The Sunset Bay Walleye Shootout is one of the top walleye tournaments in the country. The shootout includes the New York waters of Lake Erie and the tournament is headquartered in Sunset Bay in Irving, New York. The focus of the tournament is to showcase the high-quality fishery of eastern Lake Erie. Captain Don Ruppert from Wave Tamer Sport Fishing leads a group of organizers that put on the tournament.
“This(2020) is our tenth year anniversary. It’s grown by leaps and bounds over the years. It’s a cumulative fish tournament where the teams will present their six largest walleyes. Ultimately, the total box weight will determine who the 2020 champion will be,” said Ruppert.
The Sunset Bay Shootout is a one-day tournament with a few added details to make the competition interesting. “Teams can catch as many as they would like, they can keep their legal limit. They can certainly throw fish back. But they’re only allowed to present their six largest walleyes to build their box. There is a cutoff. We use a 22’(minimum) rule… The boats can carry from two to five anglers per team. But there is a universal rod rule… There is a nine-rod rule per team. Most teams are coming in with three or four people. We do have some larger boats that put on five guys but we do have some teams with just two and they’re running six rods.”
The tournament has grown over the years but COVID-19 has made filling the tournament especially challenging this year. “The field is doing well. With everything going on in the world today, the teams are still coming in from all over. We’re being responsible. Last year we had 120 teams and we expanded to offer 130 teams this year. But with social circumstances, we’re losing our Canadian teams because they can’t cross… We’re looking at about 100 teams to compete for the championship this year.”
Social distancing isn’t something organizers have had to deal with in the past. But the location of the tournament is an asset. “One thing we have to our advantage is Sunset Bay and Cabana Sands, where we’re hosting the event, has an enormous footprint. There’s a lot of surface area on the beach. That’s where we set up the stage. We can adhere to the social distancing requirements by giving teams ample room between each other, even on the stage presence when we do the weigh-in. We have more than enough room for social distancing requirements on the stage.”
While the main event is Saturday, teams prefishing on Friday can also compete while scouting their favorite spots. “Big Fish Friday is the day before the main event. This year Big Fish Friday is July 17th and the main event is July 18th. Big Fish Friday is a practice day with the opportunity to win some small pots. It started with a friend of ours that brought it to Lake Ontario and we brought it into the walleye circuit on Lake Erie. Basically, how it started was guys who were out prefishing had side pots started… The guys will present one big walleye and it’s the big fish of the day.”
Due to the effects of COVID-19, the deadline to register for the Sunset Bay Walleye Shootout has been extended in 2020 until July 10. You can sign up or get more information by clicking here.
To listen to the entire conversation with Captain Don Ruppert, click the player below or go to our podcast page by clicking here.