As the saying goes, it’s better to be lucky than good. For Pat O’Brien of Eden, he was in the right place at the right time fishing in his first ever walleye tournament. Trolling off Barcelona with Dr. Jim Stoll of Eden and Nick Miller of Hamburg, O’Brien grabbed the fishing rod and reeled in a personal-best 12.44-pound walleye to win the $5,000 grand prize in the 33rd Annual Southtowns Walleye Association of WNY Tournament held June 10-18 on Lake Erie. It was that easy.
As luck would have it, O’Brien was filling in for someone else. He was able to fish two days with Stoll and Miller, the two guys that did most of the fishing set-up. “Doc and Nick deserve most of the credit,” O’Brien said. “They both work really hard at fishing and are very passionate about it. Everything went remarkably smooth with the catch. It took me less than 5 minutes to reel in, under Doc’s instructions.”
The trio was fishing in 55 feet of water using a homemade worm harness that Dr. Stoll prides himself in making. The crew was running two dipsy divers and two planer boards when the outside dipsy took a hit, set 120 feet back. The fish hit at high noon, perfect timing to run in and weigh the fish when the Barcelona Harbor weigh station opened at 1 p.m. They fished out of Doc’s 21-foot Starcraft.
In addition to the big check, the first-place guys earned a $750 check from Fish USA, $500 check from Curly’s Restaurant (and dinner for 4) and $500 from Brobeil Marine of Buffalo.
Second place was so close to first place that had the fish eaten one more emerald shiner, it may have made a difference. Jerry Driskill of Corfu was fishing with Mike Stephenson of Darien and Mark Korzaks of Corfu on June 12 in front of Barcelona. It was starting to get rough and they wondered how long they could stay out. They were trying something new – a 12-ounce Torpedo Diver to get a black and purple worm harness to the bottom in 47 feet of water. At 12:30 p.m., the 12.37-pound walleye hit. Seven minutes later it was in the boat and they were pulling rods to head in. Timing is everything. In addition to the $3,000 second-place prize, the “Net Boy” fishing team also earned a check for $1,000 from the Emerling car dealership in Springville. If that fish had only eaten one more shiner snack …
The third=place fish came as a result of some quick thinking. Michael Pinelli of Lakeview keeps a boat at Cattaraugus Creek. He was planning on fishing with Joe Barone and Robert Reese (both of Lackawanna) but it was very rough on the lake. They came up with a plan to fish with the wind and the waves toward Sturgeon Point and Buffalo. They left one vehicle at the Point, a second with the trailer at Safe Harbor.
“We could only run 8 rods because of the weather,” said Pinelli. “We were able to throw out some in-line boards with 4 colors of lead. On one of the rods we ran a Bay Rat Raspberry Lemonade stickbait and the big walleye hit it right in front of Sturgeon Point in 51 feet of water. It was the biggest walleye I’ve ever caught and it came at a good time. I’ve been fishing this contest for over 20 years and I’ve never won anything.” The fish weighed 11.92 pounds. Yes, timing is everything. And it was very good fishing in the rough weather as they caught nearly a dozen fish.
In addition to the $1,500 third-place prize, they won a $1,000 Garmin prize and a $400 Bay Rat prize plus some product. They also won nearly $1,500 for a unique Calcutta offering in the contest by catching it the first Sunday of the tournament (June 11).
In the special Youth Division, 9-year- old Mylana Wiese of Lancaster reeled in the fish of her young life while fishing with her father, Daryl. It was Father’s Day weekend and the father-daughter duo decided to go out and have a nice dinner – and then go fishing. They were trolling a trout-colored Reef Runner stickbait along Seneca Shoal in 43 feet of water. The lure was 80 feet behind an in-line planer board. The 10.26-pound walleye hit at 8:30 p.m. It was the largest walleye she’s ever caught so it’s great that she won a fish mount from Jim Block’s The Buck Stops Here Taxidermy shop in North Tonawanda to commemorate the feat. She also won a $150 Dick’s gift card, a rod and reel combo and a nice plaque.
Second-place Youth catch was reeled in by 9-year-old Wyatt Bartoo of Fredonia while fishing with his dad, Wes. They were fishing out of Northeast, Pa.,. in Wes’s 17-foot Smokercraft, targeting 36 feet of water. The elder Bartoo ties up his own worm harnesses and the style that tricked the 9.42- pound walleye to hit was a pink and purple Colorado Warrior bladed harness. It was fished off a 20 Jet Diver on a planer board and the walleye hit at 9:30 a.m. The youngster won a plaque, rod and reel, as well as a $100 Dick’s gift card.
Third-place Youth angler was 8-year-old Paulie Orsi of Youngstown, fishing with his dad, Jason and Uncle Philip Orsi of Youngstown. They were trolling in 45 feet of water in front of Barcelona using three colors of lead core line to get the Hot-N-Tot lure down to the fish. They caught it at 10 a.m., young Paulie’s biggest walleye ever. Prizes included a rod and reel, plaque and $70 Dick’s gift card.
A total of 830 fishermen competed in this year’s nine-day contest, with the Southtowns Walleye Tournament Committee handing out more than $34,000 in cash and thousands more in merchandise prizes at the awards ceremony held June 24 in Hamburg. For more information, visit www.southtownswalleye.org.