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South Dakota anglers stringing success together in this year's National Walleye Tour

There are five South Dakota pro anglers – Ted Takasaki, Brian Bashore, Mike Zell, Justin Sieverding and Duane Hjelm – who are among the top 40 in the Angler of the Year standings

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Ted Takasaki, left, of Sioux Falls, South Dakota, hoists a pair of walleye he caught at the April 28 National Walleye Tour tournament in Chamberlain-Oacoma. Takasaki is among the South Dakota anglers who is in the top 40 for Angler of the Year standings.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic
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South Dakota anglers competing in this year’s National Walleye Tour have been putting together a strong season of fishing at the tournaments this year, positioning them for a chance to compete in the late August championship event.

Pierre pro angler Duane Hjelm placed second at the Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, tournament by reeling in a 26-pound bag of walleye during the two-day event on June 9-10. Hjelm is making a name for himself as a top contender in the walleye tour this year, as the Pierre angler is sitting in fourth place for Angler of the Year standings.

The Angler of the Year standings combine all of the results from each tournament during the regular season. The Angler of the Year receives paid entry fees for all five National Walleye Tour tournaments in 2023.

Minnesota’s Kevin McQuoid is leading the pack for this year’s Angler of the Year award. The Minnesota native has landed 24 walleye with a combined weight of roughly 66 pounds through all three tournaments this summer. Hjelm has landed a total of 22 walleye with a combined weight of 58 pounds this season.

Read all about the National Walleye Tour ...

There are five South Dakota pro anglers – Ted Takasaki, Brian Bashore, Mike Zell, Justin Sieverding and Hjelm – who are among the top 40 in the Angler of the Year standings. The top 40 pro anglers and co-anglers will earn themselves a spot to compete in the Dunkirk, New York, championship tournament.

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Duane Hjelm, right, speaks to the crowd at weigh ins at the 2021 National Walleye Tour tournament in Mobridge, where Hjelm produced a solid two days of fishing.
Sam Fosness

South Dakota anglers proved they know the Missouri River system well during the late April Chamberlain-Oacoma tournament, as five of the top 10 finishers on the pro side were South Dakota anglers. But the Mississippi River brought new challenges for South Dakotans who competed in the Wisconsin tournament. After two days of fishing the Mississippi River in Prairie du Chien, Hjelm and Huron’s Mike Zell were the only South Dakota pro anglers who finished among the top 10.

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Huron pro angler Mike Zell, right, makes his way to weigh ins during the National Walleye Tour tournament in Mobridge in 2021. Zell is becoming a top contender on the tour tournaments.
Sam Fosness
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While Brookings pro angler Dustin Kjelden claimed the Chamberlain-Oacoma tournament title in late April by reeling in 31 pounds in the two-day event, he did not compete in the Wisconsin tournament in early June. Kjelden is in 87th place for Angler of the Year standings, putting him in a tough position to qualify for the championship tournament.

The next stop is in Marinette, Wisconsin, on July 14-15, where anglers will compete on the Menominee River. With one regular season tournament on deck until the championship round in late August, anglers will be looking to produce strong finishes to qualify for the Aug. 24-26 tournament finale in Dunkirk, New York.

The first stop of this year’s National Walleye Tour on the Detroit River in Michigan brought cold, wet weather that made it tough for anglers to haul in their limit of walleye. But Michigan pro angler Paul George managed to land a 40-pound bag of walleye after two days of fishing the Detroit River, claiming first place at the first stop of the tour in early April.

The top finisher at each tournament takes home roughly $100,000 in prize money and a new Ranger fishing boat. Second place finishers have taken home about $22,000 to $30,000 checks at each stop this year.

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Highlights from the 2022 National Walleye Tour on the Missouri River near Chamberlain on April 28, 2022.
Adam Thury / Mitchell Republic

Each tournament features about 130 pro anglers and 130 co-anglers. Pro anglers are paired with a different co-angler during the two-day tournaments. Anglers are allowed to weigh a limit of five walleye per day, while only two can be over 20 inches.

After fishing on river systems throughout the regular season, anglers will compete on Lake Erie for the championship tournament.

Sam Fosness joined the Mitchell Republic in May 2018. He was raised in Mitchell, S.D., and graduated from Mitchell High School. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota in Vermillion, where he graduated in 2020 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in English. During his time in college, Fosness worked as a news and sports reporter for The Volante newspaper.
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