Rod, Gun & Game: United States fishing team wins Canadian 444 Walleye Tournament
With eight fish weighing more than 70 pounds, that’s an average of nearly 9 pounds. Captain Gary Marcinkowski of Angola, a 46-year old contractor and registered NYS fishing and hunting guide of “Down & Out Outdoor Adventures Guide Service,” available at 479-6110, fished with his wife Tina and tournament fishing mates Ron Benn of Boston and Jerry Kolnacki of Sherkston Shores, Ontario. The crew entered the Port Colbourne, Ontario tournament at Sugarloaf Marina as one of 107 registered teams, including 12 from the United States.
Tournament organizers have improved the incentive factor, to boost registration numbers by complimenting the $300 tournament entry fee to include a free boat slip at Sugarloaf, free RV parking and a long list of merchandise prizes.
During the pre-tournament Friday pre-fish, American tournament angler Jim Dolly checked in a 11.58-pound walleye to vie for big fish-of-the-day honors. There was little question that Dolly’s fish was the top fish.
However, Dolly had with him a cooler with two fish in it, one the monster walleye and one much smaller. After weighing the big fish, the officials told Dolly he was disqualified from the weigh line for bringing in two fish instead of just one, as the rules clearly stated. This mistake cost Dolly the $2,600 big fish cash prize.
The rules stated that, during the actual competition days, Saturday and Sunday, the angler team representative can bring only four fish in a cooler to the weigh station.
The “444” stands for four anglers, four pairs of rods and the four biggest walleye during the two-day event. It is a catchy slogan that reminds me of that 1960s Oldsmobile cubic inch engine size, the “442.”
During the tournament, half of the teams fish from 7 a.m. – 2 p.m. and half from 8 a.m. – 3 p.m. and they alternate on the second day.
Fishing in the late flight on day one, Marcinkowski’s team brought in a four-fish limit of 35.39 pounds, but they were second to the Gary Montgomery Canadian team that brought in 36.45 pounds for the day one tournament lead. That day, Marcinkowski’s big fish was 9.54 pounds and Montgomery’s biggest was 10.20 pounds. All competitors know that only the total weight after two days of fishing counts in the final grand prize structure.
Running 20-pound Power-Pro® braided line to medium size Dipsey-Divers® at a zero setting off the big board sideplaners and little board sideplaners or to multi-color, segmented 18-pound lead core line to 25 feet of 20-pound Power-Pro, followed by 25 feet of 20-pound test fluorocarbon to his lure presentations of either stickbaits or spinner/worm rigs, Marcinkowski trolled to allow perfect exposure of his multiple offerings to identify the hot set-up for the day.
On day one, the anglers tried an assortment of lures, including spoons, worm harnesses, Rapala’s®, Renosky’s®, Reef Runners® and others, but only the long, thin, stickbait type modified Renosky lures worked. The Renosky lures were the hottest on day one.
On day two, the competition day that the rubber meets the road, Marcinkowski could not catch a walleye through 11 a.m. and moved a few miles from his successful day one location and switched everything to spinner and worm rigs, a setup that did not work the day before.
On day two, Marcinkowski’s big bite went to meatier night crawler harness offerings. The angler sets up his spinner/worm rigs with 20-pound fluorocarbon leaders, not steel leaders. When the team arrived at its day one spot, all the fishermen could catch from daybreak – 11 a.m. was a little more than 20 sheepshead. A bit frustrated, the team decided to move 2 miles away from the day one hot zone and found walleye gold in a school of 9-pound, tournament-winning fish.
Marcinkowski said, “None of the fish whacked the stickbaits; they all came on spinner/worm rigs. It was hard to believe the change.”
The team’s day two big fish weighed 9.54 pounds, the same exact size as the day one big fish.
When asked how he caught so many big fish among other top American competitors such as Don Ruppert of Wavetamer Sport Fishing, Bob Rustowicz of Forever Fishing, Jim Tunney, who boated the biggest fish in last year’s 444 with an 11.51-pound monster and others, Marcinkowski said, “I guess it was just our turn for a change. Last year, I fished this with Tina and my two sons – they were 14 and 16 years old – and we watched two Canadian boats get together on the lake and exchange fish so that one of their teams would have a heavy weight at the scale. My wife said, ‘How can anyone win if these teams are going to cheat? Let’s go. I don’t ever want to fish this tournament again.’”
