While the 2014 National Walleye Tour event on Bays de Noc was all about the Moonshine Lures Shiver Minnow, this year’s event was dominated by the Rippin’ Rap, a lipless crankbait. Each of the top three pros used the Rippin’ Rap as their main lure. Woodke also caught fish on the Lindy Darter, but the Rippin’ Rap caught the lion’s share. In addition, he managed a couple walleyes on a plain hair jig and a paddle-tail swimbait. Woodke used a variety of Rippin’ Rap colors, including gold chrome, yellow perch and firetiger. In reality, he didn’t believe color mattered much, if at all. “They weren’t hungry; there were plenty of alewives around,” said Woodke. “It was strictly a reaction bite. I don’t know why else they would bite. I think the key was literally putting that bait in front of their face and making them bite it.”
Woodke fished the bait on 20-pound Sufix 832 braid with a 14-pound Sufix fluorocarbon leader. After catching 36.71 pounds on day one, Woodke improved to 38.23 on day two. “My first fish this morning was a 22-incher and I couldn’t let it go. My next fish was a very heavy 28-incher. Then I struggled for a while. I had two fish at 9:30, so I left and went to plan B. I ended up popping the last four fish within an hour of each other. I was done fishing at 12:30 p.m.” In this event, culling was not allowed and anglers were permitted to keep six fish and weigh their best five. The 22-incher proved to be the smallest of the six fish and did not make it to the scale. A native of Gillett, Wis., Woodke fished the familiar west shore. Each day he ran north and hit three or four spots – all big rock piles located in 10 to 15 feet of water. Woodke would cast his Rippin’ Rap out as far as he could, then jig it back with a conventional lift-and-fall approach.
“I knew the fish were in the area. I would cruise around with my trolling motor until I’d catch one, then I’d put my MotorGuide on spot lock.” Woodke discovered this area approximately two weeks ago, but he wasn’t sure if the fish would stick around. He would periodically check on them and to his surprise, they were still there come tournament time. A patrol officer by day, Woodke thanked his co-anglers, who contributed key fish each day.
“Mike (Bertrand) caught three of the six fish today; he picked up my slack later in the day. My co-anglers played a huge part in this. I give a lot of credit to them.” For a two-day total of 74.94 pounds, Woodke earned a Ranger 620FS with a 250-horsepower Evinrude outboard, $15,000 cash and an additional $2,047 in Anglers Advantage cash for a total purse of $87,047. “I’ve been thinking about this for years and I can’t really believe it happened. This is life changing. I worked so hard for this. There’s so many good anglers out there. To win at this level is huge. I’m very thankful at this moment – thankful for my family and thankful for the NWT. It finally worked out.” Keenan satisfied with second For the second consecutive day, Tom Keenan only managed five keeper walleyes. But once again, those five were huge – weighing a total of 32.21 pounds. Combined with his 37.02 from day one, Keenan finished the tournament with 69.23 pounds. “One of my big fish was spitting up alewives like crazy,” said Keenan, who recently crossed the $1 million mark in career tournament winnings. “It contaminated the water and jammed up the livewell and three of my fish died. Thank God those fish didn’t cost me the win. I was a trainwreck worrying about it. I guess that’s a lesson learned on an alewife bite.” Livewell issues aside, Keenan fished a clean tournament. “I didn’t lose anything; I caught everything that bit. I did everything right; I just didn’t get enough key bites to win. I’m pretty happy with second. I had a really good tournament.” Similar to Woodke, Keenan caught nine of his 10 keepers on the No. 7 Rippin’ Rap. His best colors were gold chrome, chrome moss back shiner and Helinski shad. Today, Helinski shad proved to be the top producer. The Rippin’ Raps were fished on 20-pound Sufix 832 braid with a 15-pound Sufix fluorocarbon leader. Keenan’s other keeper came on a ½-ounce VMC swimbait jig with a 5-inch Keitech Swing Impact swimbait. Fishing with teammate Chris Gilman, Keenan ran north each day and fished around the Chamber’s Island and Sister Shoals area. He would essentially spot hop from rock pile to rock pile. On day one, he sampled 15 spots and today he hit eight. “Other than Gilman, I didn’t fish by another boat the whole week. I do believe I caught them on a spot nobody has ever fished before. I found a hump, a little tiny thing and I dropped the camera on it and it was full of fish.” Keenan explained that he would first use his Side Imaging, then drop down the camera. “You’re looking for clean rock. If it doesn’t have algae on it, that’s perfect.” For second place, the Lake Erie champion earned $25,676. “I want to give a shout out to Dan Quinn from Rapala. He overnighted me a bunch of the Rippin’ Raps and VMC swimbait heads. Without them, I wouldn’t have caught those fish.”