Will this winter ever end? Sooner or later, spring and open water will come to the Hawkeye state. With it comes the highly recognized Iowa Organization of Walleye Anglers (I.O.W.A.) Team Walleye Tournament Trail.
Designed as a team tournament circuit for the weekend warrior, the I.O.W.A. trail will feature four regular season tournaments highlighted by the State Championship, Oct. 2-3 at Rathbun Reservoir.
Dean Higgins, who along with his wife Chris, owns and directs the I.O.W.A. circuit said, "We are really looking forward to the 2010 season. We showed continued growth in 2009, and there are several new teams talking about joining the circuit." Back to defend their 2009 Humminbird Team of the Year honors will be the father-son team of Randy and Ryan O'Tool from Mason City.
2009 Humminbird Team of the Year, Randy and Ryan O’Tool from Mason City, display their third place plaques at last year’s Spirit Lake Tournament. The third place finish locked up the title by five points over the team of Bruce and Terry Sparks from Des Moines.
The season kicks off on Sunday, April 11 at Clear Lake hosted by FCIS Anglers Choice Insurance of Forest City. "The past couple of years have been tough on Clear Lake," said Higgins. "However, creel surveys are positive, and it looks as if the walleye population is coming back." In case of late ice, an alternate date has been set for Sunday, April 18 "You never know what the weather will be like in early April in northern Iowa. Last year we had to use the alternate date at the Storm Lake opener."
The circuit then heads to Storm Lake on Sunday, May 2. It will be hosted by King's Pointe Resort of Storm Lake. "Storm Lake has been a great walleye fishery the past few years and continued to be so this past winter. Big key here is that we don't get strong winds for several days that stir up the lake."
The third stop will be at West/East Okoboji on Sunday, May 23. "What can you say about the Iowa Great Lakes? Our teams always enjoy coming to the Okoboji chain of lakes."
The final stop takes the I.O.W.A. teams to the Mississippi River at Davenport on Sunday, September 5. "The Mississippi River offers our teams a total change from the three-lake qualifiers. With its lock and dam system, this fishery is as diverse a fishery as you will find. Putting this qualifier in September will, hopefully, give the teams a good stable pool level with which to work."
The State Championship shootout then follows with a two-day event at Rathbun Reservoir, Oct. 2-3.
"I know that the teams will enjoy the challenges that each of these bodies of water offer. At the same time, each of the communities are great supporters of our circuit and always roll out the red carpet for us."
In addition to the typical 80 percent payback based on number of entries, sponsorships this year will continue to help provide additional cash and prizes at all events. "We are really proud to be able to offer our teams the awards we do, and it all comes down to our sponsors," said Higgins.
This year's corporate sponsors include Lund Boats, Mercury Outboards, ShoreLand'r Trailers, Brightwell's Boathouse, MinnKota, Humminbird, Berkley, Cabela's, Smooth Move Seat Mounts, FCIS Anglers Choice Insurance of Forest City, King's Pointe Resort of Storm Lake and Wright County Motors of Clarion.
Reflecting on the purpose of the circuit, Higgins noted. "Our goal remains the same. We want to make the I.O.W.A. Trail the ultimate experience for the Iowa anglers. We offer anglers the chance to compete for some great prizes at an affordable price, while at the same time giving them the chance to learn from some of the best walleye sticks in the state."
The entry fee will be $240 per team for all events with an 80 percent payback plus additional prizes and awards. Membership for the Iowa Organization of Walleye Anglers will be $30 per person. "One of the rewarding opportunities for all I.O.W.A. anglers is our Enhanced Fishing Conservation Fund where $10 of each entry fee goes to the fund."
Higgins appreciates the support of the teams-both new and old-that fish the I.O.W.A. circuit. "They make it fun for Chris and me."
The I.O.W.A. website (www.walleyepromotions.com) contains all the rules, registration, schedule, special awards, contact information and sponsors. "We also have our message board as the on-line communication link. It's a great place to ask questions or simply post a fishing idea. It is the hub for I.O.W.A. members.
Interested anglers can call (515) 571-1085.