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Walleye fishermen compete in tournament


Eric Seidle

Frank English staffs the weigh boat while Jarred Griffs of Kalispell and Levi Laprath of Whitefish look in their livewell for fish to measure. The Fresno Walleye Challenge had 100 two-person teams from all over the state and some teams from outside of Montana competing.

The Fresno Walleye Challenge began Saturday morning with more than 100 boats taking off from docks at Fresno Reservoir.

Anglers were competing in two-man teams to catch the biggest walleyes starting Saturday at 7 a.m. and finishing up on Sunday at 2 p.m.

The teams could only have five fish on their boat at a given time before they had to find a weigh boat to measure their catch. Their scores were totaled from five fish per team. The biggest five each team caught would raise their scores.

The fish measured for scoring had to be alive and able to swim away after being measured.

Pat Lamphier was riding in the patrol boat Sunday to help the weighing process and keep on eye on the competition.

"If they're dead, they don't get the weight," Lamphier said.

Lamphier said all the money that is paid out to winners and used to run the competition comes from the entry fees alone.

"None of the money that is raised locally (in the group's fundraisers) goes to the competition," Lamphier said. "It's self-sustaining."

Around 80 percent of the entry fees is paid out to the competitors and 20 percent is used to pay expenses for the competition, Lamphier said.

Competitors were awarded prizes for catching the biggest catch each day and then the two days' scores were combined to figure an overall winner for both days.

The overall winners of the competition were Darren Raney of Livingston and Scott Achilles of Great Falls. They won $3,875 during the tournament.

The Fresno Walleye Challenge has been organized by Walleyes Unlimited since the early 1980s.

Steve Chvilicek, the president of the Fresno Chapter of Walleyes Unlimited, said that the weights were up this year compared to the last. He added that the competition is always a popular one. There is only enough room for 100 boats to compete in the tournament and they had 18 teams on standby after the places were taken.

"We fill up every year," Chvilicek said. "It's a very popular tournament."

Despite uncomfortable weather conditions Saturday, the tournament was going strong, Chvilicek said. Sunday brought better weather, and the tournament was wrapped up with dinner and an award ceremony.


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