Pundits’ Picks Walleye: Lake Erie - Major League Fishing

Pundits’ Picks Walleye: Lake Erie

Legendary fishery still cold, dirty
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FLW Outdoors presents Pundits' Picks
April 9, 2009 • Brett Carlson • Uncategorized

The 2009 FLW Walleye Tour season begins April 15, but the trash talking in the pundit world has already begun. Fishing fans, welcome to the third season of Pundits’ Picks Walleye – a pretournament column featuring the most competitive walleye prognosticators in the land. The southern boys think we’re odd, but we hearty Midwesterners love our walleyes and you can’t tell us otherwise.

For those new to the feature, log on to FLWOutdoors.com the Friday before each FLW Walleye Tour event to see who the so-called experts like in the upcoming contest. We can’t promise accuracy, we can’t promise precision, but we can promise a little good-natured pretournament trash talking. The competition will pit pros v. staff throughout the season to see who qualifies for the pundit championship. After three regular-season events, each pundit will be seeded according to their record for the playoff round. Only three pundits advance from the playoff round to the championship, a winner-take-all affair that goes to the person who accumulates the most points.

Last thing, the disclaimer: The picks in this column in no way represent any sort of favoritism on the part of FLW Outdoors staff or its pro anglers. These are merely guesses – only arguably educated – as to who we think might do well at any given tournament. With that in mind, here are the picks.

– Brett Carlson

Tournament site

John Swanstrom holds up a 12-pound Lake Erie walleye he caught Friday.

The 2008 Walleye Tour opener was held on Lake Erie in mid-April and the results were impressive. Rookie pro John Swanstrom won the tournament with a four-day cumulative weight of 143 pounds, 7 ounces, which shattered the previous record held by Pat Neu. The gaudy figures don’t tell the whole story though as the bite didn’t turn on until right before the tournament. In fact, Swanstrom struggled mightily in practice – catching only a handful of fish in four days. The bite changed for the better when the weather stabled and the water clarity subsequently improved. Unfortunately, another cold winter has 2009 looking eerily similar to 2008. The early reports have the lake dirty and the fishing worse than expected. Some pros are even practicing in the Detroit River, which is clearer but is a long run from the official takeoff in Port Clinton. Canadian waters are off-limits. Unless the long-term forecast changes, a 25-pound sack would be considered a solid catch.

Walmart FLW Walleye Tour stop No. 1

Lake Erie, Port Clinton, Ohio

April 15-18

Brett Carlson

Record: 0-0
Points: 0

Yours truly, Brett Carlson
Eric Olson
FLW Walleye Tour pro
Red Wing, Minn.

