Q&A with Dusty Minke on 3rd Place Finish at Leech Lake Walleye Tournament

We got a chance to catch up with Dusty Minke after his 3rd place finish in the Leech Lake Walleye Tournament last weekend:

First, the basics, what was the tournament and where did it take place?

Last weekend I participated in the Leech Lake Walleye Tournament (LLWT) in Walker, MN. Walker is my favorite town in the world—seriously, someday I will live or have a cabin there. It’s truly heaven…especially in the summer!

What were your thoughts before going into the tournament?

Dusty prefishing for the LLWT.

Dusty prefishing for the LLWT.

I was very excited about the tournament—fishing on the lake was good and prefishing went well. We weren’t sure of where we were going to start; we knew the winds were changing 180 degrees—moving from the South all week to a strong Northern wind—so we made the decision in the morning that we were going to fish main lake points with a Northern wind blowing into them. My partner, Coach, and I had to return to work after the Memorial weekend and couldn’t get back to the lake until Thursday, but that was fine because I honestly think prefishing too much on Leech can hurt you. We knew where the fish were and just needed to concentrate on getting fish in the boat plus our one “over” fish. This lake has a slot limit and tournament rules of six fish with only one measuring over 26” per day. Our other fish had to be 14” to 18” so any fish between 18” and 26” had to be released because they were in the “protected slot”. For this reason, concentrating on spots that had “over” and “under” fish was key.

How does this tournament differ from others you’ve participated in?

This is a big tournament, with 155 boats, so there is a lot of great competition—especially because most of the participants are locals and northern MN fishermen, the best of the best! It differs from some tournaments because it is a team format which allows you to pick your partner.

This is also a very special tournament and place to me because this is where my tournament craze started back in 2001. That was when my dad and I decided to fish the PWT as co-anglers to get a taste of what tournament fishing offers. We had a blast and it was a huge learning experience for us! At the end of the tournament, I walked away nearly in last place and told my dad that I would be running the boat and calling the shots during the next pro/am event—I was 18 years old at the time!

After my first experience at Leech Lake, I started fishing this event with my friends Jamie Fehrenbacher, then Jeff Andersen, and eventually returned with my dad in 2005 to finish in 8th place. I guess participating in tournaments at Leech Lake has directed my life in a lot of ways because that same year my good friend Jeff Andersen introduced me to Jeff Gustafson and Toby Kvalevog. These three individuals are probably the best fisherman I could have surrounded myself with and are now my long time good friends…I guess that’s just a little history for ya!

What gear did you use during the tournament?

I used 6’ 8” Dobyns Savvy and Shimano Crucial rods (medium-fast action) paired with Shimano Stradic reels(Stradic reels now on sale!). These were teamed up with 8-pound Sufix Fluoro line. Of course, I relied on “Sparkie” the Ranger, with the help of Evinrude, Humminbird, Minn Kota, and Optima Batteries for a flawless ride.

What was your biggest challenge?

The biggest challenge of this event was finding the fish over 26”. On the first day, Coach slammed a 26.5” fish at 9:30 in the morning and made the rest of our day pretty easy. We ended up going through about thirty fish to ensure all of our “under” fish ranged from 16″ to 18″. On day two, the wind died down and because this is a wind-driven lake it made us a little nervous! However, we kept our heads high and our confidence up to make the right decisions. We decided to drop a “creek chub” (minnow) down at 11:00am and we brought eight fish in the boat within twenty minutes—all of them were 22” to 26” so we were able to keep an “over” fish. Then we ran to several spots jigging spot-tailed shiners with Blue White VMC Dominator Hammer Head jigs to fill out our limit for the day. We knew we had a good bag but would have liked a little more time to put some “under” fish in the boat!

Dusty and Coach with their wall bling.

Dusty and Coach with their wall bling.

How did you finish and what did you win?

We took third place—winning $4,000 along with some nice wall bling!

What are the lessons that you’ll apply to next time?

We learned something very important about when the wind dies and the skies are high… but I can’t give out all of the secrets! However, I will say that that we should have given more time to our main spot when the wind picked up towards the afternoon!

Any closing thoughts?

Dusty and the Crown Royal Blended Whisky girls in Nisswa.

Dusty and the Crown Royal Blended Whisky girls in Nisswa.

I want to thank everyone involved this week that made it very special and fun. I wish the time did not go by so quickly! The LLWT is a great event—thanks to all of the volunteers and the city of Walker. You can find “southern hospitality” in this small, Northern-Minnesota town—that’s for sure!

I also want to thank Coach (aka. Troy Jutting), my partner for keeping me in line and helping make critical decisions during the event! Finally, I want to thank those that got me to this point: Dad, my brother Kyle Minke, Toby and Dean Kvalevog, Jeff Andersen, John Hoyer and the rest of the LOA crew.

If any of you guys will be near Aberdeen on June 27th, come join me at a Crown Royal Blended Whisky event. We had a great event in Nisswa earlier this month with Nerissa and Kylle!

All in all, it was a great week and I’m already looking forward to next year!

Dusty Minke is a professional angler and avid outdoorsman from Forest Lake, Minnesota. You will see him fishing the NWT circuits as well as other fishing tournaments in the Midwest. You can like his page on Facebook (facebook.com/Dusty.Minke) and follow him on Twitter (@DustyMinke).

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