Walleye Tournaments By Don Pyrah and Steve Harada
There are a large number of members of Walleyes Unlimited of Montana who regularly fish Walleye tournaments, with local chapters sponsoring the majority of events. Two chamber of commerce’s one in Townsend and the other at Glasgow, host the two tournaments that have the highest number of participants—the Sunrise tournament at Canyon Ferry, and the Governor’s Cup held on Fort Peck Reservoir.
There are two fishing tournament circuits which are a part of Walleye’s Unlimited of Montana. The Montana Walleye Circuit hosts tournaments on Fort Peck Reservoir (Crooked Creek on the west end) , Lake Elwell (Tiber), Fresno Reservoir, and Canyon Ferry. There are three tournaments held for the Fort Peck Series which includes Rock Creek, the Governor’s Cup, and the Hell Creek Tournament. Most of these events require all anglers to be members of WUM and it is mandated to qualify for any year end awards.
There are other tournament opportunities which are not a part of the two tournament circuits previously mentioned, but are equally important that are also sponsored by Walleyes Unlimited of Montana local chapters. Those tournaments are: John Arnold on Hauser, and Camp Make a Dream Walleye Tournament on Canyon Ferry and sponsored by the Upper Missouri River Chapter; Fishin’ For Fun on Tiber and sponsored by the Great Falls chapter; Fort Peck Women’s tournament sponsored by the Glasgow chapter and the Hell Creek Ladies Tournament sponsored by the Jordan Chapter—both held on Fort Peck Reservoir, the famous Tough Guy tournament at Hell Creek and sponsored by the Jordan Chapter, and the final tournament of the year in September the Yellowstone River Classic which is at miles City and sponsored by the Miles City Chapter.
Local Walleyes Unlimited chapters, businesses and communities provide people power and monetary sponsorships that make it possible to hold the tournaments. Anglers,through their entry fees provide the basis for much of the cash awards that occur at the larger tournaments. Many of the smaller tournaments provide prizes and create a different competitive environment.
Tournaments Promote warm water fishing, sportsmanship, and camaraderie amongst the participants. These three aspects are an important aspect of tournament fishing, and form some of the basis of our Mission Statement. All of the tournaments in the two circuits are catch and release, with the intent of minimal biological impacts to the fisheries. The walleyes are measured in weigh boats that are strategically placed on the particular body of water and then converted to weight via a length to weight conversion. The fish must be alive and released to be scored.
Within the Montana Walleye Circuit and the Fort Peck Series there are multiple divisions that represent a wide array of anglers: Adult Team, Mixed Couples, and Adult /Child. Anglers compete at individual tournaments and have the chance to compete for year end awards as well if they fish in at least two tournaments for the Fort Peck Series year end awards or three tournaments for the Montana Walleye Circuit Awards. The adult/child competition has been an excellent platform for getting youngsters involved in walleye fishing. Many of these youngsters are now adults and some of the most proficient anglers around and still fishing tournaments.
Angling of all types including tournament angling, boosts local economies and some of those bodies of water have significant positive influences on those communities. The anglers are charged a ten dollar per team conservation fee at most events and the conservation money is typically used for local projects. Thousands of dollars have gone to boat ramp improvement, Warriors on the Water, fish cleaning stations, boat dock projects, fish hatcheries and other worthy causes over the years. All tournaments in the circuit and series pay participants back a minimum of 80% of the entry fees and often have meals and other goodies provided to the anglers.
Promoting outdoor recreation opportunities regarding the various angling pursuits mentioned for all ages of anglers, is an important aspect of the Walleyes Unlimited of Montana membership. don’t forget, your membership in our organization helps us do work which benefits fisheries for all anglers.