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    Port Clinton lands the big one, with the National Walleye Tour opener

    By Roger LaPointe, Port Clinton News Herald,


    PORT CLINTON ― The professional Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s National Walleye Tour began in Port Clinton on Thursday with the final weigh-in scheduled for Friday afternoon, opening the Outdoor Team Works professional competitive walleye fishing season.

    For the first time, Port Clinton is the site for the opening event for the tour, which ends in September.

    After two days of fishing, the professional first place finisher is John Hoyer, of Keosauqua, Iowa. On Thursday, his five fish weighed in at 34 pounds 12 ounces, and on Friday they weighed 35 pounds 1 ounce, for a 10-fish total of 69 pounds 13 ounces. He will take home $15,000 and a 2024 Ranger 620 FS Pro boat and motor package, valued at $99,550. He will also receive $4,376 in Angler Advantage, and an $8,000 Ranger plus $2,000 BPS Gift Card.

    At the end of Day 1 fishing, James (Jack) Winters, Avon Lake, Ohio, was in a solid first place, his five fish weighing in at 40 pounds 11 ounces. But the fish weren’t biting on Friday, giving Winters the cold shoulder. He only landed one fish, weighing 3 pounds 3 ounces. He finished 54 th .

    Hoyer had been in third place on Day 1, with Hunter Nitti, Rosemount, Minn., in second. After Day 2, Hoyer jumped past second place Nitti, by more than 5 pounds. Nitti was ahead of Hoyer on Day 1 with his five fish, at 38 pounds 8 ounces, but his five fish on Day 2 came in much lighter, at 26 pounds 2 ounces. He wins $20,885, in regular payout, and $2,758 in Angler Advantage.

    Ryan Buddie, of Amherst, Ohio, narrowly came in third with a 10-fish total weight of 64 pounds 5 ounces. He will take home $15,683 in regular payout, and $2,262 in Angler Advantage, plus $2,500 Ranger contingency.

    The co-angler first prize winner is Grant Smith, Bradford, Pa., with the highest total of the day, at 72 pounds 2 ounces, for $7,500.

    Second co-angler prize goes to Sam Bengtson, River Falls, Wis., totaled 62 pounds 10 ounces, for $4,130 in regular payout prize money and an additional $1,770 in an Angler Advantage payout.

    Third co-angler prize goes to Tyler Malkowiak, of St. Michael, Minn., totaled 61 pounds 4 ounces, for $3,120 in regular payout and an additional $1,150 in Angler Advantage payout.

    Five things to know about the National Walleye Tour:

    Boats or waders?

    Walleye anglers are often seen standing in the river wearing waders, but that’s not the only way to do it. While fishing in the big rivers like the Maumee and Sandusky can lead to a big catch, contestants use boats for the National Walleye Tour.

    Amateurs and professionals can win prizes

    “There is over $300,000 in cash and prizes to the winning teams. They have prizes for everything, from the sponsors on their boats, Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Progressive, whether or not they have a certain motor in their boat, and many other things,” Port Clinton Chamber of Commerce President Nicole Kochensparger said.

    The first prize for professional winner is $15,000 and a 2024 Ranger 620 FS Pro boat and motor package, valued at $99,550. The co-angler first prize is $7,500.

    The top 25 places will get cash prizes, and many will receive additional prizes from the various sponsors.

    Boon to local economy

    “Economically, it’s fantastic. This is obviously the beginning of the summer season with the fishing population coming into town. The exposure we’re getting, as a community, is spectacular,” Port Clinton Mayor Mike Snider said. “As I’ve gone around town, to the different restaurants, gas stations, and whatnot, you see these folks everywhere. You see it’s a tremendous boost to our local economy. It’s bringing in extra money by the boatload, multiple boatloads.”

    More: Boatloads of business as National Walleye Tour opens competition season in Port Clinton

    How many people will an event like this bring to Port Clinton?

    This is the first time the National Walleye Tour has come to Port Clinton, but the numbers add up.

    The contest had 141 boats. One professional competitor’s wife said her husband traveled with a co-angler and two support members. There was also local and national media, as well as sponsors and equipment support teams from manufacturers, such as Mercury, the marine engine manufacturer. Fans also come to town.

    City Councilwoman Beth Gillman explained the lead-up to the competition.

    “(The anglers) have been here for as much as 10 days. They come into the area and stay and scout it out. Then there have been people who come ahead of that, so this is a big deal for Port Clinton,“ Gillman said. “They’ve been looking at the waters and getting a feel for the lake. Every body of water is different to fish.”

    Walleye can be really big fish

    Walley can weigh as much as 20 pounds at 35 inches in length, with some records of even bigger giants.

    “It reinforces the fact that we are the walleye capital of the world, if this many professional fishermen want to come and ply our waters here,” Snider said.

    The residents of Port Clinton claim that title for a reason.

    “Then they talk about the size of our fish. Lake Erie has bigger fish. It’s going to be a great tournament and it’s a great way to kick off the season,” Gillman said.

    This article has been updated with results.


    This article originally appeared on Port Clinton News Herald: Port Clinton lands the big one, with the National Walleye Tour opener

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