Is the Walleye Tournament Future Before our Eyes?
May 8th, 2012 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified May 8th, 2012 at 12:00 AM
Author’s Note: Over the next several months, a series of columns will explore the status of the walleye tournament world with a vision for the future. Many industry leaders, observers, participants (past and present), sponsors, professional and amateur anglers, host communities, marine and tackle manufacturers, and tournament organizers will offer their opinions.
Part Two deals with a twist to a Pro-Am walleye tournament by adding a second pro angler to the boat. The newly created AIM event set for Green Bay in July is a Pro Team Challenge. Two pros will occupy the boat along with a co-angler. It is popularly referred to as a pro-pro-co tournament by veteran competitive anglers Mike Gofron, Antioch, Illinois, and Mark Martin, Twin Lake, Michigan.
Mark said, “This is the way of the future,” while Mike added, “I’m convinced this could be the future format.” Joe Baron, executive director of Anglers Insight Marketing said, “Absolutely, this could be the wave of the future.” He would not rule out a possible pro-pro-co tournament trail, perhaps in addition to a regular tour.
The AIM Catch-Record-Release system might be the limiting factor in how many boats could fish an event. Joe said, “Right now, the boat limit is set at 100, but only because of the process of reading and recording the memory cards from each team’s camera. However, the AIM competition committee is attempting to streamline procedures that could allow more participation.
The Green Bay tournament is already the most popular AIM event of the season, with more than half the spots filled. “We’re off to a surprising start, far-exceeding the other tournaments. All talk is positive, especially for the highest paying team tournament with a $30,000 top prize. It’s also the only 100-percent guaranteed payout for a team event, and it will be three days for everybody,” he said. Co-anglers pay $300 for three days on Green Bay with six different pros.
Mark Martin said, “This concept has produced the biggest response. MWC and team-tournament people are stepping up because they’re more comfortable fishing with their buddies and splitting costs. But, they’re still fishing against the pros.” He felt the goal of bringing more people into the game would be accomplished.
“This is a new level of the age-old team concept,” he said, “And, the overwhelming response proves the timing is right.” Mark’s partner, Todd Sokolow, has many co-angler tournaments under his belt. He lives near Mark, and is familiar with the Great Lakes, where he fishes extensively. He also runs a Lund and Lowrance electronics, and will be instrumental teaching co-anglers. Mark said, “I like the direction AIM is going with this idea.”
Mike Gofron’s job as he puts it is to do all the netting and most of the coaching. “Our three co-anglers over the course of the tournament will have fun and learn from both of us. All will be busy.” That “busy” includes running six lines, fighting walleyes, taking pictures, recording fish, releasing them, re-setting lines, and working together to prevent “tangles.” He said, “The bite could be such with so many doubles that we might drop back to four lines – that’s Green Bay.”
From his perspective, Mike is already seeing MWC competitors involved, and looks forward to meeting these great teams. Locals can now enter, and he feels they will. In his case (and Mark’s also), Mike is paying the $1,200 entry fee and boat expenses. After fishing and winning many walleye tournaments, Mike had two words to describe the new format, “Pretty exciting!”
His partner will be Jamie Adams, who has traveled extensively with Mike, fishing as a co-angler. He’s also an accomplished saltwater angler, having won a recent $25,000 top prize in a saltwater tournament.
The pro-pro-co (Pro Team Challenge) concept has these main goals, according to Joe Baron.
Number One: “This will introduce as many anglers as possible to the C-R-R format.”
Number Two: “It gives people a comfort level when they compete with a regular boat partner.”
Number Three: “It raises participation numbers.”
Number Four: “It gets another pro involved in each boat.”
Number Five: “It eases the high cost of travel, gas and lodging.”
The Pro Team Challenge on Green Bay, with headquarters in Oconto, Wisconsin, is set for July 20-22. The AIM website, aimfishing.com, has entry information and details. Joe said, “I really want the team tournament guys and gals to join us and learn all about C-R-R and the Pro Team format. They can become part of something I think will extend well into the future.”