For the first time in 17 years, it looked like repeat champions were going to be crowned at the KC Walleye Classic. But the duo of Harold Johnson and Marv Sandbek stole the show.
BEMIDJI -- For the first time in 17 years, it looked like repeat champions were going to be crowned at the Knights of Columbus Walleye Classic on Saturday.
Aaron Murphy and Rich Blomberg were sitting in first place after 98 of 100 teams weighed in, having reeled in 15.98 pounds of walleye. But the duo of Harold Johnson and Marv Sandbek stole the show -- and the $12,500 grand prize -- with 16.18 pounds as the second-to-last team to weigh their catch.
“I never saw myself as being a champion of this tournament because of the outstanding fishermen that are here,” said Sandbek, who resides in Braman, Okla. “Never in my wildest dreams. Never. This is a stunning surprise. I’m grateful, I’m humbled and this is gonna take a while to sink in.”
“This is a group of fishermen here that is real tough to compete with. There’s so many good fishermen,” added Johnson, of Fridley, Minn. “You gotta get a little bit of luck to win one of these things. That was our big key today.”
And, out of all 200 anglers, Johnson and Sandbek teamed up to reel in the largest fish of the day with a 7.64-pound walleye. It gave them the ability to jump to first place with just four walleye, instead of the allotted five that it usually takes to win the tournament.
“We put a plan together that we thought was gonna work with the west wind, and it just so happened that it worked out fantastic,” said Johnson. “Last year we finished 10th, which was a surprise to us… (This year), I’m happy to win.”
It was an unlikely victory, especially with all the talent out on the waters.
“We have a lot of very fierce competitors as a part of this tournament,” said Joe Czapiewski, KCWC Tournament director. “All of the teams that were at the top of the order for this tournament did a tremendous job… They did very well and reflected the kind of fishermen they are.”
Marv Sandbek (second from left) and Harold Johnson with their winnings.
While Johnson and Sandbek took home the $12,500 prize for first place, Murphy and Blomberg were awarded $5,000 for their second-place finish. Justin McKee and Mike McKee rounded out the top three with a $3,750 prize after catching 14.78 pounds of walleye.