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Walleye winners

Sunset Bay Shootout comes down to final minutes for some

OBSERVER Photo by Gene Pauszek Pictured, in back, from left, are: Mike Wojtkowiak Jeff Phillips, Ron Roberts and Thom Betts. In front is Tristen Phillips. The team caught the largest walleye weighing 9.86 pounds during the Sunset Bay Walleye Shootout on Saturday.

The 10th annual Sunset Bay Walleye Shootout was exciting, right down to the last minute for some.

Even the COVID-19 pandemic couldn’t stop it, but it certainly made operation a lot harder for the organizers and staff.

The mandatory captains meeting was scheduled for 7 p.m. at Cabana Sam’s. A last-minute mandate from the governor’s office required all in attendance to order dinner and a minimum of drinks, which put the operational staff on last-minute notice. That was no short order with 103 teams signed up for 2020.

Moving right along, Big Fish Friday got underway with competitors allowed to launch from any port on the United States side of the lake. Mother Nature played a role in making fishing conditions hot, and rocking and rolling. These teams are used to it and in the end Team Eye-Con lead by Captain Rob Oram took first place with a 9.79-pound walleye, the only 9-pounder of the day. Frank Campbell of Team Labatts was second with an 8.12-pounder, Jim Klein of Eye-Fish was third with 7.81 followed by Jesse Nussbaum 5 Alive weighing 7.41 pounds. In fifth was John Ferdinand’s What’s Up Dock with 7.27 pounds then Colin Gawronski’s Fish Pirates at 7.11 pounds. Bob Ferro of Team Heart Beat and Brian Schumacher’s Team Wet Schu’s both weighed in at 7.08 pounds while Jeff Philips of Knot Right grabbed the ninth spot with a 7.02-pound entry. Buddy Marsh took the final spot with a 6.83-pound entry. Captain Oram commented that their winning walleye was the last fish of the day and the only fish out of 30 that they caught Friday over 22 inches in length. They had boat trouble and were not able to fish for three weeks until Thursday.

Saturday was the main event. All boats launched out of the Cattaraugus Creek area at 7 a.m. and had a 4 p.m. deadline to return or face disqualification. Attending anglers were located on the beach in a roped-off area, while the weigh-in was conducted by the Shootout staff on a stage located on the beach. Anglers are allowed to bring a maximum of six walleye to be weighed with the largest fish having a plastic zip tie in the jaw. Only walleye a minimum of 22 inches in length are eligible. Because there is a Big Fish prize on Saturday anglers with less than six walleye weigh in their catch.

Out of 103 teams there were less than 10 teams this year who were able to put together six walleye totals. Many of the teams reported catching 20 or more fish daily, but finding fish 22 inches or longer was the challenge. A number of anglers found that some of the borderline-length fish might have shrunk when it was time to weigh-in. After a team weighs in the leader with the heaviest total weight gets to sit in the proverbial “hot seat” until they are dethroned. Due to a technical foul one team removed themselves from the lineup. The winners of this year’s SSBSO were in descending order: Anthony Quick, the Boston Tangler, with 30.31; Ron Duliba, Dances with Fish, with 26.18; Denny Kenny, Knuckle Balz, with 25.32; Brian Davis, Black Cloud, with 23.88; Jim Brauer, Bend a rod, with 23.63; Gregg Marzec, G-Man Crew, 23.06; Mike Miller, American Deck Builders, with 22.50; Dan Benedicts, Money Eyes, at 22.48; Juan DeLarosa, Team Magic Juan, with 22.14; and Ron Kucinski Jr., Got Glizdas, weighed 21.28 pounds.

The final list of the top 20 winners includes Pete Smith Jr., Reely Jerkin It, 21.03; Tom Leman, Ranger Tom, with 20.03; Jesse Smith Jr., Team Flat Liner, with 19.93; John Rogers, Day Drinkin’, 19.80; Eric Marzenkowski, Team Rehab, 18.95; Mark Heckathorne, Team Fish On, 17.77; Pete Szklanka, Team Triple Threat, 16.85; David Levan, End of the Line, 16.55; Grant Smith, McKeen 3, with 16.06; and Bud Marsh took the final spot with 15.97 pounds for Kra-Mar Sportfishing.

Big Fish on Saturday went to Jeff Phillips with a 9.86, which bit at the very last minute; Jim Brauer with a 9.01; Ron Kucinski Jr. at 8.84; John Ferinand with 8.58; John Rogers of Day Drinking’ 8.57; Rick Powenski of Reel Easy at 8.52; and Dennis Huff took the final spot with 8.13 pounds.

Tournament organizers gave thanks to Captain Ruppert and all of his helpers as well as Kelly and the crew from Cabana Sams.

CALENDAR

Jim & Diane Steel’s Innovative Outdoors walleye tournament scheduled for Aug. 21-22 is likely with COVID-19 precautions also coming into play.

The Northern Chautauqua Conservation Club’s annual walleye tournament has been officially canceled for 2020. This highly popular event annually takes place the first weekend in August for three days. COVID-19 pandemic is the culprit. In addition, the VIP day which is usually scheduled for the first week in August has also been canceled for this year due to the pandemic.

School’s out for summer, but wannabe hunters can still take the mandatory Hunter Education Class by going online. This course was first available in April when COVID-19 shut down our everyday life situations. The hunter education course will remain available through Aug. 31. The course is offered by Kalkomey Enterprises, which specializes in hunter education. The course is open to anyone ages 11 and up. It can be completed on a computer, tablet or smartphone at any time. Students who complete the online course and virtual field day and pass the final exam will receive their hunter education certificate and can purchase a hunting license. Only hunters ages 12 and older may purchase a license and hunt in New York. The cost for taking the course is $19.95. To find the course go to Kalkomey’s website. Note that this course could be a gamechanger especially for students who are in sports programs that will not excuse anyone from mandatory practices.

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