PIERRE, S.D. – Just a few months ago, John Campbell from Marco Island, Fla., thought his days of fishing professionally were done. After suffering a neck injury he couldn’t even cast a spinning rod only a mere eight weeks ago. Only a few weeks ago, Campbell finally felt he was well enough to give the Lake Oahe National Guard FLW Walleye Tour event a try.
This was his first event of the season and started out on a good note. Campbell brought in 16 pounds, 1 ounce on day one to have him in seventh place. Day two saw Campbell jump into second place with 13 pounds, 15 ounces. And on the final day, Campbell was one of only two anglers to break the 15-pound mark – 15 pounds, 6 ounces – giving him a three-day total of 45-6. His total weight gave him the win by one pound and his first ever tour title.
“This was a huge win for me,” said the Mercury pro. “Especially since I really thought I was done with this game just a few months ago.”
Taking a page from last year’s tour champion on Lake Oahe - Chase Parsons - Campbell focused on trolling spinnerbaits through the trees. A white, 1-ounce Booyah spinnerbait pulled on 18-pound leadcore with a 5- to 6-foot leader of 14-pound Fireline was the ticket this week.
“I went back to the area that I fished last year and got 16th on,” said Campbell. “It still held some real quality fish, so I focused most of my time there. The spot has trees on it that are in anywhere from five to 20 feet of water. The big thing was being able to see the fish in the trees on my electronics, once I knew they were there I just had to bash those spinnerbaits into the trees to get a bite.”
Campbell also utilized trolling crankbaits and live bait rigs in order to help fill out his slot fish if need be. For his slots he focused in the deeper water – 28 to 32 feet – but still around trees. Open water trolling over 40 or 50 feet would also help yield slot fish for Campbell.
His main focus was to a 10-mile stretch of the lake from the dam and on to the north.
"Boat control was very crucial to my presentation. The trees were only 10- to 15-feet wide so I really had to stay on my game to maneuver through them. Also speed was another factor to catch these fish. Two miles per hour was the ticket, anything faster or slower and I wouldn’t get bit. My Mercury tiller really allowed me the chance to dial in the speed I needed.
“Having Craig Salmonson as my co-angler two days in a row really helped as well. We worked so good together, and he knew what the game plan was so I didn’t need to repeat anything. I lost a lot of baits this week and having Craig, who is one of the fastest knot tiers I have ever seen, allowed us to never miss a beat.”
Ewing lands in second
The pro from La Salle, Colo., Eric Ewing fished in his first ever National Guard FLW Walleye Tour this week. On day one Ewing weighed in 13 pounds, 8 ounces, finding himself tied with Brett King for 26th. After day two the rookie pro pulled in a sack worth 15-4 and found himself making the top 10. Today, Ewing brought in the heaviest bag that went for 15-10 and helping the Colorado pro grab second place with a total weight of 44-6.
“I think the big help for me this week was having good co-anglers,” said Ewing. “They all knew how to catch and land fish under pressure, which is something I found out I wasn’t good at.”
Ewing was another angler that took a page from watching last year’s television show from the tour event on Lake Oahe.
“I had never tried pulling spinnerbaits before, once I saw the FLW show with Chase I figured I should give it a shot. I started to practice the technique on Lake McConaughy in Nebraska a while back and finally felt like I had the hang of it.
“I have been coming to Oahe for a few years with my family just for fun,” Ewing continued. “And this year decided I should give the FLW event a try. I never would have thought I would do this well.”
Practice went well for Ewing, helping build his confidence as he kept finding fish in the timber.
As far as joining the tour full-time, he isn’t so sure about that just yet. He did manage to take home a check for just under $15,000 on his first attempt at the pro life.
“I would love to do this for a living, I love to walleye fish. Maybe one day I can get the help I need to be able to finally fish for a living.”
Przekurat holds onto third
The Chevy pro was the only angler on the final day to have an FLW title under his belt. Though his week was strong, Przekurat just couldn’t find the overs he needed to add to his resume. Przekurat brought a limit of 13 pounds, 2 ounces to the scales today giving him a total weight of 43-1.
“The intake at the dam was my primary big fish spot,” said the Stevens Point, Wis., pro. “I would throw a 3/8- to ½-ounce jig depending on the current. I tipped that with a Gulp Minnow in smelt color. I would toss the jig in the cutouts on the pillars and let it fall down to the bottom in 40 feet. That is when I would catch my bigger fish.”
Przekurat would then switch to rigging with 4-inch Gulp Worms also smelt colored to pick up his slot fish. He opted to use artificial worms to save on the amount of crawlers he would have had to use this week.
Today, the Chevy pro was able to start on his big fish spot and had it all to himself.
