A dozen years ago, some 50 northeast Ohio Lake Erie walleye fishermen each tossed a few dollars into a pot, which might have well been an empty minnow bucket, declaring that the biggest walleye caught by a certain deadline would bring it’s catcher every penny in the pile.
Big deal? Not really. After all, friends duking it out for a few bucks is nothing new or notable.
Little did they know, or even suspect, that their friendly contest would morph into what might be one of the richest amateur fishing events going today. It’s the annual Lake Erie Walleye Fall Brawl, and just last year over 6,400 fishermen entered the chase.
If for no other reason than to motivate one to make a few extra late season trips the big lake, the event is well worth a $30 entry fee. That’s all it costs to take part. It matters not if it’s for one fishing trip or 20, it just takes one fish, the right fish, to bring home the bacon — so to speak.
Contestants can be rich, poor or in-between; raw beginner, or sun-baked pro. The winner might be tossing lures from a stone harbor breakwall, fishing out of a glitter-faced, big-dollar rig or putting around in a beat-up tin boat with a tired outboard.
He or she might be out after work or playing hooky from church. He or she might be local or from a distant state. It just doesn’t matter, because the winning fish doesn’t care. The right place, the right time, and the right lure are all it takes.
The 2018 Fall Brawl winner was Clarence Mitchell Jr. who landed and weighed in the winning walleye on only his fourth outing. He was fishing with friends near Cleveland’s Edgewater Park and launch ramp.
The official scale, located at Erie Outfitters in Sheffield Lake, rang up 13.7 pounds, and it didn’t take long for Mitchell to know he was on top. And yes, his reward was a fine $100,000 tricked-out fishing rig. Easily his best investment ever.
The Lake Erie Walleye Fall Brawl takes place during prime time for Erie’s trophy fish, when the walleyes move into the near shore waters, some even nosing up to the breakwalls and other shoreline structures.
Low light periods bring on walleye feeding urges, and the darkness of night can be even better.
The contest is open from Oct. 18 until Dec. 1, 2019. The contest resembles a derby rather than tournament as it is based on a large dose of luck as much as anything.
Along with the 2019 winning prize of another super fishing rig are several additional payouts including the opportunity to win even more money for the biggest walleye caught by anyone entered while fishing from a Hewescraft boat and another smaller rig going to the largest walleye taken by a youth under 16.
The Brawl also promises some impressive contributions to charitable causes and worthy causes.
Entry deadline is Oct. 16. Enter online at www.lakeeriewalleyederby.com. Be sure to read the rules and bait up.
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