WADDINGTON - With the Evan Williams Bourbon Showdown only six weeks away, anglers are flocking to the St. Lawrence River to see whats in store for the professional bass fishing tournament.
The worlds top 102 anglers are set to take to the river and compete for two and a half days in August.
But for many professional anglers like David Walker, this will be their first time fishing on the river.
Ive fished in Lake Champlain, but this is my first time ever being up here, he said after docking his boat at the Whittaker Park Boat Launch Wednesday. I dont even know anyone who has fished up here before.
Mr. Walker, who is in 16th place in the Elite Series standings, said he is taking extra time to familiarize himself with the river than he normally would. For many anglers, the Evan Williams Showdown could make or break their chances for taking home the championship title or decide whether they can compete in the Classic Series tournament.
Since he arrived on Tuesday, Mr. Walker has been traveling up and down the river, scoping out fishing spots.
Its difficult to have any kind of strategy at this point, he said. Some of the bass are still spawning, so they wont be in the same spot in August. But I am glad I came up here. There are dams east and west of the launch in Waddington. I dont think they will be closed on the days of the tournament, but if the dams are closed, it will be a game changer.
The tournament is expected to extend as far east as Lake Ontario and as far west as Massena.
Mr. Walker, who is from Michigan and now lives in Tennessee, said the St. Lawrence is unlike many rivers hes visited.
Theres great water quality and plenty of fish, he said. Obviously, since its a channel for ships, its very easy to navigate and very user-friendly. Ive really enjoyed it up here so far.
Mr. Walker said he is most excited about the size and quantity of the fish, particularly the small mouth bass.
I am a bass fishing junkie, said the past Elite Series champion. I always look forward to the fishing the most no matter where we go. But coming to the north is especially exciting because we know were going to catch fish.
He said in the southern areas where fishing happens all year round, bass can be difficult to catch.
Its also an issue of the weather, he said. I am sure some of the locals will say its a bit warm. After fishing in areas like Texas and where I live in Tennessee it can get really hot. But when youre in the north, and its 80 to 90 degrees on the water, its a good day for fishing.
But its not all about the fish. Mr. Walker said he is also visiting the north country to familiarize himself with the lay of the land.
Its also about knowing your way around when youre not in the waterfinding a place to stay, eat and fuel your boat, Mr. Walker said. These are all things you need be familiar with when you compete in a new place.
So far, Mr. Walker said hes feels welcomed by the locals.
Its great to see to see the northern venues really welcome us, he said. Hopefully theyll see a boost to the economy and more people will come out and enjoy the sport. Its something a whole family can enjoy. Whether you go pro and travel the country like me or fish with your dad in the creek bank, theres an appeal for everyone.
The Evan Williams Showdown is scheduled for Aug. 8 to 11.