The weather was cooperative for the final day of the 10th annual Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club Walleye Derby, even if the big fish were not.
The Con Club Walleye Derby was a three-day event that started on Friday and concluded Sunday. This unique contest has an opportunity for every boat to win a decent monetary prize for catching just one fish and there is also a level that requires a bit more skill and persistence to achieve one of the top places.
On any given day, any angler with a pocket full of luck and at least a basic amount of skill can catch a big fish. When it happens in a tournament, it's magic. Captain Dan Sobczak and his partner, Bob Kaus, used the smallest boat in the contest - a 16-foot yellow aluminum boat with a 35-horsepower Johnson - to catch the top prize in the derby worth $1,800 when they hooked into a 10.92-pound walleye on the first day of the event.
Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel (3) hands the ball off to running back Fred Jackson (22) during the first quarter of the Pro Football Hall of Fame exhibition game against the New York Giants, on Sunday, in Canton, Ohio.
OBSERVER Photos by Gene Pauszek
Pictured above, at left, from left to right are Mike Schmitt, Bob Smith and Dennis Alguire. The trio finished in second place in the Total Weight Division with 71.89 pounds of fish. Pictured above, at right, from left to right are: Mark Hering, Dale Breitwieser and Lon St. Louis, who finished in third place in the Three-Day Weight Division with 71.33 pounds, including the biggest fish caught on Sunday. That walleye weighed 9.73 pounds.
I talked with the guys, who are both life members of the Con Club, and found that the guys caught their fish on Friday when fishing in 115 feet of water west of Barcelona. In their smaller-sized boat, they usually fish with two dipsey diver rods off the sides, 10 colors of leadcore line straight down the middle of the back of the boat, and one down rigger. On Friday, they used worm harnesses-colored black and gold and will added, or changed, to stick baits when the fish bite was slow. Also on Friday, their fish hit a harness set on the dipsey on a No. 3 setting, set back 170 feet while trolling at 2.3 mph.
It was a bit tense, but their fish held on to win the derby's big fish prize. By the way, both fishermen are veteran anglers who do well in many fishing events. And they are very effective yellow perch fishermen.
Paul Soper Jr., another Con Club member, won second place in the Big Fish category using his "low and slow" mantra to once again finish in the prize money in this derby. The Soper fish weighed 10.29 pounds. Don Mullen finished in third place with a 10.24 pounder while Ken Seibert used his 10.14 pounder to take fourth place. Dennis Wolfe finished in fifth place and won the 3-D lure prize with his walleye taken on Saturday and George Szczublewski finished in sixth place with a 9.98-pound fish.
Jim Dolly Sr. had lucky No. 7 with his 9.94 pounder while Jeff Jarzynski of Team 88 took the No. 8 spot. Lon St. Louis, who fished the same area as the Dolly team, had an identical boat motor and trailer package, a Starcraft Fish Master (19.6 feet) with a 115 horsepower Mercury outboard motor. St. Louis caught a 9.73 pounder on Sunday, which was also the heaviest walleye entered on Sunday and helped with the three-biggest walleye total weight for Sunday at 26.48 pounds.
Roger Corlett and 89 Surprize took the 10th position with a 9.70 pounder while Tommy Owczarczak took the No. 11 spot with a 9.66-pound walleye. The 12th spot was claimed by Jim Skoczylas with a 9.64 pounder while local angler Paul Pomietlasz found that 13 was a lucky number with his 9.61-pound fish.
Thomas Kramer took the 14th spot at 9.61 and Larry Wilson took the final spot with a 9.56-pounder caught on Saturday. The Sunday big fish prizes went to St. Louis at 9.73, Dennis Buczkowski with a 9.56-pound fish and Bernard Lewandowski with a 9.21 pounder. Winners of the three-heaviest fish combined weight for Sunday were St. Louis (26.48), Don Ruppert (25.43), Dennis Buczkowski (24.99), Robert Oram (21.86), Mike Munson (23.99), Keith Wind (23.31), Jim Bromstead (23.21), Jim Steel (23.19), Jeffrey Phillips (23.18) and Brad Milleville (23.18).
The three-day total weight category required both luck and a lot of skill. There are only five payout spots and the teams had to put together a three-fish box of fish that, on average, was over 23 pounds or more each day. Team 30, which was led by Jim Dolly Sr., finished up with 72.67 pounds to take first place in this division. Dolly Sr., who is a big sponsor for this, and numerous other events, is the maker of 3-D lures and worm harnesses.
Dennis Alguire, who is another veteran competitor, finished in second place with a 71.89-pound total while St. Louis finished in third with 71.33 pounds. Don Ruppert, another veteran winner in numerous local tournaments, took the fourth spot with 71.12 pounds of fish and Mike Munson finished in the fifth and final spot, just four ounces behind Ruppert with 71.08 pounds.
The Con Club did a great job running a popular derby, with the assistance of a hard-working volunteer base, dedicated staff and officers and some generous sponsors that included the Fredonia Walmart, DFT, Bill's Hooks, 3-D lures, Hi-Tech, Big Jon, Torpedo Weights and Reef Runner Lures.
I had the pleasure of interviewing many of the contestants and can honestly say I did not hear many complaints about the event, other than the weather, or not being able to get the big fish to bite. Many of the contestants, I am sure, will be looking forward to testing their skill (and luck) next year in the greatest walleye fishery in New York and possibly the world.