WNY Walleye Classic is highlight of 3-day festival

The Sunday kids fishing clinic was a big part of the Dunkirk Walleye Festival as Walleye-Pro Craig Sleeman taught the kids fishing lessons. Submitted Photo

There was food, games, live music, an outdoor show, fishing and fun at the Dunkirk Central Avenue pier this last weekend. The WNY Walleye Classic and City of Dunkirk Festival finished on Sunday.

Primitive Patriot Outdoors Executive Director Josh Larsen said, “A total of 45 teams registered for the fishing event.”

Big Fish Friday kicked off the first annual fishing event competition of the year on Lake Erie, providing a sort of tournament pre-fish day that also provided the chance at cash prizes for the top three big fish. The tournament competition day followed on Saturday with competitors weighing in a 6-fish bag for weight score.

Big Fish Friday was a single fish walleye competition by weight, with Captain Chris McKeever and “Team Extreme” coming home with the biggest walleye at 9.74 pounds, cashing in $2,200 for that whopper. Captain Jim Taggert with team “Fish Missile” came in second place at 8.24 pounds for $1,320. Captain Ashton Laird with team “Lime Lake Marine” came in third at 8.18 pounds for $880. The Big Fish Friday event was a pre-start to the competition day, helping angler teams sort out where to fish when it counts. The payouts are much higher during the actual tournament.

The weather stayed mostly the same from Big Fish Friday to Saturday, competition day, but the size of the fish went down a bit. The center stage on the Central Avenue pier was busy and festive and drew hundreds of spectators throughout the day, especially during the weigh-ins.

Team “Hunten Eyes” with Captain Dave Waldeck (center) took home the Biggest Walleye trophy, a 7.6-pound walleye. Submitted Photo

After all the teams weighed in on Saturday, the 2024 WNY Walleye Classic Championship winners were subjected to a polygraph test to ensure truth or consequences.

The winner was Captain Chuck Pohlman of team “Catch-The-Best” with 31.15 pounds for the heaviest bag, with their big fish at 5.69 pounds; they cashed a check for $5,800. Second place, with 29.48 pounds, was team “I-Con” with Captain Rob Oram at the helm. Their big fish was 5.16 pounds, which was good for $2,800. In 3rd place was Captain Dave Waldeck with team “Hunten Eyes,” weighing 29.06 pounds, good for $1,800, and their big fish of the bag was a 7.6-pound walleye – the biggest walleye of the competition day.

The biggest walleye competition for the main event featured prizes for 1st, 2nd and 3rd place. Team “Ice Breaker” with Captain Randy Jaroszewski brought home $800 with their 7.04-pound walleye for 2nd place big fish. Captain Jesse Smith with team “Flatliner” brought in a 7.02-pound walleye for a close third place and $500 for the bank. The main event payouts went from $1,100 for 4th place, down $100 for each place, to $500 for 10th place.

The tournament-winning team, “Catch-The-Best,” almost did not get to fish the tournament. Teammate Timothy Duffy shared the story.

“What a weekend! We started pre-fishing on Thursday and found some decent fish. Then, every fisherman’s fear — the boat died,” Duffy said. “We had to get towed in, but we made it to the captain’s meeting with just 5-minutes to spare. We were unsure if we could diagnose and fix the boat for the main event on Saturday. A big shout out to Dave Thompson and his crew of team “DEEZ NUTS” for their help in diagnosing the issue and finding the parts. We took the boat to Sandy at Rocky Bottom Prop Shop on Friday morning. He installed the parts, and we were up and running by noon on Friday. The rest is history!”

“We won our first tournament,” Tim continued. “First place out of 45 professional walleye fishing teams. Thank you to Josh Larsen for putting on such a great event. We’re looking forward to fishing this tournament for years to come. And last but not least, my teammates, Captain Chuck Pohlman and Tom Kinmartin, a pleasure to fish with them.”

Walleye master fish-catcher and well respected local walleye wizard, Captain Tom Miranda with team “Pole Dancer Sport fishing” said, “We managed 8th place on Big Fish Friday and 9th place on the main competition event, out of 45 teams. Good enough to cash a check. We caught over 60 walleyes over the two days. A big shout out to Josh Larsen for putting on a great event. The walleye fishing is definitely heating up.”

Josh Larsen shared, “The hot lure for the tournament was a particular custom-made “tournament lure” manufactured by Kilam Custom Baits. The lure is a deep-diving “Long-A” style lure with a silver background, blue head, red tail and red perch-like stripes about a half-inch apart running head to tail on the lure. The lure only has two rear treble hooks, no front treble, which allows the lure to provide a wider wobble at slow trolling speeds. Larsen said, “Big Fish Friday was won with that lure, and team “Icebreaker” caught most of their fish using the tournament lure. Kilam Custom Baits is a local WNY fishing store in Java Village, NY, run by Rick Malik, a military veteran.” Visit https://www.facebook.com/Kilam.Custom.Baits/.

Total cash paid out for the event, including Calcutta’s, was $42,760. The event was coordinated by Primitive Patriot Outdoors Executive Director Josh Larsen and his 6-man team in conjunction with the City of Dunkirk. The event was held on the Central Avenue pier with live music and an impressive array of tent city small shops, food trucks, and tackle/gear manufacturers. The event was a well-run walleye fishing tournament and a free public outdoor show-style event enjoyed by all in attendance. I’m sure the planning for this one took some time. Several competitors mentioned they felt this may have been the best well-run fishing tournament they had ever participated in, citing the rules, boat checks, stage presence and related activities for the general public. Kudos to the Larsen team! It’s going to be an exciting Lake Erie walleye fishing year!

Outdoors Calendar:

June 6: WNY Walleye Association meeting, 1st meeting for this new group, 6:30 PM, Knights of Columbus Hall, 36 Pierce Ave., Hamburg.

June 6: Southtowns Walleye Association of WNY, monthly meeting prior to their annual 9-day Lake Erie walleye fishing tournament, 7) PM start, 5895 Southwestern Blvd., Hamburg.

June 8: NYSDEC Teach-Me-To-Fish free fishing clinic, 9:30AM-12:30PM, Tift Nature Preserve, 1200 Fuhrmann Blvd., call 716-533-4070 to register.

June 8: Women-In-The-Outdoors event, Erie County Conservation Club, 8:30AM-5:30PM, 13319 Miller Ave., Chaffee, $75 fee-adults, $50 fee-youth 12-17, call Kris Bentson to register, 716-725-5589.

June 8: Cattaraugus Creek Bait & Tackle Annual Catfish Tourney, 10AM-12-midnight, Hanover Boat Launch, 3-person teams, $50 entry fee, catch and release, rule apply, register at Bait Shop, 11158 Route 20, Irving.

June 8-16: Southtowns Walleye Association of WNY Annual Walleye Derby, $110 entry fee, visit https://www.southtownswalleye.com/.

June 15: Opening Day for NYS Black Bass and Great Lakes Musky fishing.


Today's breaking news and more in your inbox

I'm interested in (please check all that apply)
Are you a paying subscriber to the newspaper? *

Starting at $2.99/week.

Subscribe Today