He added, “I begged Tina not to think that way, and told her, ‘Next year we’re going to come back and we’re flat out going to win this thing!’”
Win they did, besting the old tournament record by 6-plus pounds. Marcinkowski thanked Dennis Kreze, proprietor of The Tackle Store bait shop in Fort Erie, who replaced a hot-color Dipsey Diver that Marcinkowski lost, with advice on his homemade worm harness colors and ideas about where to start fishing.
According to Benn, “Marcinkowski needed all the help he could get that weekend, as we had to get to Sugarloaf by boat from Cattaraugus Creek across the lake, since our boat trailer broke a spring there and we were not able to trailer over the border.”
Montgomery’s team fell to fifth place with a total of 65.76 pounds, with a light day two total of 29.31 pounds. Don Ruppert, fishing with teammates Scott Wind, Jim Kuwik and Russ Shultz, found the tournament’s heaviest four fish on day two, with 36.06 pounds, enough to take the team to fourth place in the finals and a $1,500 winning tally, with 66.13 pounds. Second and third place went to Canadian teams Lucas Dracz (with 67.41 pounds) and George Jensen (with 67.31 pounds) to round out the top five.
Last weekend, during the Redeye Fishbone Tournament in Buffalo, Ruppert’s Wavetamer team won the biggest walleye trophy, a 31 1/2-inch monster, fishing just three lines near the international border about halfway between Sturgeon Point and Point Abino. Scott Wind said, “We try to help everyone get out there and share in the catching of fish.”
First mate on the Wavetamer team, Wind said, “People want to catch fish. That’s what it’s all about. It’s not about being greedy and sticking your nose into the air.”
Don Ruppert’s Wavetamer team is fishing from a new, 30-foot Tiara boat, a feature vessel with a 12-foot beam powered by two 454 cubic inch marine engines. To learn more about lead core lines, Dipsey-diver fishing and the high tech manner of getting lures to fish, give Captain Ruppert a call at 866-2727.
Marcinkowski wished the tournament organizers the best for conducting a great event and said he will be back again next year to defend his title. Marcinkowski finished second in 2009 and 12th last year. The top 15 places paid money this year.
This tournament is a fundraiser for Port Colbourne and fishing conservation. All proceeds go to the fish hatchery program there.
Looking for best trophy mounts
If you have a best trophy mount of a fish or animal or waterfowl or any other outdoor critter, note that the Erie County Fair is accepting entries for taxidermy mounts for display and judging in the conservation building at the fair. Blue ribbons and cash prizes will be awarded. Call 649-3900 ext 407 or visit www.ecfair.org.
Olympic star to visit
According to Bob and Eileen Pfeil, youth development coaches for the Junior Olympic Archery Development program at West Falls Conservation Society, Olympic star Jake Kaminski will be returning to his old training grounds at WFCS on Friday, July 6 at 6 p.m. to meet with youth members of Leo’s JOAD and anyone else from his hometown here in Western New York who would like to say hello. Kaminski earned a place on the USA archery Olympic team and will be representing the United States in London later this month. Watch for him during the television specials planned to air during the Olympics. Everyone is invited to come out and congratulate Kaminski and make sure he knows he has hometown support. For more information, email LEOSJOAD@aol.com.
July 5 – 15: Erie Canal Fishing Derby, Niagara River to Main Street in Albion (Route 98). Visit www.eriecanalderby.com.
July 7 – 8: NYS Walleye Association Ameri-Can Lake Erie walleye tournament. For more information, call 875-8148.
July 14: LOTSA King Salmon Tournament, Olcott Harbor, 6 a.m. – noon. All participants must be LOTSA members. The deadline to register is July 13 at 6 p.m. Visit www.lotsa.org for more information.
July 21: Southtowns Walleye Kids Fishing Derby, Tifft Nature Preserve, Lake Kristy. For more information, call Dennis Stobert at 649-8202.
July 28: Niagara River Anglers Association Bass Contest, 6 a.m. – 1 p.m., Lewiston Landing. For more information, call Steve Drabczyk at 807-6111.
Send announcements to email@example.com 10 days in advance.