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  • Updated: 10/14/04

  • Oldakowski, Westman Capture 2004 Gander Mountain Grand National Walleye Cup National Championship

    By Steve Weisman
    Gander Mountain GNWC Publicity Director
        "Your 2004 Gander Mountain Grand National Walleye Cup National
    Champions, the team of..." With those words by Executive Director Bernie
    Barringer, there were high-fives all the way around as the team of David
    Oldakowski from Ham Lake, MN and Sean Westman from Andover, MN entered the
    winner's circle and took home the two fully rigged Skeeter Boats, powered by
    75 hp Yamaha 4-strokes, MinnKota trolling motors and Lowrance electronics,
    along with $10,000 in cash.
        It was an incredible run for Oldakowski and Westman as they compiled a
    three-day combined weight of 64.97 pounds for their 18 fish as they worked
    their jigging magic each day.
        "What an incredible run these guys had. They were a model of
    consistency," said Gander Mountain GNWC executive director Bernie Barringer.
    The winners caught 21.93 pounds the first day, 22.71 pounds on the second
    day and 20.33 pounds to claim the title and the two gold cups.
        Second place and a check for $5,000 went to the team of Robert Blosser
    from Lodi, WI and Gary Tomlinson from Poynette, WI with a three-day weight
    of 61.51 pounds.
        Third place and a check for $3,000 went to the team of Jeremy Ruehle
    from Ruthven, IA and Lori Benschoter from Bemidji, MN with a three
    day-weight of 60.82 pounds.
        Brian Kemp from Des Moines, IA and George Schaefers from Wadena, IA won
    the Berkley Big Fish Award of $400 in Berkley product for catching the
    largest walleye during the three-day tournament, a 12.03 pounder. They also
    collected $574 for catching the largest walleye for Day III.
        However, it was far from easy for the champions as 18 teams brought in
    three-day weights of at least 50 pounds. It was also a tournament where some
    teams went away from the traditional Rainy River October "anchor and jig"
    presentation and instead pulled crankbaits. The winners, though, stuck to
    their pre-fishing plan and worked an aggressive jigging pattern because as
    Oldakowski noted, "We were fishing in a lot of current, so we had to work
    the jig hard, let it hit the bottom and then snap it again." They also used
    dead minnows tipped to their jigs and felt that Fireline was a major reason
    for their success because it cut the water better in the current and made it
    easier for them to detect the bites.
        Oldakowski and Westman also made a long 50-mile run up the Rainy River
    each day. Weather, although it changed each day, was not a major factor for
    most of the teams, unless they were running at least 20 miles north on the
    final day. According to Westman, "We hit heavy fog, and it took us a long
    time to get there because we could barely see past the front of the boat."
        Blosser and Tomlinson ran 20 miles north but ran into real trouble on
    Saturday when they lost the use of the propeller on their main motor. "We
    figured it was over," said Tomlinson, "as we came back in to change the
    propeller. We lost over an hour and a half of fishing time."
        However, their troubles weren't over as they neared their fishing spot
    and ran out of oil. Blosser said, "We used the kicker to get there, and
    said, 'Oh, well!' Then 10 minutes later we caught our 9.44 pounder." They
    fished their 3/8-ounce gold jig and shiner combinations until 11 a.m., and
    then headed back toward the weigh-in site moving at 2.5 mph hand-lining
    their jigs. 
        "We picked up three more on the way in," added Blosser. "Then we kicked
    it in at 5.8 mph and made it back with three minutes to spare!"
        Ruehle and Benschoter had none of those problems. They headed up river
    each day to the Pine Wood area and worked 11-13 foot depths, pulling down
    deep Husky Jerks with lead core line. Ruehle noted, "We worked the little
    rolly humps and when the crankbait hit the humps, the walleyes would come up
    and smack the bait."
        "These teams made things happen and made adjustments along the way. They
    were the perfect match for this great fishery," added Barringer. "You know,
    this was an awesome tournament. This fishery is a world class walleye
    fishery, and the reception the GNWC anglers received from the Lake of the
    Woods Board of Tourism, all of the local businesses and residents was
    tremendous. I also want to thank the volunteers who helped make the
    weigh-ins go so smoothly. I know for a fact that we will be back in the
         Several other special awards were presented at Saturday's weigh-in.
         The "Yo So Close" award of a Yo Net folding net valued at $80 went to
    the teams that placed just out of the money. They include Darold and Flow
    Swank from Pierre, SD in 23rd place; Chad Benson from Bemidji, MN and Joe
    Edlund from Bemidji, MN in 24th place; and Mike and Tom Defibaugh from
    Bellefountaine, OH in 25th place.
        The VIB"E" Lure award of two six-piece lure sets valued at $40. They
    went to Daron Wheelhouse from Pierre, SD and Jack Johnson from Brandon, SD
    in 26th place; Rob Roush and Mike Heller from Des Moines, IA in 27th place;
    Troy Loeckle from Floyd, IA and Wes Loeckle from Mason City, IA in 28th
    place; Austin Earley and Jerrud Kruse from Brookings, SD in 29th place;
    Randy Mumm and Jim Juhlin from Clear Lake, IA in 30th place; Shane Spooner
    from Watertown, SD and Aaron Bjerke from Bradley, SD in 31st place; and Jon
    Coolican from Mason City, IA and Steve Templeton from Clear Lake, IA in 32nd
        The Towtector Comeback Award of two Towtector boat protectors valued at
    over $500 went to the team advancing the most places from the first day to
    the third day. This award went Bryan Tieppo from Waterford MI and Jerry
    Atherton from Blaine, MN who advanced from 57th place on Day I to 12th place
    on Day III.    The winner of the Gander Mountain "Need More Stuff" drawing
    of $200 for a Gander Mountain Shopping Spree went to Mark Joslyn from Hoxie,
    KS and Blake Arnsberger from Colby, KS.
        The Walleye Wisdom camera crew was also on hand to film footage of the
    National Championship. "The Walleye Wisdom camera crew has been to all of
    the State Championships and now the National Championships to capture the
    excitement of the tournament action. We had them in the right spot at the
    right time this weekend, and the crew got great footage. The highlights of
    these State Championships and the National Championships, along with some
    great walleye fishing tips will appear on our 13-week Walleye Wisdom
    television program," noted Barringer.
        Those interested in checking out the standings, reading the releases
    about any of the eight regions or simply learning more about the circuit can
    access the Gander Mountain GNWC website at www.walleyecup.com. At the same
    time, the results for all three days can be found on the Walleye Central
    Live Leader Board under the GNWC-Lake of the Woods.
        Title Sponsor for the GNWC is Gander Mountain. Other major national
    sponsors include Skeeter Boats, Yamaha Outboards, the Sportsman Channel,
    Berkley, Aqua Innovations, YoNet Folding Nets by AMFYOYO, VIB"E" Lure
    Company, TowTector Shield and UpNorthOutdoors.com.

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