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Welcome to FLW Live Reel Chat. Today we’re joined by Scott Steil, who was considered an up-and-coming walleye pro just a few years ago. That all changed in June 2008 when he won $100,000 at the Walleye Tour qualifier on Cass Lake. In his FLW Outdoors career, Steil has six top-10 finishes and just over $300,000 in earnings.
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However, no payday was bigger than his recent 2009 Walleye Tour Championship check where the Ranger-Evinrude pro managed to walk away with $105,000 in prize money after overcoming an 8-pound deficit on the final day. Needless to say, it’s been a banner year for Steil, who hails from Richmond, Minn.
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Today, Scott Steil is here to take questions from you, the fans. So, without further delay, let’s get started.
Q: Scott, what did it feel like to win the 2009 Walleye Tour Championship? Was this the biggest victory of your career?
— Jon Stebbins (San Diego, Calif.)
A: First of all, there is no doubt this was the biggest victory of my career. I’ve got two wins, but the championship is definitely the big one. This one means so much, and it takes a while to set in. My teammate Tony Renner and I finished second and first. It was bittersweet that only one of us could win. But overall, it was the most exciting thing that has happened in my fishing career.
Q: At what point in the tournament did you realize that you had a legitimate shot at winning the Walleye Tour Championship?
— Titus Song (Bloomington, Minn.)
A: You never really know until day four. I knew I was in striking distance. Despite being down 8 1/2 pounds, I thought I had a good chance. I also knew within my first two fish if I was fishing for first or second. My first two fish were a 22(-incher) and a 26 1/2. After I caught the 26 1/2, I knew I was fishing for first. I believe I made the comment to the cameraman after that fish, “Look out, Tony, here we come.” My last three fish were a 19 1/2, a 24 and a 25.
Q: What is the biggest walleye you have ever caught?
— Eric Holmes (Los Angeles, Calif.)
A: Well, I caught a 32-inch walleye right after the Leech Lake tournament. I had some guys that wanted to catch some of the big walleyes we caught during the tournament. Length-wise, 32 inches is my biggest. But I’ve caught a prespawn 13-pound walleye that was shorter but weighed more than that Leech Lake fish.
Q: What are your preferred baits when targeting walleyes? And how do you adjust bait selection for seasonal patterns?
— Patrick Zak (Oakland, Calif.)
A: When it comes to baits, I don’t think there is anyone on tour that would give up their crankbaits. It’s not my favorite way to fish, but casting and trolling crankbaits always plays a role in major tournaments. As long as I have my crankbaits, I have a chance. I few of my favorites are the Berkley Flicker Shads and the RS Rapalas. And seasonal patterns is where you troll them in the water column. When it’s warmer, you usually troll them deeper, using leadcore line. When it’s colder, you troll them shallower using Fireline.
Q: Do you ever fish for walleyes at night? If so, what kind of presentations and equipment do you use?
— Jon Pageler (Napa Valley, Calif.)
A: I do some night-fishing, but that’s usually early in the year and late in the year. In Minnesota, that is in May and in the late fall. Again, the best action is usually found on crankbaits. Trolling stickbaits in the fall can be deadly. The night-trolling can be excellent.
Q: I’m planning an ice-fishing trip just before Christmas. Should I go to Lake of the Woods or Red Lake?
— Josh (Golden Valley, Minn.)
A: If there is ice on Lake of the Woods in December, it will be phenomenal. Both lakes will give you numbers of fish, but the south side of Lake of the Woods has the potential to produce multiple 10-pounders. Both will give you numbers, but the trophies will come from Lake of the Woods.
Q: Who is the better fisherman, Tony Renner or Jason Kerr?
— Jeff H. (Elk River, Minn.)
A: Tony Renner, hands down. Jason is a big-water troller from Michigan. Tony is an all-around fisherman from Minnesota. Whether it’s trolling, jigging or rigging, Tony can do it all.
Q: Scott, what are your favorite lakes or rivers to fish in the entire country?
— Jim Interlandi (Chicago, Ill.)
A: My favorite river is the Detroit River. A river-only tournament, I absolutely love. Jigging up those fat walleyes is an absolute blast. For lakes, I like Oahe. I don’t know why, but I always do well there. There always seems to be a rigging bite and a trolling bite.
Q: We all heard Charlie and Al talk onstage about the 2010 FLW Walleye Tour. They didn’t say anything specific, but they hinted there will be changes. What changes would you recommend for next year?
