ESCANABA - For Keith Kavajecz of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, winning on the Cabela's National Walleye Tour is fulfilling in its own right. But when he can edge his brother-in-law for the win, that makes the victory even sweeter.
On Saturday, Kavajecz caught five fish for a total of 25.7 pounds, giving him a tournament total of 53.5 pounds. Good enough to oust his friend and relative, Gary Parsons of Glidden, Wisconsin, who took second place after he hauled in a total of five fish for 25.1 pounds, for a tournament weight of 48.02 pounds.
"Gary and I have worked together on tournaments for a long, long time," Kavajecz said. "We started fishing pro-am tournaments since 1991. From day one, we always shared information, share our spots, and talk over techniques. It's sweet to come in one and two. We've been hoping to do that for a long time. We've done it before, so it's a good deal."
Keith Kavajecz of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, celebrates after being announced the winner of the Cabela’s National Walleye Tour. Kavajecz caught a total weight of 53.50 pounds during the two-day tournament. (Escanaba Daily Press photo by Bryce Derouin)
For Parsons and Kavajecz, a local company in the Upper Peninsula would end up being a major reason for the duo's success.
"I wanted to find a bait that looked different where I could get a lot of colors," Parsons said. "I went on the Internet and started looking, and there's a company in the U.P. called Moonshine Lures. I saw that they had a three-and-a-half version of their minnow. It looked really cool. Lo and behold, the ladies at Bayshore had them. So I didn't even order them. I came here early and went over and bought a bunch of them from the ladies and put them next to a jigging rap and they have a totally different action. It's such a cool action, it's perfect for casting."
In the days leading up to the tournament, Parsons saw instant results.
"I went out on my first pass and I got one," he said. "And I had two guys in the boat and in 10 minutes we had three. By noon, I had a dozen and a lot of big ones.
"I called the guys up, and I called Keith and said, 'Guys this is over. If it is calm, we're going to tear things up.'
"All week long we tried not showing guys what we were doing. It's really cool. It's a fantastic casting bait. It will absolutely change the way guys are fishing in Green Bay and probably just about every other body of water."
Using a similar program to Parsons, Kavajecz's strategy was the same on Saturday, as it was on Friday, where he was the leader after the first day of competition.
"The strategy I had today, just like the other days, was basically to go way south for big fish," Kavajecz said. "I was going south of Cedar River. Long, long, runs. Down there was bigger fish; not as many, but bigger fish. Then I'd get my big fish. Yesterday I had a 28 and a 30-incher. Today I had a 26 and a 28-incher. Not quite as big today, but I could only spend so much time on it. Not only did I have to get back home, but I had to find the slot fish and in this tournament, slot fish are very, very important. If you get three good slots, say 22-inchers, that's another 10 pounds. That's like catching another big fish. You have to not only get two big fish, but you have to get your three slots, so you got to leave time to do that."
Derek Parker of Skandia was third with 46.51 pounds. Ryan Dempsey of Oneida, Wisconsin, was fourth with 46.23 pounds, and Don Loch of Iron Mountain was fifth with 46.22 pounds.
Locally, Glenn Chenier from Gladstone was the top finisher with 45.78 pounds, which was good enough for seventh place.
"I was kind of amazed yesterday how it set up so well," Chenier said about the conditions on the first day of competition. "I just thought today would be a cake walk and it really wasn't. We picked one here, one there, I think we ended up with eight keepers today. It was fun, but we worked for it."
Escanaba's Jaimee Tourangeau finished in 11th with a total weight of 41.9 pounds.
"We knew getting those two big ones was gonna be important," Tourangeau said. "We went out and did it right away. We trolled some crank baits, by 10:30 we had them. I had a slot fish spot. Took me an hour and a half to get my good slots yesterday.
"We went out there, we jigged, we rigged, we pulled cranks, and they just couldn't go. The wind died and everything was flat. We went out from hump to hump and we couldn't get anymore fish after that. We're happy with what we got and it was a great time fishing."