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Brad Dokken: North Dakota angler to fish international tournament in Russia

Shawn Hennings, Hillsboro, N.D.

Shawn Hennings is in for quite an adventure.

Hennings, 46, of Hillsboro, N.D., is a member of the four-man USA Predator Fishing Team competing in the 2017 World Predator Fishing Championship, set for Sept. 2-3 on Russia's Ivankovo Reservoir, an impoundment of the Volga River about 2 hours north of Moscow.

The U.S. anglers are among 20 teams from across the world converging on the Russian reservoir. Beyond that, Hennings says, there are a lot of unknowns going into the competition.

"The mapping for it is almost nonexistent, and what there is you can't read," Hennings said, adding the head of the Russian Fishing Federation is supposed to forward lake maps of the tournament venue in the next few days.

"It's really just a big flooded reservoir."

Tournament teams will target perch and northern pike on the reservoir, which is nearly 75 miles long with a maximum depth of 62 feet and an average depth of 13 feet, Hennings says.

"It's supposed to be a very good fishery," he said.

International fishing competitions aren't anything new for Hennings, an avid tournament angler who competed in the 2014 World Ice Fishing Championship in Belarus as a member of the U.S. Ice Team.

He's scheduled to fish the 2018 World Ice Fishing Championship this coming winter in Kazakhstan as a member of the U.S. team.

"The European style of fishing and trying to figure out how to get the fish to bite has taken us a number of years to refine," Hennings said. "Each year, we move up the rankings just a little bit as far as team placing goes."

Hennings and his USA Predator fishing teammates—Brett Erickson of Illinois, Nate Winters of Wisconsin and team captain Ben Blegen of Minnesota—are practice fishing this weekend on a central Minnesota lake loaded with northern pike. Their Russian translator and team manager from Latvia also is scheduled to attend.

"Hopefully, we have our maps that they're emailing to us so we can at least look at the venue sites and try to eliminate water," Hennings said.

Teams only get two days to pre-fish for the Russian tournament, which is limited to casting while the boat is anchored, Hennings said; trolling or drifting isn't allowed.

"If it's anything like pike fishing in the U.S., anything you throw down there within reason, something's going to bite," he said.

Adding to the challenge, the boats they use each day, both for pre-fishing and during the tournament, are determined by drawing, Hennings says. It might be a fancy boat with a 300-horse motor or a bare bones rig with a 50-horse outboard, the smallest motor used in the tournament.

"That's the luck of the draw," he said. "Like I tell everybody, the boats don't catch fish, the people do, but transportation time is a big factor when you only have six hours on the water."

Hennings and his teammates will fly to Moscow on Aug. 30 and return home within a few hours after the tournament ends Sept. 3. Excitement is building, he says.

"I have a countdown on my phone, and I have to quit looking at that," Hennings said. "The days aren't ticking away fast enough."

An electrician by trade, Hennings says he likes the competition of tournaments. Like the Olympics, the World Predator Fishing Championship will offer gold, silver and bronze medals to the top three teams.

"Really, what you walk away with is the experience or a medal," Hennings said.

The team has set up a fundraising page at gofundme.com/unitedstatespredatorteam for anyone interested in helping to offset expenses for the upcoming tournament.

• More info: usapredatorteam.org.

Brad Dokken

Brad Dokken is editor of the Herald's Northland Outdoors section and also works as a copy editor and page designer. Dokken joined the Herald company in November 1985 as a copy editor for Agweek magazine and joined the Herald staff in 1989. He worked as a copy editor in the features and news departments before becoming outdoors editor in 1998. He also writes a blog called Compass Points. A Roseau, Minn., native, Dokken is a graduate of Bemidji State University. 

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