“Every day is different and you are never sure of the outcome. You can fish 100 days in a row and no two will be the same.” –Isaac Lakich, 2021 Professional Walleye Series Angler of the Year.
In a few days, 16 anglers will go head-to-head in a 5-day bracketed competition. This final match of the year will determine the first-ever Pro Walleye Series Champion. To qualify, these 16 anglers fished through snow, sleet, rain, high winds, 100-degree heat, smoke from fires, and brutal bite windows on five different bodies of water across America. Not to mention all of these anglers had to do it against one another during every event. The top-16 in AOY points emerged from the artificial-only competitions to make the championship field.
Lake Chautauqua is a 17 mile-long glacial kettle lake in western New York. At over 13,000 acres with a maximum depth of 75 feet, the lake is rimmed with weedlines, while sharp breaklines and rocky points make up the shallow structure. Because of its depth, it has a thermocline which could be a player if the lake is in the middle of turn-over. The south basin, at a maximum depth of 19 feet does not thermocline.
Everything about the lake’s make-up points to a strong jigging bite – especially since the tournament field is stacked with some of the nation’s top jig anglers. That said, trolling the breaks or deep water with cranks or spinners could produce the bigger fish (see the Lake McConaughy results)
1. Isaac Lakich: PWS Series Angler of the Year and winner at Lake Wisconsin. National Champion in 2020. A strong suit is casting jigs.
2. Joe Okada: 4 Great Eights in 2021. 2nd place at Mille Lacs. Strong suit is pitching jigs.
3. Mike Gofron: Known as “The Dream-Killer”. 2-time AOY. Several wins in various walleye circuits. In the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame. Jigging is his strength.
4. Robert Blosser: 3-time AOY. Although jigging got him into the championship field in 2021, he prefers contour trolling with leadcore.
5. Josh Wiesner: 2-time Championship winner. Casting jigs is his strength.
6. Jeremy Zimmerman: H2H winner in 2020. Strength is jigging, but had a strong finish at Lake Mac trolling. His versatility could come into play at Lake Chautauqua.
7. Marianne Huskey: H2H Champion/Mississippi River 2021. AOY in 2012. Strength is jigging but caught fish trolling and casting crankbaits in 2021 H2H events.
8. Corey Heiser: 2017 Team of the Year. Fished 10 Championships. Known as an “artificials-only” angler. Casting glide baits, spoons and jigs are his strengths.
9. Paul Meleen: AOY in 2011. 26-time Championship qualifier. Caught the majority of his fish pitching jigs and plastics to qualify for the PWS Championship.
10. Jarrad Fluekiger: Full-time walleye guide. 2nd AOY. Tournament winner. Made PWS Championship trolling crankbaits and jigging.
11. Nick Schertz: 1st Place H2H/PWS Detroit River 2021. Jigging is his strength.
12. Mike Hanson: Multiple tournament winner and championship qualifier. Full-time guide. Versatility is his strong suit, with jigging, trolling leadcore, and power trolling.
13. Max Wilson: 5 tournament wins. 2 TOY titles. Fished Multiple Championships. Caught most of his qualifying fish jigging.
14. Justin Schneider: Veteran tournament angler, Justin’s favorite technique is jigging, although he caught several walleyes on spinner rigs to make the championship in 2021.
15. Brett King: Former AOY. 2018 Champion. Strength is pitching jigs.
16: Jake LaPine: Multiple Championship qualifier. A favorite technique is jigging.
So there you have it: 8 former Anglers of the Year, 3 National Championship winners, 11 anglers with multiple tournament wins, and 16 Championship Qualifiers. Look it over. Make your picks. Five different anglers won the 5 qualifying events. It’s hard to win two in a year. Going head-to-head right from day one will be a game-changer for sure. Who will survive to be the very first Professional Walleye Series Champion? Stay tuned!