New Report Highlights High Cost of Walleye Tournament Fishing

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A new article by Brad Dokken at InForum.com takes a fascinating look at the high cost of walleye tournament fishing, reviewing a report compiled by Devils Lake Tourism.

In the article, Dokken highlights the recent success of Minnesota’s John Hoyer (pictured above), the winner of the Cabela’s National Walleye Tour at Devil’s Lake, North Dakota.

Hoyer, who competed during the three-day tournament (between September 11-13, 2019) walked away with a grand-prize package worth over $97,000.

Dokken also draws light to both the expected and hidden costs of competing in such a high-profile, high-cost environment.

The High Cost of High Success in Walleye Tournament Fishing

According to the article, Dokken suggests that anglers who competed in September’s National Walleye Tournament at Devil’s Lake spent, on average, nearly $1,400.

These costs include travel to North Dakota, lodging, meals, and tackle. With 87 professional anglers (and 87 co-anglers) hitting the water, these costs quickly add up.

Consider that many anglers arrive several days ahead of the event to acclimate with the lake and its easy to see why walleye tournament fishing is such a costly endeavor.

In Hoyer’s case, he reported losing “at least 300 lures during his stay in Devils Lake” because of his aggressive style of fishing. He also claimed to have replaced around 100 of those lures locally.

And if you’re on this website, we don’t have to tell you that fishing lures aren’t cheap…

Dokken’s report also contains some other harrowing figures for would-be walleye tournament anglers:

  • Five anglers spent over $1,000 on tackle at Devil’s Lake. One daring soul dropped over $2,000. And another eight spent at least $400. The majority dropped at least $50.
  • Anglers, on average, spent seven nights in the area with 68% staying at either a motel or a resort.
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It Happened again ! Devils Lake has always been my favorite lake to cast for Walleyes. Going into the Cabelas NWT Championship I planned on doing just that . I had caught 2 tourney grade fish in my primary area , but more importantly had marked a bunch more on my Lowrance SideScan. I knew that I was going to start in that area, but had no clue that 3 days later I would've spent 70% of my time spot locked on one key transition area . Going into the final day , My travel partner and one of my best friends Dusty Minke and I were basically tied . I wasn't sure if I was more excited for him to win or for us both to win a boat! My 17 yr old Co Angler Drake McCarthy and I had a great morning bite. Within 2 hrs , we already had 24 ish lbs. In the livewell. The bite had definitely slowed enough in our primary area for it to be time to go hawg hunting . With about 45 mins left in my fishing time , I landed a 4.78 lber, which was a 1/2 lb. Upgrade on my smallest fish I planned on weighing. My decision was to keep the fish, and it ended up being the derby winner !😊 Looking back on this tourney and the rest of this euphoric season makes me think about all the people that made it happen. My team of Bill Shimota, Dustin Minke , and Dewey Hjelm. The fun loving environment in camp, and our ability to break down water, pattern fish and execute a delicate balance of sampling and leaving fish alone is the #1 reason to my personal success. My Travel Partner Aron Eix is an absolute weapon in my arsenal . We have enjoyed so many fish-less hours together this year, it really is my favorite part of practice. The time between figuring out a new evolving pattern, getting a quality bite , trying something different, the anticipation of day 1 of the tourney . This is truly what drives my passion for tourney fishing. I also have a huge thanks to give to all my sponsors. I have been very fortunate to partner with all the finest brands in the fishing world . Honestly with all the things I get to use on a day to day basis, the only thing left to chance is if those silly Walleyes decide to bite! Thank you everybody for all the Love and Support😊.

A post shared by John Hoyer| Pro Angler |MN🌲🇺🇸 (@johnhoyerfish) on

Is Walleye Tournament Fishing Cost-Prohibitive?

The majority of anglers falling upon Devil’s Lake did not leave with a nearly six-figure prize package. Which begs the question, “is tournament fishing too expensive?”

Consider this: John Hoyer is a seasoned fishing pro with some high-powered sponsors behind him. These include Berkeley, Evinrude, Abu Garcia, Lowrance, and Ranger Boats. Hoyer is an experienced fishing guide who, according to his website, charges between $300-500 per session. He was also 2015’s National Walleye Tour co-angler of the year.

Dokken’s report suggests that Hoyer even spent ten days pre-fishing and racked up a sizeable food bill by taking his friends out to dinner after winning the tournament.

But what about everyone else?

A Barrier to Entry?

The 2019 National Walleye Tour registration form alone may be enough to scare away most anglers.

In addition to the $30 annual membership fee, pro anglers pony up $1,500 for tournament entry while co-anglers pay a respectable $350. This is on top of the aforementioned travel, lodging, food and tackle costs.

Hoyer’s victory — valued at $97,320 — only consists of $17, 225 cash (including $15,000 in a straight cash prize and a $2,225 Angler’s Advantage cash prize). His Ranger 621 FS fishing boat and 300 HP Mercury outboard motor are amazing prizes, but Hoyer secured victory at the eleventh hour.

Had Hoyer not made a late-event switch, replacing his smallest fish with a slightly larger catch, victory would have gone to Tommy Kemos, who finished a mere .43 lbs behind the winner.

Kemos’ consolation prize — a Triton boat-Mercury motor combination and nearly $3,000 cash bonus — are certainly nothing to scoff at. But considering the upfront costs, it’s easy to see why many anglers may choose to sit out similar events.

Dusty Minke, a good friend of eventual-winner Hoyer, finished in third place with a prize package totaling just shy of $16,000.

All three anglers certainly recouped their losses, but what can be said for the other 84 pros (and all the co-anglers) who also made this pilgrimage?

Fishing for the Love of Fishing

While entering Cabela’s National Walleye Tournament may be a costly endeavor, spirits remain high and reviews of Devil’s Lake even higher.

Dokken’s article reports that 88% of the anglers who fished the tournament rated Devil’s Lake as being at least “good,” with 28% saying it was “very good” and 11% rating it “excellent.”

Speaking about the experience, Hoyer told Devils Lake Tourism, “Everyone talks fishing, loves us fishermen and wants to know what we know.”

Swapping fishing stories, advice and tips is part of what keeps the pastime alive. Fishing can be wonderful as both an individual endeavor or as a communal activity. Even if you don’t want a boat for going.

Sure, the luster of high-stakes success is certainly alluring. Especially when the right mixture of luck, experience, and preparation can win you some huge paydays. The reality, however, is that most folks are going to simply go fishing for the love of fishing.

And for those hoping to get involved in some competitive tournaments that won’t break the bank? You can see check out other upcoming tournaments and events to see if there’s anything coming up in your area.

Know of any great fishing tournaments coming to your area? Have experience with walleye tournament fishing? Let us know in the comments below!

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