MONTANA CIRCUIT

2024 Kickoff!

Important:  ALL participants are required to INSPECT, CLEAN, and DRY your boats, trailers, and equipment prior to launching and pre-fishing for each event and also after the contest to prevent the transportation and introduction of aquatic nuisance species.  This also includes draining your livewells and bilge prior to leaving the body of water.  This is a significant issue and problem even in Montana.

Purpose: To promote interest in walleye fishing within the state of Montana and generate membership for the local Walleyes Unlimited Chapters across the state.

1. ELIGIBILITY: Any applicant under the age of 18 must be accompanied by an adult partner (18 or over). All applicants must also be members of Walleyes Unlimited of Montana. Tournament participants found not to be Walleyes Unlimited of Montana members will forfeit any cash or merchandise prizes earned. Current membership status through the date of the tournament must be established at the time of application for the tournament.  Each Tournament Committee reserves the right to refuse or reject an entry. Boats of all tournament anglers must be covered by liability insurance.   

2. ENTRY FEES: The entry fees are determined by each individual tournament on a per team basis.  Application and payment of entry fee into any particular tournament must be received at least 14 days prior to the tournament.   

3. RELEASE OF LIABILITY: By signing the tournament entry form, all participants agree to the following Release of Liability: “We, in consideration of being permitted to participate in the Montana Walleye Circuit, do for ourselves, our heirs, executors, administratorsand assigns, hereby release and forever discharge the Montana Walleye Circuit, the Montana Walleye Circuit Tournament Committee,Tournament Directors, the Montana Walleyes Unlimited Board of Directors and any and all sponsoring companies, entities and individuals,their heirs, successors, administrators and assigns, from any and every claim, demand, action or right of action, of whatever kind ornature, either in low or in equity, arising from or by reason of any bodily injury or personal injuries, known or unknown, death or propertydamage resulting or to result from any accident which may occur as a result of your participation in the Montana Walleye Circuit activitiesor any activities in connection with the Montana Walleye Circuit, whether by negligence or otherwise. We further release all officials,staff, participating sponsor companies and agencies from any claim whatsoever on account of first aid treatment or service renderedduring my participation in the Montana Walleye Circuit.” This release contains the entire agreement between the parties hereto and theterms of this release are contractual and not a mere recital.

4. OFF THE WATER TIME AND RULES MEETING: At least one member of each team is required to attend the tournament rules meeting on the evening prior to the beginning of the tournament. This meeting will be held at a time and location determined by the individual tournament directors. In all Montana Walleyes Unlimited tournaments contestants may not enter or be on tournament waters after the start time of the mandatory rules meeting, except during competition hours until the conclusion of the tournament other than to immediately launch or load the boat at the designated tournament launch ramp facilities (see boat navigation exception below).  In some Montana Walleye Unlimited circuit tournaments, the “off the water” time may be designated earlier than immediately prior to the start of the rules meeting by the tournament officials. It is the responsibility of the contestant to be aware of the correct off the water time for each tournament.

BOAT NAVIGATION EXCEPTION

Contestants may navigate or transport their boats across tournament waters before or after a tournament fishing day only when:  1. They notify the tournament director at rules meeting, tournament director will then notify circuit director. 2. Must be at start location 30 minutes before official start to be checked in. 3.  Contestants will be inspected, which will include a review of a valid GPS plot trail. If plot trail is not there, or shows the boat veering towards points or the shoreline, contestants will be disqualified from tournament. Contestants navigating across tournament waters must travel the most direct route possible, away from shorelines and maintain a steady on plane speed. Boating down and back in one flight would be the preferred method.

Tournament official boats may be used to monitor navigation over tournament waters. Any abuse of above navigation exception will result in immediate disqualification.

5. GENERAL: For the purpose of these rules, “Walleyes” refers to species of the genus Sander Vitreus (excluding Sauger (Stizostedion Canadense) and Saugeye (hybrid walleye/sauger). Unless otherwise declared at the rules meeting only the species walleye will count towards an angler’s score in Montana Walleye Circuit tournaments.

6. REGULATIONS: Each entrant must possess a valid Montana fishing license. All contestants must observe the rules and regulations of the U.S. Coast Guard and the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks.

7. TEAMS: Contestants must enter as a two-person team. Any change in team composition must be approved by tournament officials and a new application must be signed.  With approval of tournament officials, an angler may fish without his partner if illness or personal tragedy makes it impossible for that partner to be in the boat for all or part of a tournament.  With approval of tournament officials, a two-person team may fish in the same boat with a chaperone or guest(s). Chaperones or guests cannot participate in the act of fishing.  Fishing defined in this rule means actively setting or retrieving lines and netting (activities within the hull are allowed, outside of the hull are not).  Chaperones and guests will adhere to all USCG, state and circuit rules including each vessel’s capacity limits as defined on the USCG rating plate along with floatation wear requirements for anglers/guests under 12.  Violations committed by chaperones or guests will result in team disqualification.

