It’s On to the Championship and C-R-R for Chad Schilling
Jul 26th, 2011 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Jul 26th, 2011 at 10:54 AM
AIM Pro Walleye Series competitor and hometown favorite for the 2011 AIM International Walleye Championship, Chad Schilling has one thing on his mind: walleyes in the still flood-swollen Missouri River at Lake Oahe.
Schilling hopes to be on the tournament podium and in the running to be the AIM 2011 Champion. Schilling finished a respectable 10th in the 2010 AIM tournament held in Akaska last August and is looking to improve on that by about 10 places this year!
He placed fifth in the AIM J.J. Keller Angler of The Year competition in 2010. At age 35 and in his 5th season on the pro circuits, Schilling lives, breathes, and eats outdoor fun.
Chad is always enjoying the bounty of the Akaska area. He spends half of his time guiding anglers on Lake Oahe. Then in the fall, he switches over to guiding hunters after pheasant from his Oahe Wings & Walleye guide service on the bird-rich Dakota plains.
He hopes the September AIM Championship event favors those who can decipher the walleye patterns on the enormous Lake Oahe –now even larger due to flooding — namely him. The AIM Pro Anglers will have hundreds of square miles of water available for fishing on Lake Oahe, the fourth largest manmade reservoir in the nation.
What’s his take on the coming tournament? It’s not going to be a runaway bite like it was in 2010 when nearly every Pro found both numbers of fish and large fish. In 2010, Fond du Lac, Wisconsin Pro, Jesse Buechel, won the tournament after he perfected a slow trolling presentation.
“Last year we experienced my least favorite conditions. When you’re on your home water, you don’t want the fish biting every off single point,” he said, but that’s how it was during the tournament. “The September bite will still be good and strong, but not like last August, at least not normally. But remember, this is the Missouri, and fishing conditions change like the South Dakota weather.”
Right now, huge snowmelt from the Rockies has elevated the river behind Oahe dam another seven feet above last year, Schilling said, making conditions, especially in sunken forests like at the mouth of the nearby Moreau River, that much more interesting. “That’s a lot of water anywhere else, but here that’s a month’s change,” Schilling pointed out. “Just after last year’s tournament, the water dropped six feet, so you adjust.”
“Fortunately, the water levels haven’t really negatively affected us. Our parking’s the same, the launch is the same, and points you fish off are the same. The only thing is, it’s a little deeper. That’s the great thing about Oahe. It’s pretty predictable, and you’re going to catch fish.”
Normally September coincides with a lull on Lake Oahe as the walleyes begin adjusting to dropping and cooling water. But that is the time the best anglers like the AIM Pro Anglers will find the fish. Chad said, “It’s a lot more favorable for me. It’s when and where you want to be on your home water.”
Schilling, who was one of AIM’s founding owners, was returning to South Dakota from another tournament that did not use AIM’s Catch-Record-Release® format when he was interviewed. He was eagerly looking forward the C-R-R format on Lake Oahe. “C-R-R takes a lot of stress out of your day. You don’t have to worry about babysitting walleyes in the livewell to make sure you don’t get a dead fish penalty. It’s a lot of fun not to worry about killing fish, and not worrying about slot fish and in what order you caught them,” he said.
“With C-R-R, I always believe I’m going to catch bigger and better fish. There’s enough to contend with in any tournament other than worrying about what order you land your fish. In other tournaments, if you’ve caught a 10-pound walleye after you’ve caught your slot, oh well. With C-R-R, there’s no second-guessing. And there’s nothing more frustrating than fishing to a slot limit and making the wrong decision on keeping or not keeping a fish.”
For Schilling, competition on the water came easy. “It started with my brother and I having a good run as tournament partners. We won the biggest tournament in the area here three years in a row, and for about a six-year period I put together 11 wins, so I decided I might as well make money at it,” he said. “I got into the pro-am format and never looked back,” he says.
Schilling has seen the positive results of C-R-R format as a way to not only preserve fish for local anglers, but add a different twist into the mix. He says it took only one try of C-R-R to convince him that this was the way of the future of tournament fishing. “I’ve been on some tournaments, like on Mille Lacs (in Minnesota), where I caught 14 fish over 27 inches and never had one touch 28, and the slot was one over 28 that year. I had the best fishing of my life, but never got to weigh a single big fish for that tournament. “
“If it was an AIM C-R-R event, I would have had an incredible weight, instead, of being short a quarter-inch about five times,” Schilling said. “C-R-R takes all human error out of the equation, and it’s better for the fish, and the fisherman.”
Anyone interested in either a guided South Dakota walleye or pheasant trip can contact Chad Schilling at www.oahewings.com.