Anderson, VanBrocklin win Wheat’s Walleye tournament

ESCANABA – Fishing may have been a little slow Saturday, but Brian Anderson and his fiancee Tina VanBrocklin, both of Escanaba, happened to be in the right place at the right time early in the 14th Annual Wheat’s Memorial Walleye tournament.

They caught two fish weighing 15.45 pounds in the one-day tourney, including the day’s largest walleye at nine pounds.

“We had only two bites,” said Anderson. “Fishing has been slow all year. Part of the reason for that is cold water (approximately 65 degrees). Fish don’t feed as much when the temperature is down.”

Mark Kallio and Kevin Gartland of Escanaba were runners-up in the two-fish division with 12.2 pounds, with Charlie Jack of Esky and Jerry Plourde of Cornell taking third at 11.45.

Anderson said they were trolling in 20-35 feet of water south of Chippewa Point.

“We had both of our fish by 8:30 this morning,” he added. “We had those quick bites, then it was over. We were back in the small bay by 1.”

This marked the first tournament for VanBrocklin, who normally fishes from the shore.

“It was super exciting at first,” she said. “I thought we were going to get more fish. Then, it got boring when the fish weren’t biting. Although, I think everybody should come to this tournament next year. It’s a lot of fun.”

Kallio and Gartland, like this year’s champions, used crank bait while trolling in about 22 feet of water.

“It was tough for us,” said Kallio. “We had two bites and that was it. We got our fish around noontime.”

The runners-up, who’ve been fishing together since 1991, enhanced their success by making an adjustment midway through the tourney.

“We made an executive decision to switch to a different type of crank bait, which seemed to help,” said Gartland. “We went to about six or seven different places. We really had to work for our fish.”

Jack and Plourde headed into the larger bay as did Anderson and VanBrocklin.

“The big thing today was the early bites,” said Plourde. “When the sun came out, it put a damper on things. The water is real clear and the sun penetrates down to about 20 feet. When that happens, the fish tend to head for the bottom. We were trolling in about 21 feet of water and used spinners in the morning. Then, we switched to crank bait in the afternoon. Both were productive. We got one fish with each.”

In the five-fish division, father-son combo William Herbst of Escanaba and Bill Herbst of Oostburg, Wis. won at seven pounds. They were followed by Trudy and Jason Forvilly (6.75) and Todd Henderson and Steve Miron (5.45), all of Escanaba.

“I come home all the time,” said Bill, who hopes to re-locate in Delta County within the next five years. “We went to Cedar River to try to find the big fish. We weren’t having any luck down there, so we came back here (North Shore Boat Launch). We didn’t get our first fish until 11 o’clock. Once we got back here, we ran into good fishing.

“My dad and I fish this one together every year and have a lot of fun doing it. This whole tournament is a lot of fun.”

The tourney drew 29 two-person teams, of which 15 came up empty.