Cypress, CA – Pierre, South Dakota-based DAIWA Walleye Tournament Pro, Duane “Dewey” Hjelm just finished up two days on South Dakota’s Francis Case, taking the NWT tournament’s top honors with co-anglers Ray Van Orden and Tyler Kroupa.
Hjelm received a check for $15,000 plus, plus a $4,000 advantage pay-out, and since Hjelm won fishing out of a Ranger, he received a brand-new Ranger 621 Pro outfitted with a big Mercury—what amounts to roughly $95,000.
It seems only fitting that a “local” would finish high on the leaderboard in the recent NWT event on Lake Francis Case, a famed walleye-producing reservoir on the Missouri River system in southeastern South Dakota.
“When I was little, my family fished Francis Case quite a bit, but more on the upper end up by Fort Thompson, South Dakota. That’s where we did most of our camping early in the season and sometimes summertime, and we’d drag bottom bouncers around,” recalls Hjelm.
“It was nothing like what we’re doing now,” laughs Hjelm. “And from where I live right now to the bottom end of Francis case is about three hours. And believe it or not, I had never fished this section before. When I fish close to home I’m generally on Lake Oahe, which is about 10 minutes from my house,” notes Hjelm.
Hjelm says pre-fishing went pretty well—and they found lots of fish—but the challenge was locating the biggest “overs” since South Dakota allows only four fish in possession, three between 15- and 20-inches, and one over 20.
“The goal was three bigger slot fish and two nice overs for me and my co-angler each day,” says Hjelm. “The thing about Francis Case is there are tons quality ‘eater’ fish. But there are some big fish in the system, too. The two biggest I caught in the tournament were solid, quality 24- and 25-inchers.”
On Day One Hjelm and Van Orden weighed four fish for 15 pounds, 8 ounces; on Day Two, Hjelm and co-angler Kroupa weighed 12 pounds, 2 ounces.
Hjelm said it all came down to “chasing fish” with Lowrance ActiveTarget and making long casts to them with Jigging Raps over depths ranging from 20 to 45 feet. They also hung two bottom-bouncer rods off the back to maximize their odds and picked up a couple stragglers. “But our primary tactic was literally casting to marks on the screen,” notes Dewey.
Hjelm sets his ActiveTarget to look out 100 feet, knowing exactly the distance of his casts within that range when fishing a #7 or #9 Jigging Rap.
In terms of winning colors, Hjelm says he generally sticks to natural patterns on the Missouri River and clear waters. However, he says the walleyes were “just a little bit off.”
“Some fish would eat if you got it anywhere close to them, while others had to be convinced. So, I turned to some super bright colors that I wouldn’t normally use. Keep in mind, a Jigging Rap is a super-fast moving bait that walleyes do need to see to eat. The color that did the trick was Glow Slimy Lime, which I think was new last year. It has a green head, a yellow body, and four black dots. It’s a crazy, obnoxious color but the Francis Case walleyes loved it,” divulges Hjelm
While Hjelm and his co-anglers found some walleyes on main lake structure, they also probed the lake’s network of coves and creeks, which contained plenty of the same target depths, contrary to what you might assume.
“These 100- to 150-yard wide creeks and coves don’t look like much on the map, but once you get into them, there’s actually a lot of structure and they have some 40 to 50 feet of water, especially toward the very backs of the creeks and coves,” offers Hjelm.
“For fishing my Jigging Raps, I used 7’ medium-light power, extra-fast action DAIWA KAGE walleye spinning rod paired with a DAIWA KAGE MQ LT 2500. As far as line, I use 10-pound Sufix braid and a 15-pound fluorocarbon leader,” says Hjelm.
When occasionally pitching large swimbaits during the event, Hjelm opted for 7’ medium-power, extra-fast DAIWA KAGE walleye spinning rod with the same reel, line, and leader combo.
“DAIWA KAGE walleye rods and reels outperform my standards,” offers Hjelm.
“They’re awesome. Both the rods and reels are incredible. The reels are hands down the best I’ve ever used, even after switching from another notable brand and model a lot of serious walleye anglers use. The KAGE MQ LT drag is ultra-reliable. Honestly, I’ve never fished a reel as good. And the rods are lightweight and sensitive. Plus, I’m working with DAIWA on some addition technique-specific walleye rods to add to the overall DAIWA arsenal.”
Braid Vs. Mono for Glide Baits: Hjelm’s System
As noted, Hjelm fishes 10-pound braid and a 15-pound fluoro leader when throwing Jigging Raps. When asked if he ever rigs two rods—one with braid and another with mono—like a lot of the glide bait pioneer anglers, he nods his head.
“For me, if I’m fishing a Jigging Rap in 15 feet or less, I’ll use mono, but for me, monofilament slows the bait down too much. If I’m out in 30 feet of water and watching my ActiveTarget, I want to get to that fish fast. Deeper fish are moving. You need to get it in front of that fish’s face right now. Plus, over the years, I’ve learned exactly how to work a Jigging Rap with braid. I can get that bait to do about anything by using different rod movements,” instructs Hjelm.
“But does mono work for some anglers? Absolutely. But for me, I’m a braid and fluoro leader guy. Working the bait is basically muscle memory at this point,” adds Hjelm.
Following his NWT win on Francis Case, Hjelm will be prepping for the South Dakota Governor’s Cup on July 15th and 16th on his home body of water, Lake Oahe.
“It’s a fun tournament for me and Tyson Keller, my partner of many years. Other than that, I have a little bit of time off, and then I head off to fish the NWT at Sault Saint Marie, Michigan on July 27th and 28th.”
A Word From DAIWA
Daiwa Marketing Manager, Marc Mills, concludes: “We’ve been following the progress of our first two DAIWA Pro Walleye Team-members, Duane Hjelm and Tom Huynh, and couldn’t be happier. They’re both accomplished anglers who are taking the sport of walleye fishing to another level. A big congratulations to Duane from all of us at DAIWA!”
About Daiwa Corporation
Daiwa’s first spinning reel rolled off the assembly line in 1955. Since then, the company has grown into one of the largest and most influential tackle companies in the world today. To handle sales and distribution in the United States, Daiwa Corporation first opened its doors on September 26, 1966, operating from a small facility in Culver City, California. Today, based in Cypress, California, Daiwa Corporation sells tackle throughout the United States, Canada, Central and South America. From the very beginning, Daiwa’s emphasis has been upon innovation and quality. The result is a long list of product features, design and materials that have become standards for the fishing tackle industry. Daiwa’s long-standing record of innovation has left a visible mark on the majority of tackle manufactured today and continues to advance the sport of fishing. Learn more at daiwa.us.