Parsons earns first win on Oahe - Major League Fishing

Parsons earns first win on Oahe

Keenan officially crowned National Guard FLW Walleye Tour Angler of the Year
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Pro Chase Parsons of Brillion, Wis., won the National Guard FLW Walleye Tour tournament on Lake Oahe, earning $52,000 for his efforts. Photo by Patrick Baker.
August 27, 2011 • Patrick Baker • Archives

PIERRE, S.D. – He’s been chasing down a win since going pro seven years ago, and he got it today on Lake Oahe. Chase Parsons, son of legendary fisherman Gary Parsons, asserted himself Saturday as a pro of the highest caliber in his own right with a three-day total of 15 walleyes for 58 pounds and a National Guard FLW Walleye Tour win.

“Other than the birth of my child (10-week-old son, Logan) and marrying my wife, it was probably the greatest day of my life,” Parsons said of the $50,000 victory (plus a $1,500 Mercury bonus and $500 MotorGuide bonus). “I told my wife, Bridget, before I came here that I was going to win. She probably thought I was just being cocky.”

The Mercury pro from Brillion, Wis., has been close many times before; in fact, he’s placed fifth so many times in major walleye tourneys that he said “five is my number.” But today that number got upgraded to the highest order, and nobody was more proud than his dad, a member of the National Freshwater Fishing Hall of Fame.

Moments after his son was announced as the official winner, Gary Parsons said, “This is the best tournament day I’ve ever had – seriously.”

Though Parsons’ pattern gave him incredible confidence throughout the three-day event that closed out the Walleye Tour’s regular season, he had to fend off his uncle Keith Kavajecz, another Hall of Famer who ended the tournament as the runner-up.

“Usually we’re the jaw-jackers in our group,” Parsons, 27, said of his uncle, “but we didn’t really say that much to each other last night. Let’s face it: We both wanted to win.”

This week on Oahe was a Parsons family affair, including a third-place finish for an honorary member in traveling partner and fellow pro Tom Kemos, and they all employed a special technique that will be revealed during an episode of “The Next Bite” next year on the World Fishing Network. The Wisconsin contingent fished at Peoria Flats like nearly everybody else in the top 10, but their modified spinner technique was an aggressive method of trolling to trigger reaction strikes.

Pro Chase Parsons of Brillion, Wis., and co-angler Christopher Hanson of New Hope, Minn., caught five walleyes weighing 18 pounds, 5 ounces on the final day of the National Guard FLW Walleye Tour tournament on Lake Oahe and each won their division.“I think most of the guys here were trolling crankbaits over the trees,” Parsons said. “I would say I was trolling through the trees. We were pulling spinners … luckily I never had to leave my one spot.”

Parsons described it as “a huge spot” with two different stretches. He’d fish for his large walleyes – over 20 inches – in a deep stretch of trees in about 33 to 35 feet of water and then move up shallower on top of the flat for his slot fish – over 14 but under 20 inches – that came from trees or brush in about 16 to 19 feet. He said anglers have been hammering walleyes at Peoria Flats on Oahe for several weeks now, but the fish have “seen a million crankbaits go by,” so pulling the modified spinners through the trees offered something different.

“It was just crazy,” he said. “I had my overs pretty much right away every day.”

The fishing was so good for Parsons that he was done by 11 a.m. or shortly thereafter each day, including today when the start of the final day today was delayed by at least one hour due to severe weather. He registered five-walleye tourney limits each day, weighing 17-3, 22-8 and 18-5, respectively. And Parsons said his slot fish were a dream come true today at 19, 19 ¼ and just under 20 inches in length, all coming in about a half-hour in “about as good a pass as you could have.”

“I’ve always been confident, even without a win,” Parsons said in a moment of reflection. “I suppose that’s because of my dad and Keith. It’s been great to learn everything I know from them.”

Kavajecz runner-up

Pro Keith Kavajecz of Kaukauna, Wis., placed second on Oahe with 15 walleyes, 54-2, $15,000.Kavajecz had to settle for second place today with a three-day weight of 54-2 worth $15,000, but it was easy to see that he was nonetheless pleased with his nephew’s victory.

The Mercury pro from Kaukauna, Wis., brought in limits each day weighing 17-10, 21-2 and finally 15-6 despite losing his kicker motor early Saturday. The first two days of the tourney the Freshwater Fishing Hall of Famer trolled with his kicker and steered with his front electronic trolling motor.

“I let the wind blow me today, and I steered with my front one,” he said, proving that he is not only an innovator of baits and presentations, but also able to adjust on the fly. “We were covering a lot of water, moving 2.2 to 2.4 mph in those trees.”

Kavajecz said the special technique used by the traveling partners from Wisconsin at Peoria Flats “actually came out of Nebraska,” but that after hearing about it, he figured it would work well on Oahe. The crew ordered $1,400 worth of baits to try it out this week, and clearly it was an outstanding decision.