Record: 0-0
Points: 0

1) ROBERT HENTON.Henton may not be a household name with FLW Outdoors, but he’s a walleye assassin. In 2008 alone, he notched three top-five finishes on Erie – two on the MWC and one on the Walleye Tour last April. I remember interviewing him that final day and I came away impressed with his demeanor. He wasn’t intimated with the caliber of anglers around him; he knew he belonged. In other words, I’m waging my bets that 2008 wasn’t a fluke.
2) DAVID KOLB.Kolb has won several major tournaments on Erie in the past, including a Walleye Tour win in 2003. The key to his success is his meticulous practices. He’ll spend hours scrutinizing his sonar to eliminate unproductive water and find just the right area. Once he finds the perfect honeyhole, he knows what to do – troll like there’s no tomorrow.
3) GREGORY YARBROUGH.If I remember correctly, mechanical failures held Yarbrough back on day one of the Erie event last year. But on days two and three he combined for 69 pounds. A Port Clinton resident, Yarbrough has tons of experience on this pond and his trolling skills are superb. When he’s not tournament fishing, he’s still on the lake guiding, which means he always in tune with the conditions and seasonal migrations.
4) CHRIS GILMAN.Despite not owning a single Walleye Tour victory, Gilman is known as one of the world’s best walleye anglers. The Chisago City, Minn., angler is just incredibly consistent. Whether it’s a river, a reservoir, a natural lake or a Great Lake, Gilman always finds the fish. The 2009 season offers a clean slate and I’m getting on the Gilman train before it leaves the station.
5) NATHAN SEIFERLEIN.Seiferlein is one of the good guys of professional walleye fishing. A full-time teacher and assistant principal at Merritt Academy in New Haven, Mich., Seiferlein is about as down to earth as they come. But don’t mistake his mild manners for timidness – the young man can catch walleyes like a machine, especially on an open-water troll bite.
1) PETE HARSH.Pete had a great finish here last year and I expect his consistency to continue due to his overall knowledge of the fishery. The knowledge of the past will loom large as prefishing water clarity will be less than optimal. Pete’s experience, patience and confidence will bring him to the top-10 stage for yet another FLW event, making him a favorite to win Angler of the Year again in 2009.
2) JOE WHITTEN.Living in Toledo, Joe knows this water like very few people do. After being snake bit last year he’s out for a top 10 and will work harder than anyone to make it happen. His ability to find clean water is a strength. Not only is Joe good at finding clean water, he has a knack for pinning down the fish in a given area. Knowing what to do in changing conditions will benefit those with Erie experience. Joe is clearly one of those.
3) DEAN ARNOLDUSSEN.What else can be said about Dean that hasn’t already been said? He is a great angler, a true professional and a solid decision maker. Dean is due for another top-10 finish. He knows it and he wants it. His missing the championship the last two years was no indication of his abilities or his desire. His head is on straight and he’s poised to earn some redemption in Port Clinton.
4) CHRIS GILMAN.Having fished with Chris for several years I know his mental strength and desire to win. With a solid knowledge of Erie and her quirks, Chris understands what to do and when to do it. Minimal prefishing time will not hurt this pro. It actually may help him as others struggle to find the biggest bites. Chris, like Dean, has some get-back to give Erie. If he gets off to a good start here, he’ll be a strong contender for Angler of the Year.
5) RICK LACOURSE.For my last pick, I’m going with my friend and fellow pro pundit Rick LaCourse. Ricky lives in Port Clinton and is known as the Lake Erie authority. Like Dean, Ricky has had two rough years consecutively. But he is still one of the best in the game and I would be foolish to leave him off my roster. If this is a scrounge tournament, Ricky will have even more of an advantage as he always can put 20 pounds in the livewell.
Vince Meyer
Staff Reporter

Record: 0-0
Points: 0

Vince Meyer
Rick LaCourse
FLW Walleye Tour pro
Port Clinton, Ohio

Record: 0-0
Points: 0

1) JOE WHITTEN.An Ohio pro has never won an FLW tourney on Lake Erie. A good candidate to end that drought is Joe Whitten of Toledo, who in six previous Erie tournaments has failed to cash a check just once, that being last year when he placed 130th. But Whitten also has a top-10 finish on Erie. Expect him to rebound this year.
2) TOMMY SKARLIS.Among other nicknames, the reigning FLW Angler of the Year is known as “Mr. April” because three of his four PWT wins came at the first tournament of the season, including one on Erie. He also won a PWT tournament on Erie’s eastern basin in August. Skarlis is due to win a regular season tournament on the FLW and this is as good a bet as any.
3) CHRIS GILMAN.Here’s another solid competitor who’s looking to break through and capture his first win on the FLW Walleye Tour. Don’t be surprised if it happens on Erie. Gilman won PWT tournaments on a large inland lake (Winnebago), major river (Mississippi) and on Saginaw Bay, which fishes much like Erie.
4) BILL ORTIZ.Expect to see this name pop up again in my picks this season. Whenever I see Ortiz in the lineup I make sure to check his finish each day. Rarely is he out of the money. Ortiz has placed in the top 10 at FLW events on the Detroit River, Green Bay and Saginaw Bay, where the winning tactics were similar to what works on Erie.
5) GARY ROACH.Many will view this as a sentimental pick, seeing as how “Mr. Walleye” hasn’t won a major walleye tournament since 1993. But some of us believe the oldest pro on tour this season has another win left in his bag of tricks. There would be no better place to put the finishing touch on his distinguished career than on Lake Erie, where he won a PWT event in 1991.
1) CHRIS GILMAN.He’s still one of the best all-around fishermen on the circuit and he has something to prove this year. After last year’s mistake on day three, Chris will be working hard to regain his title. Basically, his mistake cost him a win at last year’s event and the Angler of the Year title at the end of the season.
2) TOM KEENAN.Tom is a superior open-water troller and has the chops to adjust to any conditions Mother Nature might throw at us. His many top-10 finishes on big water speak for themselves. Not picking Tom on Erie would be like not picking Tiger for the Masters. If conditions change, and it goes from a crankbait bite to a spinner bite, Tom will be the first to notice and adapt.
3) JOHN SCHNEIDER.John grew up fishing on the Bay of Green Bay and Bays de Noc, which means he cut his teeth on big water trolling. He’s a past winner on Bays de Noc and is no stranger to the techniques used to catch big fish on Erie. After a stumble on day one last year on Erie, he came in with back-to-back big catches on days two and three. If he doesn’t stumble again, look for him in the top-10 this year.
4) RON SEELHOFF.What can you say about Ron that hasn’t already been said? He’s the king of trolling – whether it be big or small waters he’s simply the best. This Colorado angler consistently catches fish. Just missing the cut here in 2008 only proves that “old dogs can still hunt.”
5) DAVID KRAFT.Dave is always in the top 20 on a trolling bite so don’t count out this North Dakota angler. He’s been around as long as Seelhoff and it seems that when it’s a crankbait bite, he rises to the top. I’m picking Dave as my dark horse for this event and the way the lake is progressing the conditions should fall into his favor.
Sharon Reynolds
Tournament administrator
FLW Outdoors

