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Village to host walleye tourney Saturday and Sunday

Uniquely situated where the Niagara River meets Lake Ontario, the village will host its first professional walleye tournament this weekend, drawing professional teams from across the northeast and Canada.

On Saturday and Sunday, the Cabela's Masters Walleye Circuit will use Youngstown as one of three Eastern Division sites as a qualifier leading up to its world championship, planned for October in Dundee, Mich.

About 30 professional, two-man teams are expected to compete for more than $15,000 in prizes for the top overall, two-day weight.

And they will bring national attention to this village of 2,000 residents whose population swells in summer months as it hosts large historical, boating and soccer events.

"This is a great opportunity to promote the Youngstown business community and our internationally renowned Niagara River and Lake Ontario rich fishing resource," Mayor Neil C. Riordan said.

"We're excited to have them here for one of their qualifiers and we hope they have a good time, catch fish and want to come back," said Bill Hilts Jr., outdoor sports specialist with the Niagara Tourism and Convention Corp.

While the competition doesn't begin until Saturday, fishermen and accompanying circuit members started to arrive in the village early to test-fish the waters -- and help boost the local economy.

"I think this is great," said Marc Niccola, who co-owns the Main Street Gas and Grille. "We'll be busy. We'll be selling bait, as well as gas, and the restaurant will be busy, too. We'll be busy every day, all day."

The boats will leave Fort Niagara State Park at 7 each morning and must return by 3 p.m.; weigh-ins will follow on a stage set up at Main and Hinman streets.

A free "Youth and Family Fishing Clinic" is planned following the final weigh-in Saturday at the main staging area.

"Anytime someone comes into your town to showcase your fishing is great, and Cabela's is top of the line," said Paul Jackson, president of the Niagara River Anglers Association and volunteer coordinator for the event.

"This will open the eyes of the public that we have a quality walleye fishery here and that's something our group's been working on for years to establish," Jackson said. "Hopefully, the weather will cooperate and they'll do well."


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