8. TOURNAMENT HEADQUARTERS: Tournament headquarters are determined by each individual tournament director, and all entries are to be advised of the location prior to the tournament.

9.  TOURNAMENT FISHING AREA:

The fishing area of each tournament will be declared and printed on the tournament applications. If the fishing area is determined to be less than the entire body of water that the event is to be held on then those tournament boundaries may not be expanded at a later date to ensure that all anglers local and non-local have an equal opportunity to scout and prepare their tournament plan within the final tournament fishing area boundaries before the event.

10. FINAL TOURNAMENT FISHING AREA BOUNDRIES:

In the event of unsafe conditions or an unforeseen event the tournament director may reduce but not expand the final tournament boundaries from the pre announced Tournament Fishing area. The final tournament boundaries will be announced and described in detail at the mandatory rules meeting. Contestants may not leave their boat at any time during the tournament without specific permission of tournament officials, including weigh boat personnel, except in the event of lightning or wind that poses a significant threat to personal safety. Contestants will be allowed (with specific permission from tournament officials) to return to tournament headquarters for fuel, personal reasons, or to retrieve, repair or replace equipment or tackle. Contestants may not operate their boat outside of the designated tournament boundaries during tournament hours.

11. TOURNAMENT HOURS AND STARTING PROCEDURES: Tournament hours, including starting times and check-in times, will be established by tournament directors of each event for each tournament. Tournament hours as well as starting hours and flight times, will be announced at the mandatory rules meeting.  In all Montana Walleye Circuit tournaments teams may be assigned an entry number when they register for the tournament, however tournament starting order will be determined buy a random drawing of a single boat number prior to the rules meeting. This randomly drawn boat number will be the first boat out on day one and the last boat out on day two. The starting order will proceed on day one with the next highest boat number going out second and so forth until all boats have been released. The order will be reversed on the second day of competition. The number of flights and starting and return times for each flight and check-in procedures will be established by each tournament director and announced at the mandatory rules meeting.

For safety reasons, the Montana Walleye Circuit strongly suggests that smaller boats either pull over at the start or request to be placed at the end of the starting line. All starts will occur in single file, and any boats arriving late for their position in the starting line, will be required to go to the end of the starting line. Failure to do so may result in being declared ineligible for any tournament prizes or awards. Each tournament director will also indicate a starting point, finishing point and check-in procedures and will announce them during the rules meeting. Boats not crossing the finish point by the designated time, WILL FORFEIT THEIR WEIGHT FOR THAT DAY.

12. FOUL WEATHER: The tournament officials reserve the right to postpone or cancel daily competition; if in the opinion of the officials, weather conditions exist that pose a threat to the safety of teams and tournament personnel.  This includes conditions that meet the criteria for a small craft advisory, generally accepted as sustained winds 25 MPH or greater.  Furthermore, the Tournament Director may declare a foul weather situation due to deteriorating weather conditions, after competition has already begun on any day of the tournament. In the event that a foul weather situation is declared, weigh boats and other tournaments personnel may be recalled to tournament headquarters and participants must use their own judgment concerning whether to seek safety or continue fishing. In the event that a foul weather rule has been called by the Tournament Director, tournament participants are authorized to seek shelter on shore if required. Unless team members are personally notified by a tournament official, it should be assumed that the tournament hours have not changed. Such notification may come via visits from tournament personnel or through emergency channel 16 on marine radios. Participants will be responsible for reaching the check-in point by the required time in a SAFE manner. At no time will any team be allowed to give their score card to any other participant to be turned in for official scoring. In the spirit of the tournament and good sportsmanship, individual responsibility and good judgment are essential to ensure your own personal safety under any and all circumstances.

13. INSPECTIONS: Tournament anglers are expected to arrive at all tournaments with clean boats and must submit their boats for inspection by representatives of the Montana Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks, if asked to do so. Each boat will be inspected by tournament officials each day prior to the start of tournament fishing. No boat may have walleye on board prior to the start of the tournament. All boats in the tournament must display identifying marks and/or numbers as provided by tournament officials. Boats, tackle and equipment may be inspected at any time before, during and/or after the tournament.

14: TACKLE: Artificial and live bait are allowed, but each contestant must conform to the rules of the Department of Fish, Wildlife and Parks concerning number of lines permitted, allowable bait and methods of taking fish on each particular body of water. Spare rods and equipment may be carried in the boat.

