Walleye fishing fans, as well as fishing fans in general, were privileged to see something pretty darn special when H2H Fishing debuted the Pro Walleye Series tournament.
This tournament was streamed live for five consecutive days from the Detroit River. What we saw was history in the making as 32 of the world’s elite walleye pros battled ever-changing springtime weather, falling water temperatures, mid-spawn to post-spawn conditions, and a brand-new tournament format. Oh, and one last thing, did we mention the entire tournament was artificial lures only and the last three days of fishing was in a bracketed head-to-head competition?
We got to see and hear the anglers talk about strategy and how they break down a river most of them had never seen. We got to experience the raw emotion of catching a big fish, losing a fish at the boat, making the elimination cut to fish the last three days as well as the bitter disappointment of being bumped out at the last minute. We heard live, unscripted comments, felt the tension, experienced the joy as well as the heartbreak as it happened in the moment. We knew we were watching something very special, very addictive, and absolutely ground-breaking.
We saw most of the 32 anglers fishing a favorite local technique known as vertical jigging/lifting and dropping the jig while drifting with the current- but only one of them made the Great 8. We saw a few others trolling crankbaits and hand-lining against the current, too. Two of them made the Great 8. But we also saw 7 of the top 10 casting jigs into shallow water or along current edges. And they saw five of them make the Great 8.
It is pretty common for pro anglers to fish a program that works well for the local anglers. But quite often tournaments are won by someone doing their own thing – fishing for fish that no one else has tapped into or using a different technique. The top four anglers at Detroit did just that. Most people watching were surprised. I wasn’t. (See my previous blog previewing the Detroit River tournament).
Casting jigs into shallow water works on every river during a post-spawn scenario. But it often is a very short window of opportunity. At Detroit, it was good enough for a 2nd, 3rd and 4th place finish. Impressive? Yes. But those fish don’t stay shallow for very long and begin to drift downstream to the lake, often stopping at a current break to rest and re-loading on that spot everyday. That’s what Nick Schertz was counting on. And of course he was right.
Isaac Lakich breezed through his bracket with his casting shallow technique, but saw his weights dropping every day of competition while Schertz’s weights were going up. He knew he was on the tail-end of that bite but was hoping for a fish re-load that never happened. But he kept it interesting when Nick’s bite got tougher on the final day of competition. Isaac knows that had the tournament started a few days sooner it could have been a whole different story.
The next four qualifying PWS tournaments will be a big change for the anglers as they face early through late summer patterns when fish scatter all over the place in various depths and rarely do a re-load as they do in post-spawn. Not “over-fishing” a spot or spots will be crucial and having multiple back-up spots a must. It’s going to be exciting to see how everyone adjusts.
At the Detroit River, we got to see first-hand how quickly a walleye bite can change from mid-spawn to post-spawn on a river. And we got to experience something that may not happen again by any angler for a long, long time: a 5-day, wire-to-wire win by Nick Schertz.