Drama runs deep in tournament fishing, and there’s been no shortage of it in 2021 in the Head2Head Pro Walleye Series.
In less than two weeks, the drama will be at its peak as the 32 anglers wrap up the regular season schedule with their 5th qualifying event. The stage for this event is legendary Lake McConaughy in western Nebraska. At stake is the Angler of the Year (AOY) title. The Angler of the Year title will be a competition where the top 16 anglers will compete for a spot to fish the championship at Lake Chautauqua on October 11th-15th in New York.
Nestled in the sandhills of Nebraska, “Lake Mac” (easier to say than “McConaughy”) is a 35,000-acre reservoir of turquoise water and white sandy beaches created in the 1940s with the construction of the Kingsley Dam on the Platte River near the city of Ogallala. Four miles wide and 22 miles long with a depth of 142 feet at the maximum pool, the “lake in the middle of nowhere” became a go-to fishing destination for trophy walleye hunters in the 1960s and ’70s, including a young guide by the name of Bob Propst.
Born near the confluence of the Missouri and Platte Rivers in Omaha, Bob Propst, Sr. began guiding anglers when he was 15 years old. Bob moved to Lake Mac in his early 20’s in 1962. Propst quickly became a walleye legend for his prowess at catching giant fish from the lake. He was the first one to catch suspended walleyes with homemade downriggers and lead core line. The first to troll crankbaits on riprap. The first to pitch crappie jigs for walleyes in shallow water. The first to use homemade sea anchors. The first to fish bottom bouncers and spinners. By 1990, he had tallied over 60 walleye tournament wins and several championships all across North America.
Bob Propst laid the groundwork to legitimize walleye tournaments during an era when bass tournaments were king. Although Bob is no longer with us, his memory is still honored by a memorial stone overlooking Kingsley Point on Lake McConaughy. Fans and anglers alike would do well to take a few moments to stop by there and pay their respects and homage to the greatest walleye angler who ever lived.
Although giant walleyes roam the lake, the PWS anglers will quickly discover that they will have their hands full with other predator species. These species include Wipers, Northern Pike, Smallmouth Bass, White Bass, and Catfish. With the primary forage being Shad and Alewives, expect walleyes to be solid and chunky. A DNR survey done last year showed that 20-25 inch fish made up the bulk of the walleye population in the lake. Many walleyes are pushing 30 inches as well.
Taylor Vanis caught this 31″ 12.9 lbs McConaughey slob.
With the first three qualifying events won by pitching jigs and the fourth by casting crankbaits, those anglers adept at trolling have been licking their chops at the prospect of a trolling bite at Lake Mac. Trolling cranks will be a favored presentation by many with the opportunity to troll over flooded timber with spinner rigs or spinnerbaits (popular in western reservoirs). Contour trolling down sharp breaks and trolling riprap along the dam is also a popular technique. That said, with the lake at only 60% of its capacity due to long-term drought, baitfish and walleyes will be concentrated in some key spots vulnerable to jigging spoon and blade baits presentations. Wind could also be a factor pushing bait and fish into the shallows where jig-pitchers could have a field day.
Lake McConaughy couldn’t have been a better choice for the final leg of the Pro Walleye Series. This lake may produce the largest daily weights of the year, the largest walleye of the year. Even more interesting, Lake Mac may cause the most shuffling of AOY points and Championship qualification points each day. Expect to see endless drama and excitement when lines go in at 9:00 AM Central, Monday, August 23-27, 2021.
And with the spirit of the greatest walleye angler who ever lived hovering over the lake, it promises to be a phenomenal week at the “Jewel in the Desert” known as Lake McConaughy!