South Dakota anglers stringing success together in this year's National Walleye Tour
There are five South Dakota pro anglers – Ted Takasaki, Brian Bashore, Mike Zell, Justin Sieverding and Duane Hjelm – who are among the top 40 in the Angler of the Year standings
South Dakota anglers competing in this year’s National Walleye Tour have been putting together a strong season of fishing at the tournaments this year, positioning them for a chance to compete in the late August championship event.
Pierre pro angler Duane Hjelm placed second at the Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, tournament by reeling in a 26-pound bag of walleye during the two-day event on June 9-10. Hjelm is making a name for himself as a top contender in the walleye tour this year, as the Pierre angler is sitting in fourth place for Angler of the Year standings.
The Angler of the Year standings combine all of the results from each tournament during the regular season. The Angler of the Year receives paid entry fees for all five National Walleye Tour tournaments in 2023.
Minnesota’s Kevin McQuoid is leading the pack for this year’s Angler of the Year award. The Minnesota native has landed 24 walleye with a combined weight of roughly 66 pounds through all three tournaments this summer. Hjelm has landed a total of 22 walleye with a combined weight of 58 pounds this season.
There are five South Dakota pro anglers – Ted Takasaki, Brian Bashore, Mike Zell, Justin Sieverding and Hjelm – who are among the top 40 in the Angler of the Year standings. The top 40 pro anglers and co-anglers will earn themselves a spot to compete in the Dunkirk, New York, championship tournament.
South Dakota anglers proved they know the Missouri River system well during the late April Chamberlain-Oacoma tournament, as five of the top 10 finishers on the pro side were South Dakota anglers. But the Mississippi River brought new challenges for South Dakotans who competed in the Wisconsin tournament. After two days of fishing the Mississippi River in Prairie du Chien, Hjelm and Huron’s Mike Zell were the only South Dakota pro anglers who finished among the top 10.
While Brookings pro angler Dustin Kjelden claimed the Chamberlain-Oacoma tournament title in late April by reeling in 31 pounds in the two-day event, he did not compete in the Wisconsin tournament in early June. Kjelden is in 87th place for Angler of the Year standings, putting him in a tough position to qualify for the championship tournament.
The next stop is in Marinette, Wisconsin, on July 14-15, where anglers will compete on the Menominee River. With one regular season tournament on deck until the championship round in late August, anglers will be looking to produce strong finishes to qualify for the Aug. 24-26 tournament finale in Dunkirk, New York.
The first stop of this year’s National Walleye Tour on the Detroit River in Michigan brought cold, wet weather that made it tough for anglers to haul in their limit of walleye. But Michigan pro angler Paul George managed to land a 40-pound bag of walleye after two days of fishing the Detroit River, claiming first place at the first stop of the tour in early April.
The top finisher at each tournament takes home roughly $100,000 in prize money and a new Ranger fishing boat. Second place finishers have taken home about $22,000 to $30,000 checks at each stop this year.
Each tournament features about 130 pro anglers and 130 co-anglers. Pro anglers are paired with a different co-angler during the two-day tournaments. Anglers are allowed to weigh a limit of five walleye per day, while only two can be over 20 inches.
After fishing on river systems throughout the regular season, anglers will compete on Lake Erie for the championship tournament.