The word of the day for the final regular season Champions Tour Event on the Le Homme Dieu Chain in Alexandria, MN presented by Minn Kota Motors was “hot”. The weather, the fishing, and the race to qualify for the Championship in a week’s time were all heating up as 62 of the best anglers battled for a coveted crystal trophy, a big check, and a chance to fish for a new Skeeter Boat.
Along that top 32 cut line for the Championship were some very notable names to local bass fishing enthusiasts. A mix of young, fresh, talent and grizzled, seasoned, veterans knowing they needed strong finishes to earn a spot fishing East/West Rush.
Anglers were allowed to pick which side they wanted to fish in the morning half, knowing they would have to switch for the afternoon with the last hour being a “happy hour” where anglers could fish anywhere they wanted regardless of side they chose. With the field split nearly 50/50 north and south anglers would have plenty of room to work although the offshore points and turns quickly filled up with anglers as early on 8 of the top ten boats were all fishing within sight of each other.
Over half the field had already registered a scorable fish just a half hour into the event and Tim Schroeder had an early advantage storming up the Reel LiveWell App leaderboard to take the lead, which he would not let go of for the majority of the first half. Schroeder’s lead was nearly 30 pounds at one point before Matt Peters found a hot school of fish and worked his way right back into contention. Schroeder would catch 32 of his 39 total fish for the day in the first half and head the lunch with nearly 67 pounds of Le Homme Dieu bass under his belt.
Rookie Walker Krampitz also found himself in the thick of the battle for the top three at the break and would go on to take the lead in the second half which began a run of lead changes between Schroeder, Peters, and Krampitz that would continue until the final moments of the event. Krampitz not only grew up fishing under the shadow of fellow Waseca area angler Tim Schroeder, but went so far as to say Schroeder was his “tournament fishing mentor” which made the battle all that more intense as the anglers literally watched each other fish in the waning moments. Schroeder held the lead by just over a pound with less than 10 minutes remaining when Krampitz was able to pull up on a new area he didn’t practice and flip up two scorable bass to surpass his mentor and claim his first ever Champions Tour victory and an automatic berth to the Championship.
It was a bittersweet moment for Schroeder who, for the second time this year would lose a lead in a Classic Bass event in the final minutes. He watched Evan Blakley boat the winning fish at the Pro-Am on Whitefish just weeks prior surpassing him as time expired but had nothing but praise for Krampitz and the young angler’s talent, poise, and execution in an exhilaratingly high pressure situation.
Aaron Teal would claim YETI big bass for the event with a 4-7 smallmouth. Jake Panichi would lock up not only the Wenzel’s Farm Major Mover award but also the Explore Alexandria MN Rookie of the Year award with his top 20 finish. Matt Thompson for the second straight season is your overall Moolah Cup champion recording the biggest combined weights of his best three fish from each event.
All 32 championship qualifiers were announced after the awards ceremony had concluded and final details were given to those fortunate enough to have the opportunity to fish for brand new fully rigged Skeeter Boat next week on East/West Rush.