Fishing & Boating News

Hjelm, Kuchenberg Win Cabela's National Walleye Tour Event on Lake Sakakawea

by: Greg Duncan, Blue Heron Communications

First-place pro-angler Duane Hjelm (right) and first-place co-angler Steve Kuchenberg (left) display their respective trophies at the Cabela's National Walleye Tour event at Garrison, S.D., on May 12.
Photo by courtesy Cabela's NWT
(May 17, 2017 - NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla.) Pro-angler Duane Hjelm, of Ft. Pierre, South Dakota, brought in a two-day total of 45.41 pounds of walleye to win the pro-angler category of the Cabela's National Walleye Tour (NWT) event on Lake Sakakawea on May 12. The angler won $15,000 and, by participating in the Ranger and Evinrude contingency programs, was upgraded to a new fully rigged Ranger 620 FS with an 250 horsepower Evinrude G2 outboard for a total of $86,555 in winnings.
 
On day one, Hjelm ran to White Earth and trolled up six solid walleyes. With two spots left to play with, he moved 15 miles south to the New Town area to sample a shallow hump. When he arrived, he promised himself he wasn't going to keep anything under four pounds. To his surprise, the next two walleyes were his biggest and anchored his 23.51-pound day-one weight and gave him the lead going into the final day.
 
Day two brought about a series of decisions that would make or break Hjelm's chances of wining. The angler opted to make the long run back to his trolling waters at White Earth rather than begin at his jigging spot.
 
"My gut told me to go White Earth, so that's exactly what I did," said Hjelm. "There were other people fishing the area and I wanted to be there first. I wanted to make a pass on it before anyone else touched it."
 
The decision paid off early with a quick hit from a large female that measured 32 inches and weighed more than 10 pounds. The action wasn't over as Hjelm had three walleyes in the boat before the TV crew reached him. After three full passes, he had the 32, three 21-inchers, a 19-incher and an 18-incher in his Ranger livewell.
 
With his jig spot in mind, Hjelm knew it was time to get gas. At 10:30, he reached his destination in White Earth Bay only to discover the station was out of fuel. As he mulled his options, the wind started picking up. Rather than wait, Hjelm ran 20 miles further upstream and refueled at Tobacco Gardens.  
 
As the wind continued to increase, Hjelm opted to forego his jigging location and head back to the weigh-in early.
 
"I got in at 1:30 p.m., but I didn't have anything going in the Garrison area," said Hjelm. "Instead of risking a dead-fish penalty, I weighed in early. Those hours of waiting were just agonizing."
 
The angler weighed 21.90 pounds for a two-day total of 45.11 pounds. The angler trolled Berkley Flicker Shads and Flicker Minnows. The angler also jigged with ¼-inch Berkley Gulp Minnows for two of his weigh fish.
 
"This is life changing," said Hjelm. "The money is huge for one thing as my girlfriend and I are getting ready to build a house. But, that money is going to come and go. The memories I've made out here with my friends and co-anglers...and that trophy is going to be talked about forever. Right when you walk in the house, that baby is going to be sitting right there."
 
Jason Votava (second), Gene Merck (third), Brian Bashore (fourth), Ted Takasaki (fifth), Karl Wenckebach (sixth), Craig Koldon (seventh), Mike Gofron (eighth), Joe Okada (ninth), and Chris Gilman (tenth) round out the top 10 pro-anglers.
 
Steve Kuchenberg, of Abrams, Wisconsin, took first place in the co-angler category with 45.29 pounds to win $6,000. Kuchenberg fished with Chris Johnson on day one and Karl Wenckebach on day two.
 
"This was my fifth or sixth event and I've been fortunate to draw some awesome anglers," said Kuchenberg. "From my perspective, I got some cash and that pays for the rest of my year. We've got Prairie du Chien coming up and then we end the season on my home waters of Green Bay."
 
William Gaines (second), Chad Larson (third), Cody Northrop (fourth), Scott McDonald (fifth), Mark Alexander (sixth), Jeremy Brenner (seventh), Doug Vanderberg (eighth), Darrell Martin (ninth) and Bernard Fink (tenth) round out the top-10 co-anglers.
 
The next stop for the Cabela's National Walleye Tour is set for June 15-16 on the Mississippi River at Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin.
 
Anglers that have fished all three regular-season events, in addition to the top points leaders, will qualify for the three-day, entry-fee championship. Two fully rigged Ranger boats are guaranteed for the championship event. The first-place finisher in the pro division will take home a new Ranger 619FS Fisherman, plus $15,000 cash for a total prize value of $79,000. In addition, the second-place pro receives a new Ranger 1880 Angler valued at $46,000. Both figures have the opportunity to go even higher with sponsor contingency. New for 2017 - the first-place Co-Angler at the NWT championship event will win a new Ranger 1682 with 115 horsepower Evinrude outboard, valued at $26,500.
 
For more details, anglers are encouraged to call 612-424-0708 or check out the website at www.nationalwalleyetour.com. From here, site visitors can learn more about the NWT, view the TV schedule and learn more about what's in store for 2017.

National Walleye Tour events are made possible through the sponsorship and continued support of these well-respected brands: Cabela's, Ranger Boats, Lucas Oil, Evinrude, RAM, Mercury, Minn Kota, Triton Boats, Power-Pole, Evinrude, Arctic Ice, Stratos Boats, Lowrance, MotorGiude, Protect the Harvest, Raymarine, Valley Fashions, T-H Marine, Atlas, G-Juice, Powertex Group.  
 
2017 NWT scheduled events:
June 15-16 - Mississippi River (Prairie du Chien, Wis.)

Championship
Aug. 16-18 - Green Bay (Marinette, Wis.)

About Cabela's National Walleye Tour
 
Cabela's National Walleye Tour events are made possible through the sponsorship and continued support of these well-respected brands: Cabela's, Ranger Boats, Lucas Oil, Evinrude, RAM, Mercury, Motor Guide, Jimmy John's, Minn Kota, Triton Boats, Power-Pole, Amphibia, Arctic Ice, Stratos Boats, Lowrance, Protect the Harvest, BoatU.S., General Tire, SuperClean, Raymarine, Valley Fashions, T-H Marine, Atlas, G-Juice, Powertex Group.