The Second Annual Sunset Bay Walleye Shootout started Friday with Big-Fish Friday.
The main event will be held today, but many of the 50 registered teams decided to make the pre-fish entertaining, throw an extra $100 per team in the pool and divide the winnings up into three places.
Forty-two teams participated on Friday with 24 teams weighing-in fish. Teams were allowed to start fishing at 6 a.m. and had to be at the weigh-in site at 3 p.m. sharp.
OBSERVER Photo by Gene Pauszek
Pictured above are members of Team Vision Clinic, which won the Big-Fish Friday event at the Sunset Bay Walleye Shootout. Members, from left to right are: Nick Nekoui, Bob Hebert, Maurice Parent and Tony Adams.
Big-Fish Friday follows most of the rules of Saturday's main event, with the exception of bringing in - and weighing in - only one walleye and starting at 6 a.m. instead of 7 a.m. today.
This tournament is relatively new to our area, but with a 100 percent payout, a $400 entry fee per team, and 50-team maximum, the Sunset Bay Walleye Shootout is fast becoming one of the most popular events on the amateur team-fishing circuit.
The atmosphere at the weigh-in site was energized with stereo speakers providing some foot stomping, head banging music by AC/DC and teams traded information awaiting the formal weigh-in at 3:30 p.m. One by one, the teams approached the scale, which was suspended and displayed the weight for the crowd to read.
The commentator kept the crowd in suspense while the anglers and the crowd awaited the official weight, which was announced and recorded, with Team 10, Vision Clinic, out of Canada, coming in first in line weighing with its 10.06-pound walleye.
Team Looney Tunes was next with a respectable fish weighing 9.51 pounds and was followed by Team 34 with a 9.09 pounder, providing the three teams to beat. Team Erie Tracker, from Canada, removed a lot of 9-pounders with their entry of 10.02 pounds, while numerous 8- and 7-pounders weighed in.
Then, an olive green cooler was brought up with a huge walleye inside. The commentator and the weigh-in official looked inside and announced that the fish was not eligible. Why? Rule number 3 clearly stated that no water or loose ice was permitted in the anglers' coolers. Only blocks or cubed ice in a sealed bag was permitted. The cooler was full of water and thus eliminated.
Most of the rules are standard tournament regulations with a few exceptions. All waters of Lake Erie and Niagara River are legal fishable waters, including Canadian waters. Each boat can fish a team with a minimum of two anglers or a maximum of five. Also, each boat may utilize a maximum of up to nine rod/reels per boat.
Today's event will start with a shotgun start from the Bay of Sunset, 500 yards west of the pier head. There will be a round, orange buoy marking the area. The start will be at 7 a.m. sharp. Only walleyes are allowed in the box and each team is allowed to bring to the scale a maximum of six walleyes. Any more than six will mean instant disqualification. Team identification, or pucks, will be distributed once the boat is checked prior to departure, and all boats must be checked. The puck must be returned when the teams enter the weigh-in line. Loss of the puck will result in disqualification.
Let's get back to the Big-Fish Friday. There were 42 teams entered in Big-Fish Friday, with 24 teams opting to weigh-in fish. Team Vision Clinic, which consisted of Nick Nekoui, Bob Hebert, Maurice Parent and Tony Adams, held up as the heaviest walleye on Friday with their 10.06. The quartet won $2,000. Second place went to Team Erie Tracker, which consisted of Bart Mink, Dave Malloy, Captain Dan Campbell and Dave Earley. The team brought in a 10.02-pound entry, which earned them $1,200. Third Place was won by Tim Gual, Dennis Pillard and Nick Schmidt with a 9.93 entry and good for $800.
The public is invited and encouraged to attend the weigh-in for the main event, which will be held at the State launch at Sunset Bay. The event will payout to the top 10 teams' six heaviest walleye weights. First place pays $5,000 and 10th place is $500. The event will also give away five major prizes valued at a minimum of $500 in a blind drawing for the remaining 40 non-cash prize-winning teams.
Come on down to Sunset Bay and catch some walleye fever! Parking may be at a premium so come early. Major sponsors of the Sunset Bay Walleye Shootout are Okuma and Cortland Line.
In case you were wondering, the walleye in the olive green cooler that was disqualified, weighed in at 10.36 pounds. Always remember to follow the rules!
Gene Pauszek is an outdoor columnist for the OBSERVER Look for coverage of this event in the OBSERVER on Sunday.