CLEVELAND — After finishing the season-opening Wal-Mart FLW Walleye
Tour event in second place, young pro Dustin Kjelden had a bitter
taste in his mouth. Gambling and choosing to fish Lake Erie on day
four, the BFGoodrich Tires pro returned to Elizabeth Park Marina in
with over 24 pounds in his livewell – thinking the title, and the
$100,000 purse was his.
All season long he’s used that memory as motivation. Returning to
Lake Erie for the 2007 FLW Walleye Tour Championship, Kjelden put on
a clinic, dominating a field of the best fishermen in the world. On
the pivotal third day of competition, Kjelden caught an 11-pound,
13-ounce walleye that anchored a 39-pound bag. On day four he sealed
the deal by calmly catching a 22-pound, 13-ounce stringer.
The title was up for grabs until Kjelden lugged out his two kickers
that brought the Cleveland area crowd to its feet. While the
tournament was in doubt until the very end, Kjelden’s final round
total of 62 pounds bested Scott Fairbairn by over 12 pounds.
“It has been an absolutely awesome season,” Kjelden said. “It is
amazing to win against this stiff of competition. Everyone in the
top-10 is an awesome angler. To end up No. 1 is incredible.”
Kjelden caught a limit of 20 pounds or more each of the four days of
competition. Even though the finalists were restricted to two lines
Sunday, the pro winner still coaxed a dozen walleyes.
The BFGoodrich Tires pro caught his fish by trolling spinners with
night crawlers at 1.4 to 1.6 mph. He used copper willow-leaf blades
and large green beads on his spinners. Kjelden also employed planer
boards to get his lines away from the boat and 1-ounce in-line
sinkers to get them down.
“My rule is that on the Great Lakes, the bigger and gaudier the
better with beads.”
Kjelden presented this offering over a sand bar in front of the town
of Vermilion, Ohio, three miles from the Canadian border. He
positioned his boat approximately 14 miles offshore in water 45 feet
deep. In practice he caught most of his fish near the bottom of the
water column but they came up as the event commenced. In the end,
his better fish came in approximately 10 feet of water.
“One key I’m always looking at is the pattern that’s going to
happen, not what’s happening right now.”
In winning his second FLW Walleye Tour event, the Brookings, S.D.,
pro claimed $150,000 – the largest payday in the sport of tournament
walleye fishing. In just 22 FLW Outdoors events since 2003, the
28-year-old father of two young girls has earned over $350,000.
“My personality is very addictive. If I’m going to do something, I’m
going to do it 100 percent.”
Fairbairn sick of second
After yet another first-class performance, Fairbairn finished the
championship in second. Second place is no stranger to Fairbairn as
he finished runner up at the 2006 PWT Championship on the Missouri
River. Fairbairn also finished second at the 2007 PWT event on Lake
Winnebago and third at the 2007 season-opening Walleye Tour event on
the Detroit River.
His Lake Erie tournament ended with a limit on day four that weighed
16 pounds, 10 ounces. While he was the model for consistency all
week, he struggled quite a bit Sunday.
“I lost four or five good fish,” said the Hager City, Wis., river
rat. “How long is the TV show? They’ll have plenty of footage of
fish coming unbuttoned.”
Fairbairn said he had several doubles during the day, meaning a fish
was on each of his lines. Wisely, he’d attend to the heavier fish
first before reeling in the other line.
“I’d pick up one rod and lose it and then pick up the other one and
boat the smaller fish.”
Not surprisingly, Fairbairn trolled spinners with night crawlers at
1.2 to 1.5 mph during the final round. During the two-day opening
round, he pulled Rapala No. 11 purpledescent deep-tail dancer
Today the perch were nipping off his crawlers so he removed his
planer boards and flat-lined his rods behind the boat.
“That way I could see if the perch were nibbling and reel away from
He fished the west side of the Lorain sandbar, which is located 33
miles west of Voinovich Bicentennial Park. The former PWT Angler of
the Year said the fish were positioning themselves as though they
were on a river sandbar.
Fairbairn’s final-round weight was 49 pounds, 7 ounces, which earned
him a check for $75,000. For the record, his career earnings with
FLW Outdoors now sit at $166,664.
“I’m sick of second but its one of those things where I told my wife
I’d probably retire if I ever win one of these things
(championships). Apparently, I’m not meant to retire.”
Fishing the exact same water as Kjelden, Paterson, Wash., pro Robert
Crow put together a different, yet successful program that resulted
in a third-place finish and $30,000.
“I ran deep-diving, bare-naked Reef Runners to catch my fish,” he
said. “I had two separate pods of fish going. One was in 10-12 feet
and one was in 28 feet.”
His area, located 42 miles northwest of Cleveland was roughly 45
feet deep. On day four, the majority of his walleyes came from up
top. Crow would troll his crankbaits at 2.5 to 3 mph. The result was
18 walleyes total, the best five weighing 25 pounds, which was the
heaviest catch on day four. His final-round weight registered 48
pounds, 12 ounces.
“It’s great to fish against a group of guys like this. Finishing
third, you can’t gripe about that.”
Lantzy falls to fourth
If this was a contest of who caught the most walleyes throughout the
week, then Folgers pro Dennis Lantzy would likely be the one
hoisting the $150,000 check over his head. Catching a plethora of
22- and 23-inch fish, he instead finished fourth and earned $25,000.
Fishing with friend and teammate David Kolb, Lantzy was a bastion of
consistency all week. After catching 24 pounds, 1 ounce on day
three, the Warren, Mich., native caught 23 pounds, 8 ounces on day
“I went through a lot of fish again today,” said Lantzy, who
employed spinners and night crawlers near the top of the water
column. “It was nonstop action from about 10 a.m. until it was time
to go in.”
Had Lantzy gotten into a few of the pigs that bit Kolb’s offering
during the opening round, he would have applied some serious
pressure on Kjelden.
In the first Walleye Tour Championship of his career, Jim Preissner
of Hastings, Minn., earned $20,000 and finished in fifth place with
a final-round weight of 47 pounds, 4 ounces.
Preissner delighted the Cleveland crowd with a 7-pounder kicker
shortly after pretending he was out of fish. That kicker anchored
his 23-pound, 15-ounce five-walleye limit Sunday.
“That’s quite an accomplishment,” Preissner said of his fifth-place
finish. “I’m hoping to come back one more time.”
At the tender age of 65, Preissner notched his first top-10
appearance on the Walleye Tour, but he wasn’t satisfied with just
being in the final round.
“I do want to win the championship. That’s my goal.”
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pro finalists at the FLW Walleye Tour
Championship on Lake Erie:
6th: David Kolb of Ada, Mich., 43-6, $14,700
7th: Ross Grothe of Northfield, Minn., 35-6, $13,700
8th: Jason Kerr of Holly, Mich., 29-14, $9,200
9th: Tommy Skarlis of Waukon, Iowa, 29-3, $11,700
10th: John Gillman of Freeland, Mich., 20-1, $10,700