Long-time Navionics pro, Tommy Skarlis and fishing partner, Jeff Lahr, won the Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit 2017 World Walleye Championship held on Cass Lake, Minnesota.
Skarlis and Lahr, both from Iowa, qualified for the championship by finishing 16th in points after fishing three tournaments during 2016, including Cass Lake, as well as the Illinois River out of Spring Valley, IL, and the Detroit River out of Trenton, MI. They also placed 3rd in last year’s championship at Green Bay.
This year’s championship event took place September 14-16 out of Stony Point Resort. After day one was cancelled due to heavy fog, the top 41 two-person teams from the MWC’s 2016 regular season, vying for more than $100,000 in cash and prizes, blasted off in search of the winning bag of fish. Each day, teams could bring their best five fish to the weigh-in, with two fish over 20 inches allowed per team. Skarlis and Lahr landed in 2nd place on day two with 16 pounds, 8 ounces. Their final and winning weight after day three was 28 pounds, 3 ounces.
The duo shared their winning techniques, which included casting large Shiver Minnows and Jigging Raps in a variety of colors, like chartreuse during bright sun, and darker colors when the sky was overcast. They caught two of their three biggest fish when live-bait rigging creek chubs with 1 oz. homemade sinkers made from Do-It molds.
Using their Raymarine Axiom electronics, they’d boat at 20-30 mph marking fish, then turn around and cast towards them. Generally, they found fish in 27-33 feet of water on day two, and 20-24 feet on day three. Skarlis also gave credit to his Navionics HotMaps Platinum charts. “The Navionics mapping helped tremendously. With all the new detail that’s been added to SonarChart, spots that were already mapped very well are now super-defined. We’d shade a fishing range up to 32 feet deep, position the boat a bit deeper and cast into the shallower water."
He added, “I remember, back around 2007, sending in fishing coordinates to Navionics that are still marked on the maps. We drove up, fished those spots, and still found walleye on all of them. All anyone has to do is just drive up to where it says walleye on the map and start fishing!”.
Skarlis is no stranger to championship events, having qualified for and fished dozens since becoming a career tournament angler in 1991. He has won a variety of major walleye tournaments, including the FLW Walleye Tour Championship in 2008. A multi-species angler, Skarlis also won the Crappie Masters National Championship in 2013, with team partner Kyle Steinfeldt.