After the National Walleye Tour Sturgeon Bay event, all of our walleye anglers have landed in the Top 20 in the race for Angler of the Year. After last week’s interview with the tournament winner, Korey Sprengel, we thought you’d all enjoy a little insight from our other anglers—Bill Shimota and Dusty Minke!
What were your thoughts before going into the Sturgeon Bay tournament?
Bill: I felt really good going into this one. We were on a “hero or zero” kind of pattern but we spent all of our time in practice dialing in to the big fish up north. I felt I stood a good chance of getting a few bites at a minimum, which would result in a respectable weight, or I would be in contention to win if I could get a limit.
Dusty: I was feeling pretty good! Some days where a grind on “The Bay” and others were spectacular!
Prefishing was a blast to say the least! I got to spend two quality days on the water with my pops, Todd Minke, and our great family friend, Uncle Mark Harrington. I also had a great time with three Heil dealers who joined me on the water–my stomach still hurts from laughing and all of the guys went home with some fish.
How was day one of the tournament and what tactics did you use?
Dusty: It was a grind—the day started with a long, windy boat ride and the struggle continued while we brought fish into the boat. A big storm came through, blowing gusts of 50 mph with rain and hail, and turned one of our Off Shore Planer Boards into a kite. It was unreal!
Nothing was working for us and I live and die by the spinner! It was a matter of finding the right water and keeping our lures off the bottom all day long. The rocky bottom was full of gobs, zebra mussels and black moss. Staying free of this debris was key.
I told Steve, my co-angler, that I had one more spot to hit on the way in. In the last fifteen minutes we boated one 30” and two 24” walleyes. We literally went from 0 to 18 pounds in one pass! This goes to show you that you have to keep working hard until the last moment—even though we were mentally and physically beaten, we never gave up. I wish we had one more pass at those fish; I know we could have had 30 pounds then!
Bill: It was a little rough getting to our fishing location, but once we got to our spot we were somewhat protected from the wind.
I stuck with the same plan throughout the tournament. I pulled crawler harnesses with in-line weights and spread my lines out with Off Shore Tackle Planer Boards. My biggest struggle was finding promising areas to fish—I had to keep moving to find the areas that had the right water temp. I found the most success when using my Minn Kota iPilot to constantly adjust my speed. This allowed me to raise and lower the running depth of my lines when I was going over and around structure.
How did your experience change on day two?
Bill: The wind was blowing even harder when we took off in the morning on day two. It took me about an hour and ten minutes to get to my spot. Just like on day one, my first fish was over 10 pounds. I got another fish on the same pass so I thought it was going to be a good day, but after that pass it got down right tough. I stuck with the same patterns but I really had to run and gun to get a couple more bites. I ended up weighing only four fish each day, but fortunately they were the right ones.
Dusty: On day two I decided to start where we had caught the nice fish at the end of the day one. This area was only ten miles from the take-off location and I had great success during prefishing there. Also, I had lost the lead on day one, so I wanted to give Bill and Korey some space to make sure that they got the best opportunity on the best spot right away in the morning! I had decided that I would go to our location later in the morning if my spot didn’t produce.
We also figured the weather and wind change was going to affect the fish and adjusting to the conditions was going to be key. Tim, my co-angler, hooked into a dandy 5-pounder around 10am but we couldn’t manage another fish into the boat for the rest of the day! I decided to stick with the spinner program because I had watched other boats pulling cranks with no success.
How did you guys do?
Bill: I took 3rd place by bringing in 34.5 lbs on day one and 26.5 lbs on day two. I won $19,775 and am now in 3rd place in the Angler of the Year standings.
Dusty: I ended up in 63rd place with no money on this one. However, I’m sitting in 18th place for Angler of the Year going into the championship on Devil’s Lake.
When is your next tournament?
Dusty: We’re both in the NWT Championship, September 19th-21st, on Devils Lake in North Dakota. I’m really looking forward to Devil’s—it is my kind of tournament and I love that time of year!
Is there anything else you guys want to share?
Bill: It was a great week—like always we worked very hard during our prefishing period and it paid off. I have fished Green Bay a handful of times, but this was the first time that there has been a major walleye tournament launched out of Sturgeon Bay.
I hope to go back to Door County again—it is no doubt one of this country’s crown jewels. Its only problem is the Packer fans all over the place!
Dusty: I want to thank all of my sponsors Krugerfarms.com, Crown Royal, Heil-(ICP), Ranger Evinrude, Humminbird, Minn Kota, Arctic Ice, Under Armour, Formula Propeller, and Spy.
Also, I’m very proud of my teammates Korey and Bill for their great finishes at Sturgeon Bay! I really like how our team is working this season—I look forward to each and every tournament we fish together.