April 25th and 25th, 2014 saw 104 boats take off for the Cabela's National Walleye Tour event out of Trenton, MI. Anglers could fish the Detroit River or head out to Lake Erie for this two-day tournament. Due to the high winds that were present the days before the tournament, as well as the winds speeds forecast for the tournament days themselves, the tournament director reserved the right to hold a "river only" tournament if a small craft advisory should have been called.
Cabela's Walleye Pro Ryan Jirik stated that this was a determining factor for him during practice. He knew that, to find big fish, he wanted to be out on Lake Erie. But, if a small craft advisory were to be called and the tournament became a "river only" tournament, he would need some spots on the Detroit River, too. He needed to be ready for anything.
Jirik stated that he knew the Master's Walleye Circuit tournament held two weeks prior saw several 40 to 50 pound bags, so he knew what to expect as far as weights for the Cabela's National Walleye Tour. For this tournament, Jirik was expecting weights over 40 lbs., too, and 37 – 40 lbs per day for himself and the areas he planned to fish. He put his prior experience with this fishery to good use. Because the fish are constantly migrating, it helped to know what areas where high percentage areas where the fish would move through. He knew, however, that preconceived notions can mess up an angler’s day, and it was more important to follow the migrations that were happening and what he was seeing on the water, than it was to rely on past information.
Jirik said that the bite during the tournament was not as good as it had been earlier in the week, but he still expected big weighs to come in from Lake Erie. On Day1, Jirik was trolling crankbaits suspended over about 30 feet of water. He knew it would be a matter of finding the right school of active big fish and sticking with them. He concentrated on fish that were filtering through a pinch point and had most of his weight by 11:00 a.m. on Day 1. He did get one upgrade off of a different spot later in the day to make up his Day 1 total of 38.36 pounds. The big winds during the week muddied up much of the water, creating uncooperative fish and hurting the bite all the way through the tournament.
On Day 2, Jirik did not change what he was doing on Day 1. He knew he was doing the right thing, he just needed to find the bigger fish. He felt he was in the right area and his technique had worked on Day 1. But, after 2 fish-less hours on Day 2, he realized he would have to try crawler harnesses. After making this adjustment he caught two 5-lb. fish fairly quickly. Knowing these fish were not the right size, though, he opted to leave for another area that he hoped would hold bigger fish.
On the first pass in the new area, he caught an 8-pounder and a 10-pounder. The third pass brought a 6-pounder into the boat. After two more passes and two small upgrades, it was time to head to weigh-in. Jirik felt as though he made the proper adjustments, but perhaps just a little too late in the day. Day 2 saw Jirik bring in a bag weighing34.73 pounds. This brought his 2-day total to 73.09 pounds, enough for 31st place.
Overall, Jirik was happy with her performance on the water. He stated he was initially a bit nervous before the tournament, not knowing if they would be held to fishing only the river, or if they would be able to take advantage of Lake Erie’s notoriously big Walleye. But he set his plan and made adjustments on the fly when he needed to, and making adjustments is a place where not all anglers excel.
He also stated that, although spring was late in coming this year for most of the Midwest, the fish really are not as far behind as one might think. He did say, however, that many people are not as comfortable fishing waters as cold as the ones they will be finding early this year. Jirik Recommends downsizing baits and searching for warmer water in shallow bays. He said that figuring out spawning locations may also be more critical this year than in years where waters have warmed earlier.
The next stop for the Cabela's National Walleye Tour will be June 27-28 on Lake Oahe in South Dakota, and Ryan Jirik will be there as well. Fans looking to follow Jirik's fishing career can do so on Facebook by searching for Ryan Jirik. He also said that he could not be where he is today without his sponsors, Cabela's, Ranger Boats, Evinrude, Offshore Tackle, Downriver Tackle, Elk River Custom Rods , Lucky Craft and Shoeder's Marine.