmans also had their problems finding the fish the second day and ended up with 24.20 pounds for both days to end up in 16th place.
Wayne Knudson (Walleye Wayne) and I went to Fort Peck to do our Montana Outdoor Radio Show live on Saturday morning from tournament headquarters at the Marina. We didn’t compete in the tournament, but did some fishing during the week.
It was slow for us every day from Tuesday through Saturday, though there were some bright spots. On Thursday, Knudson caught a 6-4 and a 3 pounder from 1-3 p.m., but other than that short spurt, our fishing was slow.
After the tournament Saturday night, we picked the brains of some of the top teams and decided to give fishing a try one more time Sunday before driving back to Missoula. Listening to the anglers and deciding to try one more day was a good move.
We had a great day! It started out by catching-and-releasing a 10-pound walleye and ended up with our best 5 fish of the week, weighing more than 33 pounds. We went and did what these successful anglers suggested and it paid off.
One important thing that every successful angler pointed out was that they relied on their electronic fish sonars to find the fish. If the fish weren’t in the bay or point that they were going to fish, they wold go looking for the fish somewhere else.
Look for the clouds of bait fish first, we heard time and time again. The logic is simple. If there isn’t any bait fish in the area you want to fish, chances are the fish you want to catch won’t be there either.
The techniques varied from some of the top teams from pulling crankbaits to going slow with a snell hook on a 6-7 foot leader tipped with a leech, but the results were the same, they all caught fish.
OTHER REPORTS — Reports out of Tiber Dam is that the water level is high for this time of the year and the fish, even though small by Fort Peck standards, are getting bigger. This year the average fish is running 14-15 inches, up from 11-12 inches a couple years ago.
Lake Francis is fishing slow so far for walleye and northern pike but it to has good water levels.
Fresno Reservoir, up by Havre, has a lot more water than it has in past years, but the fish population is down. It is my understanding that Montana Fish Wildlife and Parks planted some kokanee salmon in Fresno so hopefully they will grow and make it a salmon fishery in a few years.
Bynum Resrvoir has a lot more water in it as well but the walleye fishing is slow. The drought really took its toll on Bynum and the fishing, which was excellent five years ago, has not recovered.