Lake Vermilion is a familiar spot for most of the Champions Tour anglers, with the Tour having made multiple stops here over the past four seasons. Each time this unique and beautiful body of water has thrown a different challenge at those looking to conquer it.
It would be no different on this occasion as anglers faced the heat of the summer ushering in the doldrums of the fishing season. The second event of the Champions Tour season was by all accounts “slower than expected,” but did not lack for excitement.
Starting to the east, 50 anglers left Fortune Bay Casino with the same goal, hold up a crystal trophy and check with their name on it in just nine short hours. Bluebird skies and light winds are not typically the ideal conditions, but with smallmouth it could also mean a chance at some good shallow water action.
Fresh faces populated the leaderboard early with Ken Quilt, Travis Madrazo, and David Sicheneder amongst those fighting to be on top of the Reel LiveWell App. Most anglers found a finesse approach necessary with the given conditions, so spinning rods were in abundance as hair jigs, Ned rigs, tubes, and Senko’s adorned the front decks of many of the top anglers in the field.
“Big Fish” Matt Thompson was one of those throwing a hair jig and found success in the form of a 6-pound smallmouth in the first half that would briefly give him the lead, but permanently land him big fish of the tournament and another YETI cooler. As the lunch break closed in, long time tour veteran Dave Larson secured a lead and would hold onto it into the halftime with a weight of 46 lb 2 oz on 20 fish.
With the heat of the day in full swing, anglers left lunch for the west side where fishing would slow down for many but tighten up leaderboard dramatically. Matt Peters and Brad Leifermann made some of the greatest leaps from the first to second half, with Leifermann earning the Wenzel’s Major Mover Award for his efforts in the afternoon as he would jump nearly 25 spots to finish 11th.
Peters also rapidly charged up the standings and wound up just outside the top five in 6th place for the day. Larson struggled to maintain a comfortable lead with the likes of Chad Keller, Kyle Schutta, and Matt Thompson all breathing down his neck just a fish catch or two away from snatching victory.
But for every shot across the bow, Dave Larson had an answer as he fended off Chad Keller until the very end and managed to emerge victorious by less than a pound and a half with 63 lb 01 oz for 33 scoreable fish.
For Larson, it’s his first tour victory and gives him an automatic berth into the Championship on Serpent Lake in September where he will fish for a brand new Skeeter Boat. Keller, being the highest qualified finisher received both the Bagley Baits and Striker contingencies and sets himself up in good position to make the Championship after a rough first event on the River.
Kyle Schutta who won last time the tour visited Vermilion landed in third place while Matt Thompson finds himself in fourth and AGAIN wins the YETI Big Bass award for the event and Moolah Money. Thompson also currently leads the points standings as we look towards the third and final regular season event on Gull Lake. Chase Hull rounds out the top 5 and rebounds from a tough start to the season.
All eyes now shift to Gull Lake for the final Champions Tour event of the season on Thursday, August 25th, where the Championship roster will be decided, and a tight points race will be sorted out by a matter of ounces no doubt.
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