ALEXANDRIA, Minn. — Heading into the last day of a National Walleye Tour tournament on July 30, Kent Andersen’s back was against the wall, as the pro angler was sitting in 16th place.
After starting the day off hot on Lake Oahe, reeling in a massive 32-inch walleye, followed by a big 28-incher, Andersen knew he was in the hunt to finish very high on the leaderboard in Mobridge, South Dakota.
As he approached the stage at weigh-ins on Mobridge’s Main Street, the Alexandria, Minnesota, native was asked by a tournament organizer if he could wait to weigh in. It was looking like the win was going to come down to him and another angler he knows very well — his brother, Adam.
In front of a packed crowd, Kent’s bag of fish weighed in at 24.16 pounds, giving him a combined two-day weight of 40.75 pounds and propelling him over Adam, who caught 38.05 pounds of walleye in the two-day outing.
Both guys found sunken trees that forced them to go through quite a few crankbaits to get the lures in front of the fish, but those spots also produced some big walleyes.
Kent’s finish earned him a total prize package worth nearly $79,500 that included $15,000 in payouts and a new Ranger fishing boat. It’s the first win for Kent after fishing all of the more than 30 tournaments now in the history of the National Walleye Tour. It’s also Adam’s top finish after becoming a regular on the tour in 2019.
“This goes to show you never give up. The spot I got the 32-inch and 28.5-incher was the spot my brother found in practice, so I want to thank him,” Kent said of a duo that willingly shares information with each other at these events. “Almost all of my big fish came on lead core. I was running anywhere from eight to 10 colors (of crankbaits), and that was definitely key.”
The Andersen brothers were born in Alexandria and grew up there until moving to Amery, Wisconsin, in 1995 as high school students. Kent was a sophomore, and Adam was a senior.
Both still live in Wisconsin, and it was an incredible couple of days for them as Adam had a big second day as well with a total weight of 23.55 pounds. That put him right in front of Alexandria’s Drake Herd in the standings, as Herd finished third with 37.72 total pounds.
“It was crazy. Then Drake is a friend of ours. It’s just weird,” Kent said of the Alexandria connection for all three top finishers. “For two brothers to finish one and two, it’s never happened in a national-level event. There’s not that many. I don’t even know if there’s been a father-son that has gone 1-2, so that was kind of cool.”
The tournament victory carried special meaning for Kent. One of the fishing rods he used was his late father’s, who died in 2016 after competing in the same tournament at the same body of water where he reeled his way to a championship finish.
“The last tournament my dad fished in 2016 was here. He passed away shortly after it,” Kent said. “That rod had been sitting up on the shelf since, so I took it out with me. I had him with me out there today.”
The pro-amateur style tournament allows each boat to have two anglers, and 107 of the fishermen are pros, while the remaining 107 are amateur co-anglers. Each pro angler fishes with a different co-angler in the tournament, which are selected randomly.
Jared Pokrzywinski, of Devils Lake, North Dakota, took home the tournament championship for the co-anglers. Pokrzywinski landed just over 40 pounds in the two-day tournament.
Each angler is allowed two fish over 20 inches. The rest of the five-fish limit must be under 20. There is no swapping out the fish over 20 inches if bigger ones are caught later in the day.
Kent’s first fish he caught on the second day measured 23 inches, but his decision to throw it back paid off. His next walleye measured 32 inches. It was a process getting that fish in the boat as Kent’s co-angler had the fish in the net before it got out. He went to net it again when the hook got caught in the net with the fish on the outside of it.
“For whatever reason, I stayed calm as could be,” Kent said. “I got up there, the fish got out of the net. Crankbait was still in the fish, and I grabbed the net and netted it myself.”
Kent knew it was a big fish when he saw it behind the boat, but he wasn’t expecting an 11.8-pound, 32-incher.
“As soon as I caught that fish, I knew I was cashing a check, I knew I was going to the (NWT) championship (in September),” Kent said. “I’m like, ‘All the pressure is off now. It was probably 20-30 minutes and we caught that 28.5-incher. Well, that was a no-brainer fish too. Now we’re sitting on 20 pounds with two fish. That was at like 9:30 (in the morning).”
Anglers had a 231-mile stretch of the Missouri River they could fish in the tournament, so there is plenty of second guessing that can happen.
Kent made a move to a spot he had caught good numbers of fish the day before to better his under 20-inch bag. Then with about 10 minutes of fishing left at a spot on his way back to weigh-in, he caught a 19-incher.
“When it’s your day, it’s your day,” he said.
With the win, Kent solidified a spot in the championship tournament of the walleye tour. To qualify for this final event from Sept. 22-24, pro anglers and co-anglers must be in the top 40 of the season point standings. The championship is on Otter Tail Lake in Ottertail, Minnesota.
Kent is 19th in the Angler of the Year standings out of more than 200 pros who have fished at least one tour event this year. Adam’s big day propelled him into the championship as he sits 40th in the standings, and Herd is third heading into the championship.
Reporter Sam Fosness in Mitchell, South Dakota, contributed to this story.