Walleye tournament fishing was hot last weekend on Canyon Ferry Reservoir. For most of the anglers competing, the hot part was the weather not the fishing. Temperatures were warm soaring over 105 degrees on Sunday afternoon. Fortunately the time the thermometer hit its high for the afternoon most of the 132 teams were off the water. By that time they were all looking for shade as they waited for the awards ceremony. The hot sun warmed the surface water temperature up to 75 degrees in some parts of the lake. The walleye bite was tough as most of the teams expected it to be. However there were some veteran anglers that had a good idea on how to approach the fishing conditions that saw very little wind. Anglers found it hard to stay cool as the sun beat down on them for most of the two days. “We just kept pitching jigs”, said Bill Jones from Billings and partner of Ken Schmidt from Glasgow. Schmidt said that they stood both days pitching jigs from 6am till it was time to come in between 2pm and 3pm. “I am just trying to find a place to sit down”, as he stood talking with fellow contestants waiting to collect their $2500 cash for taking third place and weighing in 29.68 pounds. Kennie Williams and Travis Scott from Lewistown took first place with 39.48 pounds and $10,000 cash for their efforts. I was told that Williams and Scott were also jigging and it paid off with a second day weight of 26.56 pounds to add to their first day weight of 12.92 pounds. They were in eighth place after days one. The second place team of Ross Stanley of Kalispell and Thad Briggs from Olney came in with a two day total of 38.13 pounds and won $5000. 17 of the teams failed to weigh a fish which is not bad considering that most of the walleyes caught during prefishing had been running in the 10-13 inch range. It takes a minimum 14 inch walleye to weigh and get on the board.
I personally have to hand it to all the tourney anglers fishing that fish these tournaments. Regardless of the weather conditions they never know what to expect until that morning. They might be faced with rain, wind, or as was the case this year, extreme hot temperatures. Unlike most anglers who fish for pleasure the teams who fish the Canyon Ferry Walleye Festival have to be on the water for a 6am start time, which means a 4am wake up call for most, and then they endure what Mother Nature throws at them. Just like any competition most never see a paycheck at the end of the day but they keep coming back and competing year after year.
I did the Montana Outdoor Radio Show live on the water at 6am last Saturday and FWP fishing technician for Canyon Ferry Reservoir said the walleyes in Canyon Ferry also use the Missouri River that feeds into the lake, “This spring we planted radios into 18 walleyes so we can follow their movement from the reservoir to the river”. Hear that complete interview on montanaoutdoor.com. That information may or may not help anglers in finding out where the fish are during tournament time. After two straight days fishing in 100 degree plus weather Jones was one angler that wasn’t concerned where the walleyes might be next year, “ I never thought I would say this but I am really looking forward to the ride home back to Billings”, he added, “ I will have the air conditioner on the whole way”.
(Written by the Captain – aka Mark Ward)