GARRISON - The state's largest walleye factory is producing fish once again, much to the delight of the impressive field of anglers that competed recently in the annual Governor's Walleye Cup. Good fishing helped make for a great tournament. The fish were bigger, a mere fraction of an ounce separated first and second place, a woman set a new tourney standard, and a perennial bridesmaid finally rose to the top.
Winning the two-day event, which was held under ideal conditions July 20-21, was the team of Don Schumaker of Stanton and Jesse Schumaker of Bismarck. The victory was worth $10,000. It was a long time coming for Don Schumaker as the elder statesman of the team finally captured the elusive crown.
Incredibly, Don Schumaker was the runner-up in 1993, 1994 and 1995. His team finished eighth in 1996 and in third place in 1997. More recently he finished 18th in 2010 and 24th in 2011. Ironically, this year's win was by the narrowest of margins - a mere 9/100 of an ounce.
"That's about the size of an ice cube or a coughed up smelt or three leeches, maybe," laughed Dennis Jeffrey, Garrison.
Jeffrey and his wife, Irene, finished in second place.
"It was meant to be. The kid that won it did a good job," added Jeffrey.
AT?TOP: The winners of the 2012 North Dakota Governor’s Walleye Cup were Don Schumaker, Stanton, left, and Jesse Schumaker, Bismarck. The two are seen here during the opening hours of fishing on day one.
This father and son combination of Jeff Stremick, right, and Nathan Stemick, both Minot, are no strangers to Governor’s Walleye Cup fishing. Many of the Governor’s Cup teams consist of family members.
Cody Evans, left, joined Brian Merkel for his first Governor’s Cup appearance. Merkel has fished the event multiple times, the last 13 with “Walleye Jack” Trail of Carpio. Trail was unable to attend this year’s tourney.
Jeffrey was referring to Jesse Schumaker, the man running the boat for the Schumaker team. As it turned out, winning took a little more ingenuity than just catching fish. A radio broadcast may have been responsible for the Schumaker victory.
The format allowed a team to catch eight walleyes per day and weigh five. The Jeffreys had their fish by noon on day two and elected to go to the scale early, grab some lunch and wait in the shade for other anglers to try and dethrone them. Out on the water the Schumakers had similar luck and were about to quit early too.
However, after listening to a radio broadcast which revealed the Jeffreys' leading weight, the Schumakers opted to keep fishing in the hopes of adding to the weight of their catch. They did, but no one could have guessed the difference between first and second would be so razor-thin.
"I put our last fish on the scale and it was 4.12 pounds," said Jeffrey. "That was our eighth fish. We still had more than three hours to try for something bigger, but how do you throw it back? We decided to quit and come in."
Irene Jeffrey's second place finish is the highest ever by a woman competing in the Governor's Cup. Her husband, a former FLW walleye champion, gave her credit for making the difference on day two.
"My wife put on this good-looking, shiny red chrome shad rap that I knew wouldn't catch fish, but I didn't argue with her," said Dennis Jeffrey. "She can pick out her own. The next thing that happens is, she hooks into a 6 1/2 pounder. Naturally I switched over. She knows how to fish. She does her own thing and she did good."
The tournament established what many anglers have discovered this year - Lake Sakakawea's walleyes are on the way back. A few years ago the fish were skinny due to a lack of forage and low water. The winning weight of the Governor's Cup in 2009 was 20.1 pounds, less than half of what it was this year. The last time a cup-winner had topped the 40-pound mark was in 2005.
"The lake really showed what it was capable of," said Jeffrey.
2012 Governor's Walleye Cup results
1 - 41.39 lbs., Don Schumaker, Stanton, and Jesse Schumaker, Bismarck.
2 - 41.30 lbs., Dennis and Irene Jeffrey, Garrison.
3 - 37.41 lbs., Dave Parizek, New Town, and Barron Parizek, Epping.
4 - 36.99 lbs., Larry Zimmerman, Napoleon, and Dennis Andruski, Grand Forks.
5 - 36.99 lbs., Jeff Abrahamson and Jimmy Mello, Minot.
6 - 36.72 lbs., David Jeffrey and Brian Rime, Garrison.
7 - 36.23 lbs., Jason and Jon Votava, Minot.
8 - 36.07 lbs., Aaron Thompson, Surrey, and Stan Thompson, Minot.
9 - 35.85 lbs., Gary Hodge and Kyle Baier, Minot.
10 - 34.83, lbs., Randy and Brandon Knutson, Granville.
2012 Governor's Walleye Cup largest fish
6.60 lbs., Abraham Starck, Mandan, and Grealing Starck, Center.
7.42 lbs., Rick Olson, Underwood, and Chad Olson, Underwood.