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Walleye winners

Southtowns Walleye Association crowns champions

Submitted Photo Dennis Buczkawski is pictured with a 12.28-pound walleye caught out of Dunkirk.

The 37th annual Southtowns Walleye Association Derby is in the books.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, this year’s event proved to be another success.

This year’s event was limited to Lake Erie waters excluding Canadian waters which were closed during the month of May when a deadline decision had to be made.

The SWA Derby allows for 200 places to be paid out with the stipulation that any fish entered had to be a minimum length of 26 inches. That and the weather became a real challenge as there were only 178 places awarded this year. If memory serves me correctly there were over two-dozen walleye in the 10-plus range a few years ago. A fish entered in the 8-pound range was questionable. This year the final place was taken by a walleye that weighed 5.3 pounds with a 27-inch length.

Whatever the challenge, this membership, along with strong leadership and generous sponsors rose to the occasion to present another quality fishing tournament. The awards banquet was held on Saturday at the clubhouse located on Southwestern Boulevard in Hamburg. The derby was a nine-day event that started on Saturday, June 12 and concluded at 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 20. Entry fee was $105 per member which included a mandatory $50 membership fee, $50 tournament fee and $5 for the walleye wallet which is an optional drawing. Several hundred members signed on to compete this year with some impressive results.

Submitted Photo Jack Gaul is pictured with an 11.67-pound walleye that took second place in the SWA Derby.

In the Youth Division the winners were: Gabe Gulino with a 9.83-pound walleye. Second place was Parker Endress with a 7.35-pound entry followed by Annabelle Beck weighing in a 7.29-pound walleye. Wyatt Bartoo took the final place with the devil fish weighing in at 6.66 pounds.

The Derby Lure winner was Rebecca Marsh and the STWA Champions NY Bounty winner was Jim Roskwitalski, who won $1,500 with his walleye that weighed 7.93 pounds exactly. This prize is determined before the derby starts by a random draw that assigns the winning weight. Incidentally, Jim was the first entry, beating out Kathy Shaffer who also weighed in a 7.93-pound walleye.

The top 10 walleye entries were: Jason Marsh with a 10.04-pound entry taking 10th place; Paul Gates with a 10.08-pound walleye; Timothy Stone with a 10.09-pound walleye; David Ristau Jr. in seventh with a 10.26-pound entry; Christopher Logan had the last 10-pounder with a 10.26-pound entry; Joseph Mitusick and Linda Paul had two of four 11-pounders weighing in at 11.03 pounds, thus taking fifth and fourth place, respectively; Michael DiBlasio took third place with a 11.44-pounder; Jack Gaul finished second with an 11.67-pounder; and the 2020 champion was Dennis Buczkowski who entered a walleye weighing in at 12.28 pounds.

Buczkowski was fishing out of Dunkirk the first day of the derby in 50 to 55 feet of water with his partner Jerry Henning. They were using six colors of leadcore line with a 17-pound test fluorocarbon leader towing an older model renosky stickbait with a custom paint job when the fish hit.

Buczkowski was convinced he had a fish not a log, and with 50 more feet of line to bring in, the fish started head shaking and stayed down. This fish was fighting and the duo thought it might be a big catfish or sheephead. Dennis walked toward the front of the boat while Jerry, manning the net, did a great job and let out a expletive-deleted phrase. They fished until 11 am. content with only one fish, but it proved to be the right one. Besides first-place prize money, Buczkowski won a prize from Garmin and Muddy Creek Tackle.

Submitted Photo Michael DiBlasio finished in third place with an 11.44-pound walleye.

Jack Gaul finished in second place at 11.67 pounds and caught his fish on the last day of the derby. He was fishing with his cousin Tim Gaul out of their 19 1/2-foot Starcraft boat out of Sturgeon Point. Using five colors of leadcore towing an old stickbait in purple top and pink bottom with a chrome lateral line they had a hit around 9 a.m. that took the offshore in-line planner board half way toward the back of the boat and then stopped.

Jack decided to check it and took his time reeling it in. The fish started putting up a good fight and actually took out line a couple of times. Tim did great job with the net and the fish proved to be the biggest walleye Jack Gaul ever caught.

DiBlasio is having a good year. He and his teammates were in the winner’s circle at Barcelona earlier this year and he also won the Sunset Bay Shootout with his team a few years back. DiBlasio was fishing out of North East, Pennsylvania, on the first day of the derby along with a group of friends, for their annual get-together. DiBlasio was fishing out of his 17 1/2-foot Monarch aluminum boat with Everett Caci when they had a hit around 8:30 a.m. that took the Ninja in-line planner board straight to the back of the boat. The lure was a custom paint job renosky stick bait in purple with pink dots, towed on four colors of leadcore line with a 17-pound test “Trick Fish” leader. They were fishing in 44 feet of water and had eight fish for the day.

In all, the SWA Tournament had one 12-pound entry, four 11-pounders, five 10-pounders, 12 9-pounders, 35 8-pounders, 64 7-pounders, 42 6-pounders and 15 walleye in the 5-pound range.

Major sponsors for this year’s event were: Amstar of WNY., Challenger Lures, Three D Worm Harnesses, Curly’s Bar & Grille, Eye-Fish Fishing Tackle, Garmin Fish finders, FishUSA, Hunting Valleye Construction Inc., Kishel’s Scents, Okuma Tackle, The Fish Grip, SPX-Flow/ Johnson Pump. Traxstech, Ultimate Outdoors, VMAX Batteries, Warrior Lures and Muddy Creek Tackle,

Organizers thanked volunteers who manned the weigh stations at four different sites for the nine days of competition and the club officers who spent countess hours to bring together another great tournament.

Look for extra fishing tournament coverage in the following weeks in the OBSERVER.

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