Over seven years, seven brand new Skeeter Boats have been given to one angler at the end of each Champions Tour season. Year seven has been a storybook of improbable champions and striking successes from new faces but one thing remains; this is still one of the toughest fields in the Midwest to fish against.
Just outside of Cambridge, MN 32 anglers faced down a fishery with a reputation for having a bad attitude and practice reports had been anything but promising. However, when you put this much talent on any body of water one thing is for certain. Someone will catch them, and catch them they did.
Chad Keller led the field out from Flickabirds Resorts being boat number one as he was leading the 2023 angler of the year race, with Arnold Helgerson just five points behind. Stable weather and light winds made for a perfect morning that held just the slightest chill of an impending autumn although that chill wouldn’t last long.
Anglers were allowed to choose whether they started on East Rush or West Rush knowing they’d have to switch sides at the lunch break. Each person had a different strategy they wanted to play. Some chose to start on their strongest spots, while others gambled and hoped that their best areas would be left alone for them to fish in the afternoon.
The split was fairly even, as 17 anglers started on East Rush and 15 started on West Rush. One of the anglers risking starting on his weakest side, Noah Schultz went West and actually started out with a bang catching a 5 pounder on his third cast. He was passed quickly by Dane Vocelka who also started fast, but wouldn’t maintain his pace and fall out of the top 20.
A dock pattern emerged out of the morning hours and there are few better dock anglers on Tour than Arnold Helgerson who fished East Rush in the first half and managed to put 21 fish in the boat for over 41 pounds and take an eleven pound lead into the break over Noah Schultz who was followed closely by rookie Matt Holweg in third.
Going out for the second half a shift was bound to happen as most of the primary shallow fish had been hit already along dock lines and anglers were going to be forced to adjust to fishing offshore which played perfectly into the hands of Noah Schultz who kept his Humminbird MEGA Live in landscape mode and targeted individual fish in 4-6 feet of water with a Bagley Sunny B and by 1:00 not only had taken the lead but never looked back. Helgerson would try to keep pace, but by the last hour of competition the gap had grown seemingly insurmountable as Schultz would tally a final weight of 81-13 pound to take a 27 pound margin of victory to the stage for his fourth Championship in five years.
The total Skeeter/Yamaha championship package with a Dakota Lithium 36 volt/60 amp battery, retailed at nearly $70,000 and for Schultz the feeling never gets old. He continues to solidify his status as a Champions Tour legend and one of the best anglers in the entire Midwest.
YETI Big Bass of the day went to Mike Ulik who landed a 6 pounder to start his second half surpassing a 5-12 lb caught by Joel Willert. Ulik would finish 11th overall. Wenzel’s Farm Major Mover award went to Connor O’Connor who dialed in his afternoon bite jumping all the way up to fourth place after struggling to stay in the top 25 for the majority of the first half.
Angler of the Year was also decided at the end of the day and for the first time in Tour history there was a tie at the top between Chad Keller and Arnold Helgerson who both had career best seasons, but by a tiebreaker (total fish caught for all four events), Arnold Helgerson would win his first Angler of the Year title and an extra $2,000 along with a beautiful trophy.
The year was unique, with new sights, new champions, and new stars being born under Minnesota’s brightest bass stage. 2024 promises to be even more exciting on the Champions Tour and we can’t wait for you to be a part of it.
Thank you again to all our sponsors, staff, anglers, and supporters.