— Chris T. (Bismarck, N.D.)
A: I guess I don’t know. Everyone knows the economy is tough, especially on the outdoors industry. I certainly hope they continue with a pro-level tour. You can reduce the entry fees, but it can’t be so low that it’s at a weekend level. To be a pro-level tour, the payouts have to be up there. I think you need to maintain an entry fee somewhere around the $1,200 mark. If you start getting into a $500-entry-fee tournament, then it becomes more like a weekend tour. As for divisions, I’m fine with that. Living in Minnesota, that would mean less travel for me. Having an east-west tour wouldn’t be a problem. But it’s got to still be a pro-level tour. In conclusion, I just hope they keep the anglers in mind when they make these difficult decisions.
Q: What are you spending the $100,000 on?
— Matt (Lake City, Minn.)
A: Right now, I am not spending it on anything. I have been doing so many interviews and stuff. My phone just rings off the hook. After this, I’ve got an interview with a TV station out in Ohio. Most people don’t realize how overwhelming the media obligations are after winning the FLW Walleye Tour Championship. Other than that, I’m just soaking it in. I’m sure there will be plenty of time to spend that money, and I’m sure my wife and kids have plenty of ideas.
Q: How many different techniques did you use during the Walleye Tour Championship?
— John Haberman (Madison, Wis.)
A: Prefishing, we used a lot of techniques. But during the tournament, we only used one, and that was pulling crankbaits on leadcore. We did some live-bait rigging in practice, but the biggest fish came trolling, so we stuck with what worked.
Q: I go fishing in Canada’s Quetico Provincial Park every year and have had very little success catching walleyes. The glacial lakes there are generally very deep and clear with sandy bottoms. Do you have recommendations where I should start trying to target walleyes with this type of structure and these conditions? Also, what type of bait would you use? Two caveats: I fish out of a canoe, and live bait is prohibited. So if you could give me some advice, I’d greatly appreciate it.
— David Perlman (Minneapolis, Minn.)
A: Those glacial lakes support many big fish, but the problem is that you’ve either got to fish them at night or fish them much deeper. During the day, those fish can be found in 30 to 50 feet of water. Walleyes will come up at night and feed. Try casting crankbaits on gravel flats or wind-blown points. You’ll get a lot of pike, but you’ll also get a lot of walleyes. Also, Berkley makes a whole line of Gulp products that are legal. Try jigging on deep structure during the day. When you can see 20 feet down during the day, you can bet the walleyes won’t be that shallow. There is no doubt fishing clean lakes like that can be tough. But fishing deeper and fishing at night is the way to go.
Q: To help us young anglers, how did you start out in your quest to become a professional angler? How did you get sponsors? Any advice for young anglers trying to become pro?
— Dylan (Zanesville, Ohio)
A: That’s probably the No. 1 question I get when I travel and go to seminars. First of all, you’ve got to have confidence. That means fishing a few local tournaments and doing well there. From there, you need to fish some tournaments on lakes or rivers that you don’t know and get out of your comfort zone. If you can be successful there, then you take the step to the next level. Local, regional, and then jump right in. But you’ve got to have a plan. Fishing against the best is tough. The promotional side is really a whole other side to this business. You’ve got to be able to create a brand for yourself. You are your own brand. After competing in the national events, you become more marketable.
Q: What’s your favorite bait?
— John N. (Wausa, Wis.)
A: It’s going to be a No. 7 Shad Rap. I’ve been using those since I was about 5 years old, and they still work. If I have to pick one color, I guess it would be fire-tiger. But God forbid I ever have to fish with just one bait. That would be tough.
Q: I don’t have a boat, but still love walleye fishing. Do you have any tips for shore-fishing or wading without live bait — crankbaits, jigs, spoons, etc.?
— Quentin Daniels (Shakopee, Minn.)
A: Fall fishing from shore can be excellent. Right now is the time. Go out in the evening and cast crankbaits. The fish will be in the same places they were in the spring. The longer stickbaits like the Husky Jerk work great. The next month is the best shore fishing there is in Minnesota. You will do just as well as anyone in a boat.
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Unfortunately, fishing fans, that’s all the time we have to chat with Scott today. Thanks to all who tuned in and participated in today’s Reel Chat. And a special thanks to Scott Steil, 2009 Walleye Tour champion, for giving us his time and insights into walleye fishing. Check back shortly for a complete transcript of today’s FLW Live Reel Chat.