Pundits’ Picks Walleye: Missouri River - Major League Fishing

Pundits’ Picks Walleye: Missouri River

Higher, warmer water could alter patterns
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FLW Outdoors presents Pundits' Picks
September 25, 2009 • Brett Carlson • Uncategorized

Welcome to the final installment of Pundits’ Picks. After a long season of walleye prognostication, it all comes down to this: three qualifying pundits competing in a winner-take-all championship. For the second consecutive season, that championship will take place in Bismarck, the capital city of North Dakota.

The Lake Winnebago event was the fourth and final stop on the 2009 Walmart FLW Walleye Tour and also served as the first round of the pundit playoffs. The high score in Oshkosh, Wis., went to staff ace Sharon Reynolds, who accumulated a whopping 661 points. Three of Reynolds’ five picks made the top 10 and Chevy pro Tom Keenan wasn’t far off either. Unofficially, those 661 points were the most recorded in any event this year. Her unlucky opponent in the Pro Division was Jason Kerr, who tallied 591 points. Kerr’s score was the second highest overall, but the tough draw sent him to the proverbial pundit showers.

In a heated playoff matchup, I outscored Pro Division pundit Eric Olson 580 to 570. While local pro Jimmy Hughes did much of the heavy lifting for Olson, I relied on Angler of the Year Chris Gilman. Until day three, it looked as though I had no chance to advance. But two-time Angler of the Year Jason Przekurat came out of nowhere and caught a limit Friday weighing 12 pounds, 3 ounces. Przekurat went from the bottom of the heap to the middle and earned me 90 greatly-needed points.

In the final matchup, Rick LaCourse gets the nod over Vince Meyer on a technicality. LaCourse not only gets to compete for the pundit championship, he will also vie for the on-the-water title. LaCourse earned his ticket to Bismarck by the winning the Angler of the Year award in the Michigan Division of the FLW Walleye League. Along with Toby Kvalevog from the Minnesota Division, John Balla from the Heartland Division and Brian Gustke from the Wisconsin Division, these four anglers will add to the already star-studded field.

While it’s all about weight for the pros, the pundit that accumulates the most points in Bismarck will be crowned the 2009 champion. 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.

– Brett Carlson

Tournament sitePro winner Tommy Skarlis boats a chunky Missouri River walleye.

Although the location is unchanged and the dates are nearly the same, the Missouri River is much different this year. Last season the Missouri River was extremely low – so low that boat navigation was tricky. This year the water has returned to normal levels but is warmer thanks to an unseasonable September. What that means for the fishing remains to be seen, but it’s a safe bet that many of the best areas last year won’t be produce in a similar fashion. The Missouri River near Bismarck is chock full of 2- and 3-pound walleyes. Obtaining a five-fish limit each day shouldn’t be a problem for most of the 54 pros in the field. But in order to obtain separation, a kicker will be needed. The most common patterns will include trolling crankbaits, jigging and live-bait rigging. Generally speaking, cool, stable weather is optimal for a strong bite as the walleyes put the fall feed bag on. Another thing to remember is that unlike the four qualifying events, weights will be cleared after day two. Walleye Tour anglers seemingly will have to manage their fish in order to capture the six-figure first-place purse.

Walmart FLW Walleye Tour Championship

Missouri River, Bismarck, N.D.

