By JON YOUNG
For The Daily News
ESCANABA - The country's top walleye fishermen will take to the waters of Little Bay and Big Bay de Noc today through Saturday for the 2013 Cabela's Masters Walleye Circuit World Walleye Championship.
Forty-seven teams, consisting of two fishermen each, are launching from the Gladstone Harbor starting at 8 a.m. (all times Eastern) each morning. Anglers have to be off the water by 4 p.m., at which time they will return to the Miracle of Life building at the U.P. State Fairgrounds for a weigh-in. NBC Sports will be on hand and fans are encouraged to attend the weigh-ins, which will take place every day between 4:30 and 5 p.m.
At the conclusion of Friday's weigh-in, there will be a family fishing clinic. Kids will get to learn fishing tips from the anglers and the first 50 who show up will receive free rods and reels courtesy of Cabela's.
The crowning of the world champion is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. Saturday.
CMW Circuit Tournament Director Dan Palmer said the success of past tournaments in Escanaba and the community support they received made it an ideal choice for the championship.
"The Cabela's Masters Walleye Circuit has a history of coming to Escanaba for tournaments in the past 20 years, so we're no strangers to fishing up here in the U.P.," said Palmer. "We held our Cabela's National Team Championship here a couple of years ago, where we had well up into the 250-boat range. We knew the Convention Visitors Bureau and (Delta) Chamber of Commerce would welcome us with open arms as usual."
The MWC World Walleye Championship has free entry and is made up of teams who qualified during the 2012 tournament circuit. Teams had to participate in at least three of the possible 10 events to qualify for the championship. The championship includes $100,000 in cash and prizes to be divided amongst the winners.
Executive Director of the Bays de Noc Convention & Visitors Bureau Steve Masters said this is the latest in the fall that Escanaba has ever hosted a tournament and it benefits the economy.
"It's really going to affect the entire county and all the businesses with all of the anglers that come in and shop in the local stores, buy gas and spend the night in the local hotels," said Masters. "It's really a win-win for the entire business community."
Palmer noted many of the fisherman are here two weeks in advance to scope out the water and see what the community has to offer.
Local anglers are getting in on the action as well. Escanaba resident Jerry Plourde qualified with Dan Steer (South Dakota), his teammate of seven years. Gladstone's Glenn and Carol Chenier are also participating in the event. Plourde noted the conditions are tough for walleye fishing right now and it's "anybody's game."
Bleachers will be set up in the Miracle of Life Building for spectators to watch. Anglers will pull their boats right through the building and show off their catch on stage before the walleye are released back into the Escanaba River. Footage of the event can be seen on NBC Sports (Charter channel 68) on Dec. 11 and 18 at 2 p.m. (Eastern time).