Pro angler earns more than $97,000 in winningsNational Walleye Tour Presented by Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops Championship event at Devils Lake, North Dakota, September 13. The angler won a fully rigged Ranger 621FS Pro package with a 300-horsepower Mercury outboard, $15,000 in prize money and $2,225 in Anglers Advantage cash for a total of $97,320 in winningsohn Hoyer of Orono, Minnesota, weighed a three-day total of 67.73 pounds to win the
Four years ago, John Hoyer decided to commence his transition from guide and co-angler to professional walleye fisherman. His teammates and travel partners knew he was ready. After all, in 2015 he won the Co-angler of the Year award on the National Walleye Tour, presented by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s. What they didn’t know was that Hoyer would soon become the hottest walleye stick on the planet. In his last three NWT events, Hoyer has finished first, second and first. The one common denominator from each event is casting. Hoyer’s latest casting crusade came at Devils Lake during the premier event in walleye fishing.
Hoyer started the final day of the championship essentially tied with friend Dusty Minke. While Minke had an excellent final day, Hoyer put the hammer down with a 24.59-pound limit. He fished six different spots in East Devils Lake, but one clearly stood apart from the rest.
“It was a sand-to-rock transition that went from the bay to the point,” said Hoyer. “It was basically a sand runway. The water was 8 to 10 feet, and they were feeding on perch. My fish weighed heavier because they were eating those perch. That made a huge difference.”
Hoyer didn’t catch many fish on this spot in practice. In fact, he didn’t know how stocked it was until he started employing his Lowrance SideScan.
“What gave me the confidence to Spot-Lock for so long was how many fish I saw swimming by on my Lowrance,” said Hoyer. “Just knowing how many fish were there was incredible.”
Five of Hoyer’s 15 weigh fish came via slip bobbers and leeches under 1/16-ounce jigs. The others came from a mix of Shiver Minnows, Jigging Raps and Johnny Darters.
“The best color was anything perch with an orange belly,” said Hoyer. “I used the No. 2 Shiver Minnow, the No. 7 Jigging Rap and mid-sized Johnny Darters. In the wind yesterday, I would upsize baits.”
With the smaller casting baits, Hoyer would employ a hard snap and then follow them down. With the bigger baits, he’d lift it aggressively and then control the fall.
“I wanted to slow the fall down,” said Hoyer. “When you catch it, it planes out, and that’s when they get it. You’re giving them a chance to really eat it.”
The Orono, Minn., native had 24 pounds in his livewell by 9:30 the final morning. However, he wouldn’t have won the event without a final upgrade that came with 30 minutes left in the day.
“The tournament-winning fish came from shallow timber and weeds,” said Hoyer. “That last fish gave me the 1/2-pound upgrade I needed. It ended up being the winner.”
Hoyer’s three-day cumulative total was 67.73 pounds. He hasn’t had the time to fully process his latest achievement.
“I’m numb; I have no idea how it feels. It’s not like anything,” said Hoyer. “It’s not real. You don’t get the chance to win very often. I’ve had three of those chances in one year and two went my way.”
Finishing fifth was Angler of the Year Tom Keenan. While Keenan was tied for second in the AOY race coming into the championship, he was still considered a longshot. He started 20 points back of pro Brett King, who claimed the 2018 AOY. On day one, Keenan and King were both in the top 10. On day two, the race completely turned upside down as King only managed two small keepers. In the process, he tumbled to 36th while Keenan made the top-10 cut. Keenan finished his final season with 756 points while King accumulated 745.
“I had a heck of year in 2006,” recalled Keenan. “That was a special season for me, but this one ranks right up there. I set the goal to win AOY because I told my wife this was my last year to do it.”
Keenan retires as one of the greatest walleye fishermen ever, one who’s clearly still at the top of his game
Tommy Kemos (second), Dusty Minke (third), Greg Ehli (fourth), Tom Keenan (fifth), Adam Andersen (sixth), Paul Meleen (seventh), Kent Andersen (eighth), Robert Crow (ninth) and Zak Jobes (tenth) round out the top-10 pro-anglers.
Drake McCarthy, of Minnesota Lake, Minnesota, took home top honors in the co-angler Division with a total weight of 65.19 pounds. The co-angler boated 20 fish during the competition and won a fully rigged Ranger VS1682 DC with a four-stroke, 90-horsepower Mercury outboard along with $944 in Anglers Advantage cash for a total of $26,839 in winnings.
Rich Weiss (second), Dave Albrecht (third), Jeremy Heenan (fourth), Paul Bloesl (fifth), James Youngblood (sixth), Thomas Kolb (seventh), Rick Lemmens (eighth), Russell Glasshoff (ninth) and Jerrod Johnson (tenth) round out the top-10 co-anglers.
The NWT would like to thank Devils Lake Tourism for their efforts to help produce this world-class walleye tournament.
For more details, anglers are encouraged to call 612-424-0708 or check out the website at www.nationalwalleyetour.com. From here, site visitors can learn more about the NWT, view the TV schedule and learn more about what’s in store for the upcoming 2020 season.
National Walleye Tour events are made possible through the sponsorship and continued support of these well-respected brands: Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Ranger Boats, Evinrude, Mercury, Lucas Oil, Triton Boats, Power-Pole, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance, Valley Fashions, T-H Marine, Atlas, G-Juice, Powertex Group.