As anglers will hit the waters of Lake Oahe on the Missouri River for the fourth tournament of the National Walleye Tour Thursday morning, nearly $100,000 and a new boat is at stake.
The two-day tournament in Mobridge, South Dakota, will mark the fourth and final regular season outing of the 2021 National Walleye Tour, which began in April. Roughly 100 pro anglers and amateurs will be competing in the Thursday-Friday tournament in Mobridge.
Each year, the series of tournaments are held in a variety of bodies of water in the northern portion of the country, including lakes and river systems. The National Walleye Tour has been putting on pro-am tournaments for just under a decade. Also at stake in the final regular season tournament of the year is the chance to compete in the Sept. 22-24 championship tournament in Otter Tail, Minnesota. Pro anglers and co-anglers competing in this year’s National Walleye Tour must finish in the top-40 to qualify for the championship round.
Heading into the Mobridge tournament, Mark Courts is sitting in the lead for the 2021 Angler of the Year with 555 points. In the three tournaments, Courts competed in during this summer’s National Walleye Tour, the Minnesota native has reeled in 23 walleye, with a total cumulative weight of just over 93 pounds. His biggest bag of fish he took to the weigh-ins came in at 27 pounds.
Courts had high praises for the type of walleye fishing Lake Oahe in Mobridge offers. The pro angler has some rich history of success on Lake Oahe, which is where he won his first professional walleye tournament.
“I love this place, and this place has always been good to me,” Courts said of Lake Oahe. “I won my first professional walleye tournament here 15 years ago. I’ve been paying attention to what the fish are doing this week, and we’re catching some nice fish. They are moving around in the system, chasing bait and going deep. In the back of my mind, I have the Angler of the Year title sitting in my head, but I’m just happy to be where I’m at.”
Sitting in second for the Angler of the Year award is North Dakota’s Greg Ehli, who has reeled 24 walleye, with a cumulative weight of just more than 96 pounds. However, he trails Courts in the points category by 14, with a total of 541 heading into the Mobridge tournament.
While Chamberlain's Lake Francis Case is one of Ehli's favorite spots to fish on the tour, he's predicting a "good shootout" at Mobridge.
"The bite has been changing with temperatures in the 100s, so the fish are definitely changing their summer patterns," said Ehli, who has been pre-fishing the Mobridge area for the past six weeks. "It should be a good shootout. I don't know if I will go for some big fish or a limit. It's been a crazy week of pre-fishing, and I'm looking forward to the tournament."
Pro angler Jarrod Fredericks, of Estelline, is the lone South Dakotan sitting in the top 10 of the Angler of the Year standings as of now. Fredericks has fished his way to the fourth spot on the leaderboard, racking up 525 points and a cumulative weight of 84 pounds of Walleye in the three regular season tournaments he’s competed in.
McKeever Dahlberg, of Montana, is currently atop the leaderboard for Angler of the Year in the co-angler division. The young up-and-coming fisherman has racked up 553 points, with a total weight of 89 pounds of walleye in the three tournaments he competed in.
For winning the Angler of the Year award, all tournament entry fees are paid for in the following NWT season.
Anglers will hit the water at 7 a.m. Thursday and Friday and weigh their walleyes at 3 p.m. Each boat consists of two anglers, and each competitor will fish with a different angler during the two-day tournament, which are chosen at random. To enter in the tournaments, an angler must be a member of the National Walleye Tour.
To kick off the NWT, Chamberlain/Oacoma hosted the first tournament along the Missouri River. With Mobridge set to host the final outing Thursday and Friday, it makes South Dakota the lone state to host two regular season NWT tournaments this summer.
It was Wisconsin’s Chase Parsons who claimed the pro angler championship trophy at the Chamberlain/Oacoma tournament in late April, which was the first event of this summer’s National Walleye Tour. Parsons reeled in more than 31 pounds of walleye in the opening tournament of the NWT, taking home over $91,000 in prize money and a new boat.
Pro angler Danny Woodke, of Wisconsin, took home first place at the second tournament of the NWT in Sturgeon Bay, Wisconsin, earning himself over $93,000 in prize money and a new fishing boat. He reeled in a 39-pound bag to claim the victory in the second tournament of the summer.
At the most recent tournament that was held in late June at Lake Erie in Huron, Ohio, Bill Sutton reeled in 55 pounds of walleye to claim first place. He took home over $93,000 in cash prize money for the win.
After the Mobridge outing, the top 40 pro anglers and co-anglers of the regular season will go on to compete in the championship tournament in Otter Tail, Minnesota.