Walleye First Tournament Series Part 7, Minnesota Tournament Trail

Category: article

 Dec 18th, 2012 by OutdoorsFIRST 

Modified Dec 18th, 2012 at 12:00 AM

 Author’s Note:  The status of the walleye tournament world with a vision for the future will be explored throughout this series.  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 Seven explores the history, successes and future of the Minnesota Tournament Trail (MTT), run by Mike and Renee Holt.  They’re in their 12th year, and brought tournament experience and management to the game.  They were asked by contestants of other circuits to start MTT, after some strange and not-so-uniform rules decisions.  “The teams fishing MTT are not doing it to get rich, but competition is in their blood.  They deserve a professional-run tournament with a level playing field.  That’s what we do,” Mike said.

    He continued, “I believe in being fair.  During the tournament, I’m not your friend.  I’ve DQed some pretty good anglers, but they always come up later and tell me they were wrong and I was right.” 

    He said the contestants know how to make their living, many own their companies and they want the affordable fishing weekend and a known commodity to fish.  “They like to repeat at the same sites every year, and they don’t want to fish small bodies of water,” he said.  The reasons cited were that the economy prevented them from spending long pre-fishing days on new water, they can show up on a Friday and check out four or five spots instead of a dozen, they know the resorts, but most importantly, Mike said, “We dial in our dates to be on the best bite.” 

    Like all anglers, he feels even if teams are catching fish and don’t place in the money, they’re happy.  About 10 father-son teams participate, along with 15 to 20 husband-wife teams, and a cadre of familiar fishin’ buddies.  “It’s a family!” he said.

    Some MTT tournaments are limited to 50 boats, others to 100.  Where fields have shrunk due to minimal local entries, like Red Wing, Lake of the Woods and Big Stone, the field is 50.  “These guys work and spend time with their families.  They can’t travel two times to Lake of the Woods, but they head north for the Championship,” Mike said.  

    The MTT invites the top 75 teams (by points) to the Lake of the Woods Championship.  They also invite all other teams that have fished five one-day events and a two-day tournament.  Mike said, “We want to take care of those who take care of us.”  The Championship field fishes for a $35,000 Skeeter boat, with second paying $10,000, and a total payout of $70,000.  The entry fee is $460, and the event is filmed and aired on the Midwest Outdoors TV series. 

    The New Year is looking very good for MTT.  Mike said after the FLW walleye circuit folded, he has fielded “lots of calls, and I expect many new faces and new blood to enter.”  About 1,000 teams fished events in 2012.  The numbers show an interesting pattern.  From highs of nearly 1,300 total teams in 2007 and 2008, the fields dropped off to about 900 boats in 2009 and 2010, with 700 in 2011.  Last year, it jumped, and Mike said, “For 2013, I expect we’ll again be up to the 1,200 to 1,300 level.”

    During the past years, he heard from many regulars saying “Gotta drop out for a few years.”  They cited jobs, more work responsibilities and taking care of family, but assured him they would be back.  “This is the year many will jump back in,” he said.

    “We’re still here and standing tall because of the professional way we run things,” he emphasized.  “They know when coming from the eight other states and throughout Minnesota that we’re fair.”  Many surrounding states with restrictive slot sizes and limited tournament seasons force contestants to look at the MTT.  Entry fees are $220 per day for one-day tournaments and $260 for the two-day events.  Teams must fish a one-day tournament to be eligible to fish a two-day.

    Mike feels many of the MTT teams could compete successfully at higher levels.  “In fact, guys like Bill Shimota have fished us from the start, and I’m really proud of his accomplishments as he moved up.”  Other pro anglers who continue to fish include Mark Courts, Brett King, Dave Andersen, Kevin McQuoid, Scott Steil and many familiar names from the bigger circuits.

    The MTT website – mntournamenttrail.com — lists their dates and sites, and much more.  The season starts at Red Wing April 20, and the 16 tournaments run on Big Stone, Mille Lacs, Winnibigoshish and Lake of the Woods.  The Championship is also on Lake of the Woods.  Mike’s phone is 320-679-2825, and if busy, he’s likely talking to another new contestant.  “This is the place to make life-long friends and learn tournament tactics while competing on a level playing field,” he said.

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