Helgerson Reigns Supreme in first ever Champions Tour Pro AM
21 pairs of anglers left the docks at Ernie’s on Gull Lake this morning, each “pro” angler matched with a random partner or “am”. This is the first Pro-Am event the Champions Tour has ever run and a first of its kind for this particular tournament format.
Some of the best local and regional anglers came together on one of the hottest lakes in the area in attempts to catch their best twenty fish and record them in the Champions Tour Livewell App. With a guarantee of over $7,300 in cash and prizes to the pro winner and $1250 to the am winner there was plenty on the line as the anglers drove off into a beautiful Brainerd lakes area sunrise.
Fishing started slow but steady as within an hour of lines in 20 out of 21 teams had registered a fish over 12” in the livewell app. Eric Turkowski and partner Joe Weirs were the first team to enter a fish and took an early lead but were quickly overtaken by a number of other teams.
Jason Dudek and Ryan Kieke held the lead the majority of the first three hours but as mid-morning came around the dock bite began to heat up and the team of Will Pappa and Hunter Wendt shot up the leader boat climbing 13 spots in just 30 minutes to stay hot on their tails and take the lead. Pappa and Wendt used wacky rigged stickbaits to skip into hard to reach places and shaded areas where bass took refuge as the sun came up.
As the afternoon wore on, docks continued to play as Arnold Helgerson and his partner Andrew LeLand shot up the leaderboard and caught nearly back to back fish over 4 pounds to give them the lead. Anglers began to hit their 20 fish mark and culling became critical as big fish started to show and small fish left anglers limits. Those who chose to stay out deep and hunt quality over quantity climbed consistently with less fish but better average weights.
Early tournament favorite Brandon Cizek was one of those anglers who took until 1:00 pm to fill his 20 fish but found himself all the way up to third. Mike Mohr and Kyle Bahr found themselves in a similar situation, grinding out big bites deep in hopes of putting a couple kicker fish on their card to push themselves towards the top spot. Anglers had to be back at the docks by 3 and with the whole chain open to fishing, those who made long runs had to manage their time wisely to take into account an increasing breeze, heavy boat traffic, and long stretches of no wake water, to get back by cutoff time.
With an hour remaining there were 6 teams in tight contention for the top spot and 3 teams that were over 50 pounds and all within 2 pounds of each other. Cizek and partner Rick Nichols held the lead at 52-14 with Helgerson and Pappa just one solid bite from taking over. As the clock ticked out one final fish hit the livewell app and it would shake things up as Arnold Helgerson caught a 4 pound 11 ounce fish, his biggest of the day with just seven minutes remaining to best a couple late kicker fish for Cizek and Nichols for the win.
The dock bite reigned supreme over the long and steady grind for big fish in deep water. Helgerson and LeLand weighed 56 pounds 5 ounces for their best 20 fish, a 4 ounce margin of victory over Cizek and Nichols with the third place team of Jim Severson and Joe Stolski about 4 pounds back with 52-04.
Alongside a 100% cash payback to the anglers, those who placed high enough were also awarded some incredible prizes from Minn Kota and Humminbird which included an Ultrex Trolling Motor to the first place pro, a Humminbird Helix 12 Mega SI+ to the 2nd place pro and a 10 foot Talon to the 3rd place pro. Yeti big bass on the pro side went to Tom Whitehead, whose 4 pound 13 ounce fish was the largest caught overall in the tournament. On the am side, Andrew LeLand caught a 4 pound 6 ounce fish to secure a Yeti big bass award as well.
It was an event unlike any other, bringing the revolutionary catch, record, release format to the everyday angler giving them an opportunity to experience the Champions Tour for themselves. With high stakes, high pressure, and high hopes, all anglers reported in with smiles and positive feedback. For more information and full results check out the Classic Bass website and stay tuned for future events and news from the Champions Tour.