BISMARCK, N.D. – All week long Tony Renner had been contemplating whether to stay close and fish the Missouri River or head south towards the North Dakota-South Dakota border and fish the head of Lake Oahe. After qualifying for the final round in the river, he decided it was best to stick with what got him this far. That decision turned out to be the wisest one he’s made in his seven years as an FLW Walleye Tour pro.
Renner had a banner day on the river, but it didn’t start out so hot. With four lines in the water, one of his crankbaits snagged a giant, powerful carp. That fish tangled all of his lines and cost him valuable fishing time. He then missed a few fish and caught a few around 20 inches. At this point, he stopped and gathered himself. It was noon and so far the day was a frustrating one. Moments after regrouping, one of his rods jolted back.
Part of Renner believed it was a northern pike. After all, the Missouri River is chock full of 2- and 3-pound walleyes but the trophy females are rare. This was one of those fish though – a plump 28-incher. Two hours later he boated a 26-inch fish which pushed his total weight to 24 pounds, 8 ounces, the heaviest stringer of the championship thus far.
“It started rough, but today was one of those days you dream about.”
Those walleyes were caught within five miles of the Hazelton Launch Ramp. Renner is using No. 5 and No. 7 Shad Raps on leadcore line – fishing anywhere from 11 to 25 feet of water. He said the most productive crankbaits are bright in color.
Renner’s main concern is that he will only be allowed to run two lures with the co-angler competition concluding today. But that’s a problem all the finalists will have to deal with.
“The plan all along was to go down to the lake on the final day. But now I’ll stay right where I’m at and I’ll keep doing what I’m doing. I’m just hoping for a solid box tomorrow.
With an 8-pound lead, the Hutchinson, Minn., native is making the most of his first trip to the top 10.
“I feel great and I want it bad; I don’t know if I’m going to be able to sleep tonight.”
Steil retains second
Richmond, Minn., pro Scott Steil started the day in second place and ended the day in second place after catching 16 pounds, 8 ounces. It is no secret that Steil and Renner are friends and travel partners. In many ways, this event mirrors last year’s championship where teammates Tommy Skarlis and Ross Grothe fished the same successful pattern.
“If you would have told me I would have 16-8 I would have taken it,” said the 2008 Cass Lake winner. “The guy in first place is going to be tough to beat; we are doing the exact same thing. Maybe I’ll catch 24-8 tomorrow and we’ll see if he can get 16-8. I’d love for Tony to win, but I’m absolutely still fishing to win.”
Although they are running the same program in mainly the same areas, Steil sorted through a bunch of 20-inchers while Renner caught only eight total.
“He got the big bites and I got lots of bites. We’re going to have to talk tonight.”
Fresh off a seventh-place finish at the final FLW Walleye Tour qualifier on Lake Winnebago, Robert Crow is enjoying his second consecutive successful tournament. After finishing the opening round of the Walleye Tour Championship in eighth place, Crow moved up to third courtesy of a 15-pound, 2-ounce limit.
“I’d really like to run down to the lake but I wasn’t about to today in those waves,” said the Paterson, Wash., native. “Maybe I’ll head down there tomorrow; I don’t know. I’ll figure it out in the morning.”
Crow said his bite was sporadic – they’d a catch a fish here and a fish there. Finally on their fifth spot they caught two walleyes, their biggest of the day.
Andersen fourth, Adams fifth
Climbing one spot into fourth place was Amery, Wis., pro David Andersen. This is Andersen’s first appearance in the championship. After bringing in 28 pounds, 8 ounces during the opening round, the PWT veteran caught five fish that weighed 14 pounds, 8 ounces on day three. Those fish were caught trolling cranks on leadcore.
“I had a really strong prefish,” said Andersen. “The first day of the tournament has been my worst day so far.”
Despite trailing the leader by 10 pounds, Andersen isn’t ready to concede.
“I’m always the type that goes for the win. I’m going for 23 or 24 pounds tomorrow. I had that one day during prefish. The tables can turn.”
Carl Adams Jr. was the first angler to weigh in Friday and he started the festivities off with a solid 14-pound, 7-ounce limit. The Blackduck, Minn., angler trolled to catch his fish.
“The fish weren’t in the same spots as yesterday so we struggled in the morning,” said Adams. “Since I won’t be able to run four crankbaits tomorrow I may switch to live bait.”
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pros after day three on the Missouri River:
6th: Todd Riley of Amery, Wis., five walleyes, 11-12
7th: Ron Seelhoff of Burlington, Colo., five walleyes, 11-12
8th: Tommy Skarlis of Waukon, Iowa, five walleyes, 11-12
9th: Chris Gilman of Chisago City, Minn., five walleyes, 8-7
10th: Nicolas Schertz of Tomahawk, Wis., one walleye, 2-9
The final day of the FLW Walleye Tour Championship begins as the top 10 pros take off from Hazelton Launch Ramp, located just off Highway 1804, at 8 a.m. Central time Saturday. Weights are cleared for the final round, with the winning pro determined by the heaviest two-day total weight from Friday and Saturday.