Sept. 30-Oct. 3

Brett Carlson

Record: 3-1
Points: 2,257

Yours truly, Brett Carlson
1) CHRIS GILMAN.Gilman has been rock solid all season – notching a 32nd, a seventh, a sixth and a fifth-place finish en route to the Angler of the Year title. Last year he took fifth at the championship (on the Missouri River) and I am expecting similar results this year. If there is any knock on Gilman, it’s that he fishes too conservatively. He may not win the tournament, but he’ll be near the top.
2) TOM KEENAN.Keenan is very similar to Gilman except that he possesses that killer instinct. While Gilman is Mr. Consistency, Keenan is an opportunist. Whenever he’s got a chance, he fishes to win. It hasn’t happened lately – but he’s come awfully close. Two that immediately come to mind are Bays de Noc and Leech.
3) RON SEELHOFF.Seelhoff is in contention nearly every time a major tournament comes to Bismarck. He loves to troll crankbaits and upper Oahe is his perfect playground. Last year it looked like he was on his way to another title, whacking over 18 pounds the first day. Then the wheels fell off and Seelhoff narrowly missed the cut. It won’t happen again.
4) SCOTT ALLAR.Allar reminds me of a younger version of Seelhoff. He’s deadly with leadcore and cranks and he loves river systems. I was extremely surprised to see him finish 22nd last year. That’s not a bad tournament, but he’ll place higher this year.
5) TOMMY SKARLIS.This last pick was a tough one. I thought about going with a red-hot Todd Riley; I thought about taking Ted Takasaki and I batted around Tom Kemos. Ultimately, I am sticking with the 2008 champ. With the higher water, the pattern he used last year might not work, but I bet he can come up with a new game plan.
Sharon Reynolds
Tournament administrator
FLW Outdoors

Record: 3-1
Points: 2,237

The lovely Sharon Reynolds
1) CHRIS GILMAN.Chris is still hungry. He has the Angler of the Year award but he wants one more trophy to round out his successful 2009 season. Chris is a consistent angler so I will be consistent too and continue to place him in my picks. He had a good finish last year and with the water being up, this is only going to make him better at what he does.
2) RON SEELHOFF.Ron is known to do great on this body of water. I did a little research and found that Ron shows not only wins on the Missouri but several top 10s as well. With his trolling skills, this is a no brainer.
3) TOM KEENAN.Tom is a great pick no matter where we go. But he has shown us that this particular body of water is not a problem. He had a great championship last year and if I know Tom he is eager for another win.
4) DAN STIER.This is Dan’s kind of water. If I know Dan he has been practicing every chance he gets and has been trying every technique he can think of to make sure he is not missing anything when it comes to these Missouri River walleyes. Dan already has one win this year and I bet he is looking for the big one, which is the championship win.
5) TOBY KVALEVOG.Toby qualified from the Minnesota Division of the Walleye League and is my dark horse as we say. He is a competitor and he fishes to win. I can just about say that he has been prefishing more than any other qualifier. It’s that drive and determination that makes him so successful.
Rick LaCourse
FLW Walleye Tour pro
Port Clinton, Ohio

Record: 2-2
Points: 2,326

1) TODD RILEY.I’ve got to pick Todd, who in my opinion is the hottest stick going right now. Coming off a big win, look for him to make it two in a row. Todd made the cut last year here and was close to pulling off a win, if he could have gotten to his fish all three days. This year the bite will play into his hands using cranks. Watch out.
2) CHRIS GILMAN.This year’s Angler of the Year will continue to fish strong on the river. Chris made the cut last year, but he made some decisions in the final round that may have cost him a win. Don’t look for him to make the same mistakes again this year. He can do it all from jigging, trolling cranks or pulling live-bait rigs. That versatility will earn him another trip to the top 10.
3) TOM KEENAN.Keenan is one of the best trollers in the game today. Last year was Tom’s first visit to Bismarck and he figured it out as always. Are you starting to see a pattern here yet? It will be a trolling bite that wins it all this year. So all my picks excel at pulling cranks.
4) RON SEELHOFF.This man has written the book on crankbait fishing. Better known as the godfather of leadcore, Ron can do things with cranks that most of the field will still be trying to figure out after the championship is over. Ron will be pulling leadcore like a surgeon – removing all the right fish that are lying in the little subtle dips in the sand. Nobody does it better.
5) DAN STIER.Here is an angler that has had a great year. With his win at Leech Lake and the Team of the Year title on the MWC, he’s clearly on a roll. If anyone can put together a live-bait bite it will be Dan. He’ll be using it all from pitching jigs, pulling bottom bouncers and maybe even trolling some cranks on the sand flats. This guy can do it all.