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Smith says the walleye is a big challenge for PWT participants

Ron Smith of Hudson is one of the professional fishermen participating in the PWT tournament in Hudson this week in conjunction with Spirit of the St. Croix Days. Photo by Jon Echternacht

Ron Smith considers the walleye the most challenging of all fish, which will add to the competition in the Professional Walleye Trail tournament this week in Hudson.

"The walleye is hard to catch and the most challenging fish," said the 57-year-old Hudsonite during a break in his pre-fish routine last Friday.

"It's going to be a tough tournament to win," he added.

Smith said he spent six to eight hours a day pre-fishing the tournament area, which includes the St. Croix River from the High Bridge to Prescott and Pool 3 of the Mississippi from Prescott to Red Wing.

"I located some walleyes," he said, but the big catch of the morning last Friday was a 40-pound catfish.

He concurs with other local pros: "The tournament will be won in Pool 3," where the bigger walleye are known to hang out.

He figures there should be quite a crowd in Pool 3 when the competition gets under way.

Smith worked the whole area last week but said he only caught small fish in the St. Croix River portion.

The three-day professional-amateur tourney was to start Wednesday and continue through Friday. Each pro has an amateur co-angler in the boat and draws a new partner and a new start time every day.

The winner is determined by the total weight of the five biggest fish caught each day and the amateur's catch counts in the total. It is also a "no cull" event. Each fish boated stays in the live well until weighed. The participants can't sort out bigger fish caught and throw back smaller ones.

The rule emphasizes finding and catching big fish and thus puts the pressure on Pool 3, said Smith.

A weigh-in is scheduled each day between 3:15 and 5:30 p.m. at Lakefront Park in Hudson.

Saturday includes a championship round for the pros who have participated in all the events of the PWT throughout the year.

Smith said his best finish was ninth place in a 2002 PWT event.

The Hudson tournament pays $44,000 to the winner and gives out a check to the top 30 places. Other incentives from boat, motor, rod and tackle companies can sweeten the total.

The water temperature was cooling off and was encouraging to anglers. "It was 51-52 degrees today," Smith said. "It had warmed to 62 earlier, but cooled off again."

Water temps in the 68-69 degree range were recorded a couple weeks earlier. "It should be getting better and better," he said.

He was using both crank baits and live bait on a Lindy Rig during his pre-fish.

Smith said he turned pro in 2002 after participating as an amateur in PWT tournaments.

He is originally from Iowa City, Iowa, and like many got into fishing early, at age 3 or 4. "I was one of those kids you see riding his bicycle with a cane pole heading out to go fishing," he said.

In high school he spent summer vacations with his parents at Leach Lake, Minn., where he learned about the walleye and continued to pursue the fish right on to the PWT circuit.

Smith moved to Hudson 30 years ago and is an engineer at Phillips Plastics in New Richmond. Hunting and golfing join walleye fishing in his leisure pursuits.