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National Walleye Tour begins in Red Wing, ends at Devils Lake

RED WING, Minn. -- Cabela's inaugural National Walleye Tour Fishing Tournament will launch Friday at Bay Point Park in Red Wing.

This is the first tournament that the NWT has sponsored, but Bart Chad, the general manager for NWT, said he and his staff have years of experience to support this tour.

"We've all participated, managed or run other tours," he said. "The basic building blocks are all there -- just this wildlife tour is new to our team."

The tournament pairs a professional fisherman with an amateur angler at random through a computer. They will fish the Mississippi River from below U.S. Lock & Dam No. 3 down through Lake Pepin.

"They never know who they're going to fish with on Day 1 or Day 2," said Anthony Wright, the NWT tournament director.

Whatever team catches the most fish in weight wins payouts or prizes. Payouts range from $3,000 to $57,000 for professional anglers, and amateur anglers could walk away with $400 to $6,000. This does not include bonuses they can receive for using specific fishing or boating equipment.

To register as a professional or pro angler, people need to provide their own boat and equipment. An amateur angler will use the pro's boat and equipment.

"The amateurs are there to learn and assist in the fish catching," Wright said.

Fishing can be an expensive sport, Wright said, and this opportunity can fully show the amateurs what kind of sport they would be investing money in.

"They do this a year or two to learn the basics," he said.

"It's a whole other world if you haven't ever participated in a tournament," said Patty Brown, president of the Red Wing Area Chamber of Commerce. "It's amazing."

The fish are released after the weigh-in ceremony, Brown said. If the fish die, then the team gets penalized. Rules like these will be discussed at a mandatory dinner meeting Thursday at the Treasure Island Resort & Casino.

Besides the tournament, there will other be activities. These include a family fishing event, a boater safety course for women, test pilot boat rides and a "meet the pro" night.

Brown said people are welcome to see the launches at 6:30 a.m. Friday and April 27 at Bay Point. Even with a later spring, the only thing that would prevent this launch would be if the Department of Natural Resources determined a reason the tournament should not be held -- and the tournament coordinators all said they do not see that happening.

The tournament has a 150-boat limitation. With two people per boat, that will bring about 300 anglers to Red Wing. Plus, there will be family and friends. They will stay in local hotels, eat at locals restaurants and use other local resources, Brown noted.

"Should be a really good turnout," she said, and as a result it has a "huge economic impact for Red Wing."

To become the host, Red Wing paid $12,000. This money was raised through donations, Brown said.

Following the tournament in Red Wing, professional anglers will compete June 14-15 in Port Clinton, Ohio, on Lake Erie and July 26-27 at Sturgeon Bay, Wis., on Lake Michigan. The tournament concludes Sept. 19-21 in Devils Lake, N.D.