Record: 0-0
Points: 0

The lovely Sharon Reynolds
Jason Kerr Jason Kerr
FLW Walleye Tour pro
Holly, Mich.

Record: 0-0
Points: 0

1) RICK FRANKLIN.Rick was very consistent last year and I really think that he can bring a win home this year. Although he claims he’s not much of a troller, he still finished third on Erie in 2008. He is due; he knows how to fish this lake and he knows what it takes to make the top 10.
2) SCOTT ALLAR.I am also going with the Berkley pro for this tournament. Scott barely missed the cut last year and he’s a great troller, especially with crankbaits. His career stats show that he is a very consistent fisherman. I know Scott and believe me he won’t go down without a fight.
3) LARRY SMITH.Larry is both a great guy and a great fisherman. I was looking closely at his results and you cannot be any more consistent than him. Last year, he brought in solid weights every single day. I would be a fool not to add him to my picks.
4) DEAN ARNOLDUSSEN.After going two full years without one, Dean is due for another top-10 finish. He is a great open-water troller and that’s what Erie is all about. Whether its cranks or spinners, Dean will be shining for sure.
5) ROBERT B. BLOSSER.Robert is my underdog pick for Erie. After his second-place finish at the championship last year his confidence will be sky high. The veterans better bring their “A” games this year because this young pro can catch them.
1) TOMMY SKARLIS.I am going with the reigning champ, Tommy Skarlis, as my No. 1 pick. He has done consistently well on this mighty Great Lake, including two PWT victories. Plan on another superior finish from Mr. April.
2) ROBERT CROW.Crow consistently flies under the radar but he’s always near the top at the end when it is time to hand out the checks. He has a knack for catching above-average walleyes, especially when open-water trolling is the main technique.
3) ROBERT HENTON.I had the privilege of competing against Robert years ago on the Michigan Walleye Tour. He is very familiar and confident on the Great Lakes. He did very well last year on Erie and 2009 should not be any different.
4) JOSHUA VANDERWEIDE.Vanderweide is my pick to represent the great state of Michigan. Josh and his dad tend to find the big fish on the big water. They are both great trollers and when they put their minds together, good things usually happen. After his big win on Bays de Noc last summer, he proved that he’s no longer a rookie.
5) TOM KEENAN.Can you have a list of top finishers and leave this guy off? What else is there to say about the Chevy pro? He catches them everywhere we go from rivers to prairie reservoirs to the Great Lakes. While Vanderweide won Bays de Noc, Keenan finished second. Maybe he’ll use that near-win as extra motivation, not that he needs any.