By Chris Marchand
It was a year of big weight at the 2017 Tbaytel Dryden Walleye Masters as anglers pushed the boundaries of what we think we know about the Wabigoon Chain of Lakes.
Father and son team Darren and Jeremy Kennedy celebrated Father’s Day with a top prize of $10,000 cash and an AlumaCraft/Mercury boat package after two of the strongest days of fishing in the recent history of the tournament (15.42 lbs on Day 1 and 21.57 lbs on Day 2), marking 36.99 lbs over 10 fish. To put it in perspective a winning weight for the tournament commonly falls between 27 to 33 lbs.
“It was just fantastic,” said Darren Kennedy. “We had a really good Day 1 – kind of sweated it out for Day 2 thinking, ‘how good are we really gonna do?’. Both of us caught a couple really big ones and it all worked out. We were just using good old-fashioned jigs — get’er done.”
Despite wins at the local Angler/Young angler and multiple top-ten finishes (including one third place) at the Walleye Masters, the win was a first for the team.
“It was a great way to spend Father’s Day,” added Jeremy Kennedy. “I’ve been doing it for 10 years, he’s been doing it for as long the tournament has run. Finally pulled out the win.”
The duo unseated perennial contenders and former champs Greg and Ryley Desautels who took an early lead on Day 2 after weighing a 17.93 lb basket and adding up a two-day total of 32.21 lbs. In the end, the Desautels would end up in third spot with a $5,000 prize.
Any other year Brian Vansteenkiste and Marcel Gaudry’s 35.08 lbs would have blown away the competition, but the duo were relegated to second place for a second straight year — taking home a $7,000 cash prize. Their 10.65 lbs Day 2 catch, also miraculously managed to miss the mark for the Big Fish prize, a $1,350 payday.
That prize went to the team of Shawn Koski and Corey Bergen who weighed in possible tournament record-sized 11.33 lbs Day 2 walleye. The Day 1 Big Fish award went to Scott Lee and David Compardo who topped the day with an 8.38 lbs fish — caught alongside another beautiful 7+ lbs lunker.
While it was an embarrassment of riches for some teams, nearly three-quarters of the field failed to break a two-day total of 20 lbs.
Tournament Organizer John Butts says it was a challenging weekend of fishing for the field despite the hefty weights being posted.
“The way the weather’s been, the fish aren’t set up like normal years,” said Butts. “So it’s making it more difficult for guys than in past years. I think the guys are fishing a little deeper, more in the mud a little bit — there’s kind of a little bug hatch going on. I think a lot of them (bigger fish) are coming off the main lake.”
With strict penalties to competitors for stressed or dead fish, diligent efforts to keep the fish in good shape were on display throughout the tournament. Conservation Officers were on site to monitor slot size restrictions which were strictly observed.
To see the full results from the competition click here. To see the big fish results, click here.