“We were trolling for those aggressive fish to come up out of the trees after the spinners,” he said. “It was a reactionary strike more than a feeding strike.”

Trolling as fast as they were, there was no need to set the hook, but angler reaction time was still crucial as far as getting the rod out of the holder to reel the fish in because the walleyes wanted to pull the bait back down into the trees immediately.

As far as more specifics on this different spinner-trolling technique, Kavajecz said “The Next Bite” will devote a whole show to it next year, but it’s possible more about it will go public after they compete in an AIM Pro Walleye Series event in a couple weeks.

Kemos rounds out Wisconsin traveling contingent

Pro Tom Kemos of Oconomowoc, Wis., placed third with 15 walleyes, 54 pounds, $10,000 plus $1,000 bonus.

Mercury pro Tom Kemos of Oconomowoc, Wis., also used the secret spinner technique at Peoria Flats to string together tourney limits each day that weighed 17-7, 17-7 and 19-2 for a three-day total weight of 54 pounds worth $10,000 and a $1,000 Ranger bonus.

“We went out there today, and the wind was just raging,” he said. “We overcame adversity and were able to put together a great bag today.”

Kemos said finding the big walleyes on a big lake like Oahe is critical to tournament success, and he said his Lowrance down-scan and side-scan imaging units have been indispensable in that respect.

“You can see the fish in the trees without even fishing them sometimes,” he said of parsing tournament waters during practice. “You can just roam around and fish.”

Skarlis settles in at fourth

After a second-place finish on the opening day, Evinrude pro Tommy Skarlis of Waukon, Iowa, settled into fourth place, where he finished today with a three-day total of 52-3 worth $8,000 plus a $2,500 Evinrude bonus and a $1,000 Ranger bonus.

“I found some really good fish in practice rigging (with live bait) after I ran into an Iowa buddy angler (walleye pro Dale Dykes) and fished with him,” Skarlis said. “I wanted to try something different. I said, `I want to go outside the trees.'”

Skarlis described his pattern as old-school, saying he trolled crankbaits “a little deeper than most” on Trilene XT 10-pound-test monofilament line and used four planer boards to catch his overs. Then he would go on the inside on the flats and fish “an old shoreline lip,” trolling with his Evinrude E-TEC at high speeds of about 3.3 to 3.6 mph for his slot fish.

“That speed was triggering those fish,” he said, adding that he fished a wide variety of crankbaits, including Berkley Flicker Shads, “good ol'” Rapalas like a Husky Jerk Glass Minnow and Jointed Shad Rap. “I had a dog from about every village when I went out fishing.”

Keenan earns fifth, Angler of the Year

Longtime FLW Walleye Tour pro Tom Keenan of Hatley, Wis., had a big week on Oahe, earning both a fifth-place finish and the 2011 FLW Walleye Tour Angler of the Year award sponsored by the National Guard (as reported in yesterday’s coverage; also read AOY press release). For his Oahe finish he earned $7,000 along with a $1,500 Evinrude bonus and a $1,000 Ranger bonus, and his AOY title brought him $10,000 and an automatic berth into the 2012 FLW Walleye Tour Championship.

Keenan earned his first Walleye Tour AOY title in 2006, was named the Eastern Division AOY in 2010 (when the Walleye Tour split into two divisions for a season) and then reeled in his third points title this season (the Walleye Tour is no longer split into divisions).

The Gander Mountain retail store manager paved the way to this year’s AOY honor via a second-place finish on Lake Erie, a 14th-place showing at Leech Lake, a sixth-place finish at Green Bay and fifth place this week on Oahe. Keenan is the all-time leading money winner on the FLW Walleye Tour with $656,355 spread across 16 top-10 finishes including two wins.

Keenan sacked 16-4, 17-2 and 16-2 limits over three days to amass a total weight of 48 1/2 pounds. He may have been in the same general area as many of the pros today, but reported that he was not fishing right alongside much of the pack and that he moved around for his fish, including runs up to the Little Bend and Cheyenne River areas. He used Rapala Rattling Shad Raps to catch most of his fish and used Sufix braided fishing line to “yank `em out of the trees,” after triggering bites by knocking his planer boards into the timber.

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pro finalists in the National Guard FLW Walleye Tour event on Lake Oahe:

6th: Walmart pro Dean Arnoldussen, Appleton, Wis., 15 walleyes, 48-8, $6,000 plus $2,500 bonus

7th: Darrell Peters, Slayton, Minn., 13 walleyes, 47-12, $5,000

8th: Joe McCartin, Land O Lakes, Wis., 14 walleyes, 46-2, $4,000 plus $2,500 bonus

9th: Lynn Jurrens, Watertown, S.D., 14 walleyes, 43-4, $3,500 plus $1,000 bonus

10th: Pete Harsh, Sauk Centre, Minn., 15 walleyes, 41-2, $3,000 plus $2,500 bonus

The National Guard FLW Walleye Tour Championship will take place Sept. 22-25 on the Missouri River at Bismarck, N.D., to close out the 2011 season.