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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
Champions, the team of..." With those words by Executive Director Bernie
Barringer, there were high-fives all the way around as the team of
Oldakowski from Ham Lake, MN and Sean Westman from Andover, MN entered
winner's circle and took home the two fully rigged Skeeter Boats, powered
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
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
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
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
largest walleye during the three-day tournament, a 12.03 pounder. They
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
teams went away from the traditional Rainy River October "anchor and
presentation and instead pulled crankbaits. The winners, though, stuck
their pre-fishing plan and worked an aggressive jigging pattern because
Oldakowski noted, "We were fishing in a lot of current, so we had to
the jig hard, let it hit the bottom and then snap it again." They also
dead minnows tipped to their jigs and felt that Fireline was a major
for their success because it cut the water better in the current and
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
most of the teams, unless they were running at least 20 miles north
final day. According to Westman, "We hit heavy fog, and it took us
time to get there because we could barely see past the front of the
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.
figured it was over," said Tomlinson, "as we came back in to change
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,
said, 'Oh, well!' Then 10 minutes later we caught our 9.44 pounder."
fished their 3/8-ounce gold jig and shiner combinations until 11 a.m.,
then headed back toward the weigh-in site moving at 2.5 mph hand-lining
"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
deep Husky Jerks with lead core line. Ruehle noted, "We worked the
rolly humps and when the crankbait hit the humps, the walleyes would
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
this was an awesome tournament. This fishery is a world class walleye
fishery, and the reception the GNWC anglers received from the Lake
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
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
Swank from Pierre, SD in 23rd place; Chad Benson from Bemidji, MN and
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,
in 26th place; Rob Roush and Mike Heller from Des Moines, IA in 27th
Troy Loeckle from Floyd, IA and Wes Loeckle from Mason City, IA in
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
from Watertown, SD and Aaron Bjerke from Bradley, SD in 31st place;
Coolican from Mason City, IA and Steve Templeton from Clear Lake, IA
The Towtector Comeback Award of two Towtector boat
protectors valued at
over $500 went to the team advancing the most places from the first
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
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
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
the State Championships and now the National Championships to capture
excitement of the tournament action. We had them in the right spot
right time this weekend, and the crew got great footage. The highlights
these State Championships and the National Championships, along with
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
access the Gander Mountain GNWC website at www.walleyecup.com. At the
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
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.