15. BOAT OPERATION: Each contestant is required to wear a U.S. Coast Guard approved Personal Flotation Device when the boat is on plane. All teams must depart by boat from the starting area under the direction of tournament officials. All participants must abide by all local and state navigation and boating laws and Rules of the Road. While on plane boats must maintain a minimum operating distance of 75 feet with any other vessels.  The same distance is generally considered acceptable for off-plane operation and while fishing but this distance should ultimately be determined between anglers.  The expectation is that all anglers respectfully communicate with one another to resolve potential conflicts and set boundaries.   Anglers will not prevent other contestants from accessing fishable waters or assume that they own stretches or areas of water.  Teams are to approach all weigh boats in a careful and prudent manner. If a participating team approaches a weigh boat in any sort of reckless manner, the weigh boat may refuse to measure that team’s fish. The team will then have to find another weigh boat and try to get their fish measured. Repeat offenders can be disqualified by the tournament director.  On-plane violations will be enforced as written above.  Off-plane operations will be enforced IAW rule 23.  NON-SPORTSMANLIKE CONDUCT, TAIL PIPING, RECKLESS AND CARELESS BOAT HANDLING IS GROUNDS FOR DISQUALIFICATION.

16. FISHING: The tournaments will be operated under a “catch and release” format. Teams may catch and measure at a measuring boat as many walleye as they choose. However, only the largest five (5) walleye per team, per day, will count toward the teams overall score. WALLEYE MUST BE a MINIMUM OF 14 INCHES IN LENGTH to be counted. The length of a fish that breaks a ¼ inch mark will be scored at the next 1/4 inch mark. This does not stand for fish measured at 13 3/4 inches. The length of the fish must break the 14 inch mark to be scored a legal fish. In reality, there will be no 14 inch fish shown on weigh cards. The smallest recorded weight will be 14 1/4.  Dead or un-releasable walleye must be recorded and tagged at a measuring boat and they will count toward the team’s five walleye limit with a score of zero weight. Any team caught releasing dead fish or fish that will not survive will be immediately disqualified. All measuring records are to be verified by tournament officials and a team member(TRADITIONAL ONLY). During the two days of tournament competition, each contestant may keep one “trophy” walleye (30) inches or over in length(TRADITIONAL ONLY). Trophy fish must be tagged as such by weigh boat personnel and they will count towards the five (5) walleye in the boat limit. Trophy walleye can be counted as part of the team’s daily score, but only if the fish is otherwise releasable. This is a catch and release tournament meaning all fish caught OF ALL SPECIES are to be released each day and are not to be kept during the tournament except as noted above.

17. WEIGHING FISH:

 – (TRADITIONAL) WEIGH BOATS/STATIONS – Official measuring boats/stations will be positioned at various places around the lake. Teams will not be allowed more than five (5) walleye onboard in the livewell(s)at any time. Teams discovered to have more than five (5) walleye in their livewell(s)at one time will be immediately disqualified from the tournament FOR THAT DAY; however, culling is allowed in Montana Walleyes Unlimited tournaments and one additional (6th) fish may be caught and brought on board but must be immediately released or exchanged with another fish currently on board that is releasable.  It is the responsibility of the weigh boat/weigh station personnel to not only measure and record all fish accurately, but also to determine if fish presented to the weigh boats are the correct species and are in a releasable condition. In order to do this, all tags and clips must be removed to allow personnel the ability to assess the condition of the fish.  As a general rule, a fish is considered releasable if it actively responds to stimulus and rights itself/swims in the livewell when handled.  Fish handled by a tournament official to be scored are deemed releasable at that point and will be subsequently scored if they meet the criteria outlined in rules 5 and 16 even if the fish becomes non-releasable in the process.    It is the responsibility of weigh boat personnel to properly determine if fish are releasable, ALL WEIGH BOAT/WEIGH STATION PERSONNEL DECISIONS ARE FINAL. As part of Walleyes Unlimited of Montana’s commitment to the preservation of habitat and management of fish and wildlife all tournament directors are required to educate their weigh boat personnel on proper fish handling, measuring, species identification and evaluation techniques.

 – (ALTERNATE) AUTONOMOUS TEAM MEASURING – This format requires each team to measure and record their own fish.  Each team is required to bring their own digital camera capable of supporting an SD card that will be given to the tournament officials for scoring verification at the end of each day of competition.  You must supply your own SD card as well and it will be returned to you after scoring concludes.    

