Judging by the recently concluded Devils Lake walleye tournament, this sprawling North Dakota lake is back. Words like “phenomenal, nuts, fabulous, and easy to catch,” were used by the top three teams from the June 21-22, 2013 Chamber of Commerce tournament that basically marks the real beginning of the season.
Or, listen to third place finisher and guide Rick Darling. He said, “It’s as good as I’ve ever seen it.” To even crack the top 10 teams, it required a 4-pound average. That’s 40-plus pounds for the 10 fish that could be weighed over two days. Winning team member Matt Taylor (48.52 pounds) said the numbers of 23 to 25 inch walleyes are out of this world. On the second tournament day, Taylor and partner Ben Mack set a team strategy to keep walleyes that stretched the tape to 24 inches. “We tossed back about 30 walleyes from 20 to 24 inches before finally catching our last weigh-fish over two feet long,” Taylor said.
“Devils Lake is like it was a dozen years ago,” he said. Normally, the peak walleye action is in early June. That peak, however, due to the late spring is occurring right now. “It will be nuts for several weeks, maybe through all July,” he forecast. Mack agreed with the fishing, but challenged newcomers to look at Devils Lake like a bass angler might, “I fish walleyes like the bass guys do – casting and flipping to trees and weeds.”
Mack was testing a prototype lure made by local lure manufacturer Matt Pflum. It was a lure without even a name yet, and Mack explained it as a custom paddletail plastic reeled steadily on a 1/4th or 5/16th ounce jig. The magic depth was five feet, and in the clear water, he watched most fish strike. Partner Taylor preferred the Devils Lake favorite #5 Shad Rap.
Kelly Bakken placed second with partner Chad Haberstroh. Bakken stuck with the familiar “bass theory” story. “I throw 3/8ths ounce Northland twin-bladed spinnerbaits because the bigger walleyes like them. When they strike, they crush the bait and they’re hooked. I knock the cattails and cover with it. This method really works.” He felt of all the walleye lakes he’s fished and read about, Devils Lake is way up near the top of any “Top 10 List.”
Rick Darling and Jeff Trana netted the third place trophy, and Trana said, “The big weights showcase how good Devils Lake is right now. Plus, we were able to get under the bridges and fish all of the lake. Every presentation seems to be working. The walleyes are in their early-June patterns now, and this is great. We saw walleyes in the weeds and caught 80 percent of the ones we cast to.” They used jigs with Northland Impulse paddle tails, Shad Raps and # 7 Rapala Countdowns. Trana added, “Some people were cleaning fish the other day with eggs still in them. In my opinion, early is now for Devils Lake!”
Tournament Director Johnnie Candle said, “The weights were a true sign of how good a fishery we have in Devils Lake. The crazy part is the fish are all the same size. Things are only going to get better this year and into the future. Devils Lake is the place to be now and will be for a long time.”
Other notable tournament achievements included a $97,125 total payout with $5,000 to the first-place team. The biggest walleye weighed 7.76 pounds. The largest northern pike tipped the scales at 16.16 pounds. The heaviest white bass was 3.46 pounds and the first place perch was 1.89 pounds. Full results are posted at devilslakend.com.
Anglers can launch at nine convenient public concrete ramps. A map is featured on devilslakend.com. A modern fish-cleaning station is located south of Ed’s Bait Shop on Hwy 20 (south of the city of Devils Lake). The 20 x 32 building with two grinders, a clean-up sink, regular and handicapped bathrooms can handle 15 anglers at one time. It is air-conditioned with plenty of parking space and free-of-charge to anglers.
Devils Lake fishing guides target perch, walleyes, white bass and pike. For Devils Lake guides, conditions, fishing reports, lodging, activities, restaurants, Chamber walleye tournament results, and resorts, check www.devilslakend.com, or call 701-662-4903.