OTTER TAIL LAKE — In his first week of fishing Otter Tail Lake, and his first season competing in the National Walleye Tour, 21-year-old Eric McQuoid walked away the champion Friday, Sept. 24, out of a field of 40 other pro anglers and 40 amateur co-anglers.
"It's a life long dream I've been chasing and it came a lot sooner than I thought it would," Eric said following the final weigh-in. "It was a picture perfect couple days."
McQuoid was fishing 8-16 feet and managed to pinpoint some very big fish, several over 25 inches. Once he was on a good fish he kept after them until they took the hook. One in particular, he cast to about 20 times before it finally caught on.
Up 7.5 pounds over the other top nine anglers on Thursday, McQuoid, of Isle, Minn., and his co-angler David Landsteiner, of Claremont, Minn., didn't have to have the top catch going into the final day. That didn't stop them from having a catch that once again outdid the whole field. They brought in five fish weighing 19.21 pounds. That was more than 6 pounds over the closest team and more than 14 pounds ahead of second place over the three day tournament.
In a competition that's usually a difference of ounces, this was a huge performance, according to veteran pro angler Kevin McQuoid, who watched his son, Eric, claim victory, 20 years after his first pro-angler win in the tour, when little Eric was still in diapers.
"So many of these tournaments are won by ounces, not even pounds," Kevin McQuoid said. "For him to go into this last day with a 7.5 pound lead was phenomenal."
"His baptism was on a boat launch," Karen McQuoid, Eric's mom said. The McQuoids are a family of anglers that have been building up to this moment. Upon the announcement of his win, his parents couldn't have been more proud.
"He just keeps refining himself, it's real special to watch, I really love it," Kevin McQuoid said.
"We like to see him building his confidence in himself and on his own," Karen McQuoid said. The couple shared that Eric was up late completing his homework for business classes he's taking at Bemidji State University. Eric hopes to stay in the tour in coming years while he completes business classes. He has hopes of continuing the family tradition of running a guiding service like his dad and grandpa.
His performance helped him bring home a new boat and $30,000 in cash, which had a total value of $121,535. His co-angler Landsteiner also went home with a new boat.
Ten of the best professional walleye anglers from around the Midwest gave it their all on this third day of this Cabela's/Bass Pro Shops National Walleye Tour championship. The tournament started with 40 professional and 40 amateur co-anglers who qualified through season point standings from the tour’s four regular-season stops. The first two days of the championship on Wednesday and Thursday brought the cream of the crop to the top and those top 10 professional and amateur anglers moved into Friday action.
The day began with cooler temps and rain but quickly turned to blue skies, temperatures in the low 60s with a breeze that kept the boats trolling along out on Otter Tail Lake. One angler commented that it was just a bit too breezy.
In accepting his first-place trophy Eric McQuoid shared that he lost his best friend, grandpa and great grandma in the last year.
"I could definitely feel them in the boat the last few days," he said.
Angler of the year
Drake Herd, Alexandria, Minn., pro-angler came away with the Angler of the Year award and came in with a sixth place finish in this event. Herd had four top 10 finishes in the NWT and one 87th place finish on Lake Erie, that was one that could have tossed him out of the lineup, but he performed consistently strong after that.
"It's an amazing feeling to hold this trophy," Herd said.
Now on top of the tour, he said he was ready to take the winter off, do some duck hunting and a little ice fishing.
"To have four top 10s and set an NWT record is unbelievable and I couldn't be happier," Herd said. Accepting the award with his kids and wife surrounding him made it all the more sweet.
With five events, Herd brought in 44 fish with a total weight of 156.93 pounds. His biggest day was a total weight of 24.98 pounds.
Anglers shared they were catching up to 30 fish per day using both plastics and live minnows. Even a handful of nice pike and sturgeon hit the lure. Herd was impressed with the large fish coming out of the lake.
"Guys were catching a lot of fish everyday," Herd said about Otter Tail Lake. "It's healthy, there's anything from 14-inchers to 28-inchers that these guys were bringing in."
PRO ANGLERS DAY THREE (Total weight)
1. Eric McQuoid, Isle, Minn. - 58.55; 2. Tom Huynh, Moorhead, Minn. - 44.88; 3. Ed Stachowski, Canton, Mich. - 43.88; 4. Kent Andersen, Amery, Wisc. - 43.63; 5. Max Wilson, Campbellsport, Wisc. - 39.24; 6. Drake Herd, Alexandria, Minn. - 37; 7. Wayne Van Dyke, Spruce, Mich. - 36.77; 8. Brian Bjorkman, Fargo, N.D. - 36.65; 9. Jason Przekurat, Stevens Point, Wisconsin - 35.75; 10. Jarrod Fredericks Estelline, South Dakota - 34.35
CO-ANGLERS DAY THREE (Total weight)
1. David Landsteiner, Dodge Center, Minnesota - 49.54; 2. James Youngblood, Markesan, Wisc. - 41.78; 3. Troy Cox, Bono, Ark. - 39.02; 4. Steve Beasley, Macomb, Mich. - 38.79; 5. Neal Wilkinson, Larkspur, Colorado - 36.15; 6. Jason Treberg, Chaska, Minn. - 34.28; 7. Chris Stassen - Marshall, Minn. - 34.16; 8. Greg Ballering, Milwaukee, Wisc. - 33.59; 9. Chris Reinhardt, Mondovi, Wisc. - 33.12; 10. Ed Neal Wilkinson, Larkspur Colo. - 32.61; 11. John Herd, Alexandria, Minn. - 21.22.