PROCESS: While fish are being scored, active fishing cannot take place, meaning setting rods or reeling in fish.  In the instance when two or more fish are caught at the same time (second fish hooked while reeling in the first), the process requires that one fish be measured, photographed, and released as quickly as possible before the next fish can be processed. The intent of this scoring format is to release fish back into the body of water as soon as possible and therefore fish cannot be placed or stored in the livewell.  The only permissible use of a livewell is to keep bait alive.  All fish must be released when using this scoring format!

PHOTO PICTURES: Teams are required to use the measuring boards provided to them. The rulers will be given to team each morning when they are inspected by tournament officials.   While the fish is being held on the ruler, a “SCORING” photo must be taken of the fish which clearly shows the overall length of the fish.  All fish are to be measured with the left side of the fish facing up (belly towards the camera) on the ruler provided being placed flat. The full fish must be visible in the entire picture, meaning close enough to see the jaw on the bump board and a clear tail measurement on the ruler.  The fish’s jaw can be either open or closed and contestants are may pinch the tail when taking their measurements. More than one attempt to get a valid scoring photo is allowed. The fish must then be immediately released back into the water (promotion pics encouraged and allowed for MWC use).  In the event that either the ruler, scorecard or SD card are lost rule #20 “Loss of Weigh Cards” applies.  Failure to return the ruler will result in a $100 fine. 

SUBMITTING PHOTOS: A MAXIMUM of 5 “scoring” individual fish photos can be on each teams SD card, each of different fish can be submitted per team per day. A team can take multiple pictures of fish but must delete all pictures except the ones the team would like to submit for measuring at the end of the day. It is the responsibility of each team to carefully review all pictures and ensure no duplicates are submitted.  Additionally, teams must ensure their score cards measurements match the fish submitted on the SD card and line through fish that aren’t submitted for scoring.

*Any duplication of fish will automatically receive a weight of zero and the team may be disqualified at the discretion of the board. * ABSOLUTELY no photo/video editing devices are allowed on any boat at any time. All boards and SD cards are to be returned immediately after coming off of the water.  The SD card will be returned to the team each evening at the awards ceremony.  A new ruler will be issued the next day.

SCORING PHOTOS: The circuit or tournament director will form a scoring committee to review scoring photos and scorecards at the end of each day.  The scoring committee will judge the photos to certify the scorecards. Scoring validation includes;

1. The photograph must be taken of the left side of the fish only belly towards the camera.

2. The HEAD and TAIL of the fish must be included and overall length shown clearly

3. No duplicate fish or fish that have been mangled, mashed, mauled or altered in any way.

4. The photo hasn’t been altered.

5. The ruler hasn’t been altered.

A photo that does not show the list of qualifications above WILL NOT BE SCORED. In the event a photo designates a fish to be scored is judged by the committee to be unscorable, a replacement fish will not be allowed. Any photo that fails to meet the above criteria may result in team disqualification for the day or the event.  Decisions made by the committee are final.

18. SCORING AND PRIZES: Daily scores will be the total measurement converted to weight of up to five (5) walleyes which will be selected by the team from all of the fish measured and recorded for that team for that day. Prizes will be awarded based on team scores as determined by the tournament director. In the event that one of the fishing days is cancelled, prizes will be awarded on the standings from one day of fishing. In rare cases under the alternate scoring format, prizes may be announced/awarded unofficially and the results certified as official at a later date. A minimum of eighty percent of the entry fees, excluding conservation fee and circuit fees, will be paid out in prizes.

19. CHECK-IN, LATE PENALTIES: For safety reasons all boats must check in each day at a location specified by tournament officials, regardless of whether the team has caught and weighed fish or not. The team number and time of arrival will be recorded at the check-in station. Late arrivals WILL BE DISQUALIFIED for that day and will be ineligible from any prizes. In the event of a backlog of boats at the check-in station, boats that have arrived prior to the deadline and are waiting in line will not be penalized.

20. REPORTING REQUIREMENTS: Records of fish caught (weigh cards) must be turned in at the point designated by the tournament officials.  Under the Alternative Scoring Format, ONLY the SD card is required to be turned in to tournament official.  Regardless of format,  the final time to turn in either your card (TRADITIONAL) OR SD CARD (AUTONOMOUS) will be printed on the flight sheet that will be in the angler bag.   

Loss of weigh cards (TRADTIONAL ONLY)– weigh cards are issued each morning at the required boat inspections.  Any team losing their weigh card during the day will be required to be inspected again with no fish in the livewell/s and will be given a new weigh card and start over.  All previously measured fish on the lost card are forfeited and the team will start over for the day.  Each tournament will designate where a replacement card may be obtained.  If a card is handed to a weigh boat official and is lost, this rule will not apply and the weigh boat will replace the card. IN THE AUTONOMOUS scoring format, the only requirement is to turn in the SD card for scoring by tournament officials.  The anglers may choose to keep their weigh card as the tournament officials will determine the length for each fish. 

