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By Randy Tyler
Over the last three years of fishing the PWT as an amateur, this year finishing in the top 10 was great, just an added plus to the great learning experience I have had since starting the tour. From my first PWT tournament at Lake Winnebago I knew I was hooked.
Over the past tournaments some of my most memorable times and learning experiences are as followsWhile fishing the Mississippi River in Dubuque, prefishing with Tommy Skarlis I learned to slip the front side of wing dams, using the kicker motor barely sliding across the front side of the dam while working a double rigged crank-bait.
Mark Martin showed me an added twist to this method while trolling the clam beds after getting many short strikes Mark rigged a Husky Jerk 40' behind another crankbait.
J.R Mazure showed me a technique I had been dying to learn which was handlining. These all proved to be great way's to catch fish in flood conditions.
While fishing Lake Erie this year I learned to navigate and handle a boat safely in some of the worst conditions from Kim (Chief) Papineau all the time while still being able to fish effectively. I learned that sometimes just a small blade change or program change can make a world of difference and that this is also a game of decisions.
While Ed Schoenecker and I were working an area off of Kelly's island, we went to a smaller blade changed our snap weight size and picked up some speed and were able to boat more fish than a lot of guys in the same area. But also when our fishing slowed Skarlis came in tied on some cranks and was able to boat a few more fish just by changing the pattern most people were running.
Larry Lambert showed me how to navigate in the foggiest of conditions during prefishing using the global mapping system
Bruce DeShano of Off Shore Tackle taught me how just a foot difference in snell length can be the difference in catching and not catching fish. While pre-fishing at Peck with my son Dave and one of his friends we were catching some fish but not enough, my speed was right, my locations were right, my program was right except for one thing I was using the same snell length I had used a Oahe. Bruce noticed this while we were talking back at the motel that night and told me to shorten up about 12". That night my son Dave, his friend and I tied up some shorter snells, the end result five times more fish in the same locations the next day.
All of the pro's that I have fished with have shown me techniques for planer boards, which I had never used until fishing the PWT. They have shown me how to use these not only on open water techniques but now in my own boat I can run a board right up in a shoreline area and cover four different areas of a break and follow some of the tightest contours. I have learned methods that allow me to locate and catch fish quickly. Such as to start off at different depths and different lures to cover a lot of area, determine what the fish want and then switch my program accordingly. I have learned to be a very versatile fisherman and not to fish memories but to fish fish!!!
The first time I used a planer board while on my own with my son Dave, I had just got the boards out and was letting him control the boat, and proceeded telling him a story of how some bigger fish could sink the board. Then all of a sudden plunk, I saw one of my boards disappear. I assumed he had moved into shallower water by accident, even though I had told him to watch the graph and stay at a certain depth. I asked him what had happened and he said we were still on track. To mine and his surprise I yanked on the rod and about 30 yards behind the boat the biggest northern we have ever seen on the Mississippi River, jumped out of the water took one look at him and I and said seeya!!! Dave then became a believer.
I have learned over the years the difference in bait can mean a lot. To purchase bait that matches the size and color fish are feeding on and to monitor the quality of the bait.At Leech Lake this year Bruce Sampson gave me a fine lesson in deep water jigging small little humps in the middle of Walker Bay. He taught me the importance of being able to read sonar properly and being able to identify tight hugging fish on humps.
The previous year at Leech Lake Jim Randash gave me a lesson on planning. Even though we had a tough day on the water, Jim had a plan. We must of tried 50 spots that day but in the way he had it planned and mapped out we never spent more than ten minutes going from spot to spot and maximized our fishing time.
Watching Mark Brumbaugh and others on the tour I have found out that it ain't over until the fat lady sings many tournaments have been won in the final minutes or last cast as just as many have been lost by waiting just one minute too long as evidenced by someof the thing's that happened at Fort Peck the last two years.
I've learned that being a professional fisherman is not an easy life, most of these guys work harder and longer than I ever have to do. They eat, drink and live fishing and even when they are not on the water they can be found using different techniques of finding fish. Some by way of inquiring with local fisherman and also bait shops. Others by scouting the water either with electronics or from the road above.
They have taught me the importance of how to read the water, the weather and even the animals and hatch to determine how to find walleyes.Over the years I have learned how to work and read GPS's and Global mapping systems. I have learned hook removal in heavy seas, and a painless way to do it. While landing a removing a large walleye from a Saginaw Bay tournament I got a treble embedded in my hand, I was ready to cut it off and continue fishing but my partner wrapped some 12 pound test around the turn of the hook, iced it up gave it a yank and we were back in business without any pain or large amount of blood. At times you read some of these things in books but until you actually see them in action and have them taught to you on the water things do not fall into place.I have learned boat rigging techniques from all the pro's as evidenced this year I bought Rich Mealys Ranger, fully rigged and tournament ready.
Through my experiences on the PWT , I know not only how to handle the boat properly but also maintain it.The tournament amateur nights have taught me many things. How to find and maintain sponsors. The importance of promoting a good public image. The marketing and promotional aspect of fishing as a pro. I have also learned that it is best to be humble in this sport as there are many good fisherman out there and as everyone they will have there good days and there bad days and yours will always come.
The learning experience is only part of the PWT. The friendships that I have gathered over the years are immeasurable. The tournaments have become an event for the whole family. Both my sons enjoy prefishing the tournaments and my oldest has been able to fish head to head with me while my youngest enjoys helping with the weight ins and also has been able to prefish with some pro's if not fishing with myself. Once Dave turns 18 he hopes to fish against myself, and his brother.
The pro's have even taught David how to tie spinner rigs, and he is always helping rig poles and boats back at the motels in the evenings while enjoying hanging out with the guys. He has learned how to maneuver my boat, read the global mapping system and graph and put the boat on the trailer. While my wife enjoys the sites of all the tournaments. The shopping and sight seeing has been great for her as most of the venues have been excellent locations. If only we could control the weather she would be in seventh heaven
My plans for the coming years are simple, continue fishing all the PWT
tournaments as an amateur enhancing my skill's every tournament and possibly
in six or seven years when I am ready to retire go pro. Fish the
MWC and Team USFA also as an additional learning experience and an option
of having total control of the fishing environment I get the most enjoyment
from being able to go to different areas of the country and with what I
have learned on the PWT catch fish under all conditions. I hope when
Dave becomes 18 that I will be able to go head to head against him and
his brother, as I know he will enjoy the experience as much as myself and
his brother do.As far as who has taught me the most it's hard to say except
that I would like to give special thanks to Rich Mealy ,Tommy Skarlis,
Sam Anderson, Mark Martin, Tony Puccio, Bruce DeShano. Gary Roach, Kim
Papineau, Rick LaCourse and J. R Mazure.My overall impression of the year
was great, very competitive and very professionally run, which the majority
of the credit has to go to Mark Dorn, Jim Kalkofen and Sherry Christenson
all of whom put a lot of time and effort into making the PWT the finest
Pro Am circuit in the country.
The end result of my PWT fishing has been able to find fish, catch fish
like these that were taken on the Mississippi River in Lacrosse.
Most people were jigging areas below the dam and pounding wing dams.
But I was able to scout out a deep water bay on the Black River and instead
of jigging, I tied on a sliding bottom bouncer, with a hand tied 24" spinner
snell got my speed and depth right and was able to haul in a fine limit
of walleyes with the two largest being 7.78 lbs. and the other 6.65 lbs.
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