“It was both good and bad,” said Przekurat. “At least with other boats around you can see where the schools of fish are. At about 10:30 my day turned into a grind. I just couldn’t catch any of the solid slot fish. I ended up making a run to the trees where I have caught some 19-inchers. The first fish I caught from there was 24 which helped.
“I had a great week though, I never lost a fish and I had a blast. I love to come out here and chase pheasants in the fall and I love to chase Oahe walleye.”
Przekurat landed a check for $16,300 with his finish.
King Climbs into fourth
Having already captured one top-5 finish at the first National Guard FLW Walleye Tour event in Red Wing, Minn., Brett King continually climbed the ranks this week to finish in fourth place. He was in 26th after day one - tied with Eric Ewing at 13 pounds, 8 ounces. King then landed 15 pounds, 2 ounces on the second day to slide into the top 10. Today he brought in a 13-pound, 13-ounce bag to finish with a three-day total of 42-7. King also now leads the current Angler of the Year standings going into the final event of the season in Escanaba, Mich.
“Practice was just alright for me,” said the Claremont, Minn., native. “When I found my spot to catch overs, I wasn’t really sure of how good it actually was because I only fished it for a little bit in the evenings.”
His main tactic this week was pulling No. 14 Rapala Husky Jerks custom painted by JT Custom Tackle in the pink squirrel and clown color. 4- to 10-feet down in the water column was his main focus. He would pull two lines high in the water column, and two lower to catch his fish. King focused on flooded trees to pull his cranks on.
“On the first day I caught my overs in 20 minutes. On the second day it probably took 45 minutes. Today was basically do or die for me because I wanted to go for the win, I wanted my overs to be six pounds or bigger. I just couldn’t find those right ones today, but managed to catch a lot of smaller overs I threw back. Luckily, I caught my last over with a few minutes left in the tournament when I decided to go jig.”
King took home a check worth over $8,400 in prize money.
Steffens takes fifth
Danny Steffens of Oxford, Wis., fished one heck of a tournament. He managed to come from 76th on day one up to fifth place after day two. Steffens weighed the biggest bag of the tournament to achieve that – 19 pounds, 1 ounce. Today he hoped to celebrate his anniversary with his wife by winning the event. Though he tried hard, he did manage a bag worth 12 pounds, 14 ounces giving him a three-day total of 42 pounds. That earned him a check worth just shy of $10,000 – not a bad anniversary gift.
His main focus was open water trolling spinner rigs to suspended walleyes.
While on stage he had this to say to the crowd, “Guys, if you mark suspended fish over deep water, don’t assume they are salmon because I bet you they are walleyes.”
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros from the National Guard FLW Walleye Tour on Lake Oahe:
6th: Gary Maher of Menoken, N.D., 40-1
7th: Lynn Jurrens of Watertown, S.D., 39-2
8th: Danny Plautz of Madison, Wis., 38-15
9th: Ryan Jirik of Rhinelander, Wis., 36-14
10th: Brian Regelin of Cozad, Neb., 35-9
Salmonson claims co-angler title
Craig Salmonson of Timmins, Ontario, is fishing his first year with the FLW. On day one of the event he was paired with Paul Steffen, bringing 16 pounds, 15 ounces to the scales. On day two and day three he would fish with good friend John Campbell. With a 13-pound, 15-ounce limit on day two, Salmonson would climb the ranks to sit in second going into the final day. Today, with a weight of 15-6 gave him a three-day total of 46-4 and earned him $6,000.
“This is just awesome,” said Salmonson. “Getting to fish with John for two days was unbelievable. It worked out so well because I knew the game plan already on the final day.”
Salmonson is no stranger to the tournament walleye fishing world however. In Ontario he fishes the Northern Ontario Walleye Tour. Those tournament dates always have conflicted with the National Guard FLW Walleye Tour until this year.
“Fishing out here was just absolutely amazing. You can catch fish so many different ways. I had a blast.”
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers from the National Guard FLW Walleye Tour on Lake Oahe:
2nd: Chris Augustyn of Holdrege, Neb., 44-3
3rd: Dale Janota of Gillette, Wyo., 43-13
4th: Wayne Olsen of Humboldt, S.D., 42-10
5th: Richard Ness of Blunt, S.D., 42-6
6th: Lowell Joy of Bemidji, Minn., 40-8
7th: Cal Van Cleve of Wilmot, S.D., 40-2
8th: Keith Keivens of Toledo, Ohio, 39-9
9th: Kenny Brenner of Moline, Ill., 37-5
10th: Kevin Yancey of Newport, Mich., 36-2
Walleye fans take note
The National Guard FLW Walleye Tour on Bays de Noc will be the next and last tournament of the 2012 season which is being held Aug. 2-4 in Escanaba, Mich. The event will be hosted by the Bays de Noc Convention & Visitors Bureau; boats will launch from Escanaba Harbor.