21. ALCOHOL: No alcoholic beverages will be allowed in contestants boats during hours of competition.

22. COMMUNICATIONS: Anglers are reminded that these tournaments are 2-person team events and collusion between teams will not be condoned.  Inappropriate communications at any time after the rules meeting places the rest of the field at a competitive disadvantage and is contrary to the purpose and intent of the MWC.

DURING TOURNAMENT HOURS – Marine radios are to be used only in emergency situations and for conducting tournament business. Unlawful use may constitute grounds for disqualification. Cellular phones, CB or two way radios may not be used to relay tournament fishing information in any fashion but can be used for emergency transmissions only during tournament hours.

POST RULES MEETING AFTER TOURNAMENT HOURS – The understanding amongst competitors is that fishermen gathered together will discuss fishing “in general”.  Discussions of this nature transpire naturally, often in open forums and are similar to those that happen on a daily basis.  These aren’t an issue of concern.  Collaborative communications on the other hand are.  They are loosely defined as those that are intended for a specific audience to provide themselves with a competitive advantage over the rest of the field.  Collaboration can occur between teams or between a team and non-competing anglers closely tied to the competitors.  MWC directors value competitive balance and will judge potential infractions based on the intent behind the shared information and the teams actions relating to it IAW with the Spirit of the Rule. 

23. SPIRIT OF THE RULE: It is the intention of Montana Walleye Circuit is to promote good sportsmanship and fair play in all tournament events. Unsportsmanlike conduct and cheating will not be tolerated and will result in disqualification. Any angler found cheating will be immediately disqualified from that particular tournament, and will become subject to disqualification from all Montana Walleye Circuit events for a time period to be determined by the Montana Walleye Circuit Board of Directors. Interpretation of tournament rules shall be left as the exclusive responsibility of the tournament officials and all decisions will be final.

24. PROTEST POLICY: Only contestants and circuit officials have the right to contest the actions of another team or contestant. Protests by the contestants must be filed in writing with the Tournament Director, in person, no later than 1/2 hour after the close of fishing for that day. A $100 cash protest fee must accompany any protest offered by a contestant. A five-person committee appointed by, and including, the tournament director will convene to investigate and make a decision regarding the protest. The protest committee and their agents are authorized to utilize polygraph examinations, photographs – still or moving, or any other investigative technique in order to determine the validity of the protest or the charge against any contestant. The decision of the Protest Committee shall be by majority vote and shall be final in all cases. Contestants waive any right to appeal the decision of the Protest Committee to a higher authority, including any court of jurisdiction in this or any other state. If a protest by a contestant is found to be valid, the protest fee will be returned. If the protest is found invalid, the fee will not be returned. Any person found guilty of violating the rules may be immediately disqualified and the reasons for the said disqualifications announced at the tournament headquarters.

25. WITHDRAWAL POLICY: Entry fee refunds will be made only if the team gives written notification of withdrawal two (2) weeks prior to the tournament starting date. A service charge of 20% plus the $10 conservation fee will be assessed against refunds made due to withdrawal from the tournament. Withdrawals later than 14 days from the tournament’s starting days will receive NO REFUNDS.

26. VIOLATION of these rules may be cause for subsequent denial of application to compete in future Montana Walleye Circuit events. If disqualified for any violations of the above rules, future participation must be reviewed by the Montana Walleye Circuit and approved by a majority of Montana Walleye Circuit Directors.

NOTE: The above rules for the 2023 Montana Walleye Circuit cover the basics of all tournament events, but may vary slightly due to local regulations. Please pay special attention to the highlighted, underlined, and/or bold face items in the above rules, as most are extremely important segments.

Photo & Video Release: I understand and agree that any and all photographs, videos or films taken during the course of my participation in the tournament which include me, my name and/or my boat may be used by the tournament organizers, sponsors or media without my prior consent and without royalties.

Dated:   November 6, 2023

Montana Circuit
Crooked Creek Walleye Classic – 05/17‐18/2024
Tournament Director – Mike Gapay
Fort Peck Marina

Fresno Challenge – 06/7‐8/2024
Tournament Director – Josh Parrow
Fresno Reservoir

Canyon Ferry Sunrise Tournament – 06/21‐22/2024
Tournament Director – Chris McFadden
Canyon Ferry Reservoir

Tiber Tournament – 07/26‐27/2024
Tournament Director – Tammy Pyrah
Tiber Reservoir

*Click here to use MWC Online Entry Form!


                                                  

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