Last time out I started writing a column about Illinois’ top walleye tournament professionals Scott Duncan and Mike Gofron. That was my intention, but I went astray and instead wrote about Illinois’ underrated reputation for producing good numbers of eyes and about the allure of walleye fishing in general. Let’s get back to Scott and Mike.
Simply put, Antioch’s Mike Gofron is one of the most accomplished fishermen in the world of walleye fishing.
He’s been fishing professionally since 1989. He was the driving force behind bringing a huge PWT Championship tournament to the Fox Chain in 2005.
Mike has a history of tournament success that few can claim. Mike had 37 top 10 PWT finishes before the circuit folded, the most of any PWT angler.
Gofron is second in overall walleye tournament winnings and places in the money 60 percent of the time.
Mike has won the Walleye Angler of the Year award twice, the walleye Top Gun Award twice, the Sportsman of the Year Award and was a Gold Medal Winner at ESPN’s Great Outdoor Games.
The only thing this young man has never won was Rookie of the Year and he can’t go back in time for that one, but he has plenty of fishing years left to rack up many, many more tournament winnings.
The Great Outdoors games win was quite interesting and really showcased the skills that Mike Gofron developed on the Fox Chain. ESPN’s format was pairing a top pro bass fisherman with a top pro walleye angler and sending them out on the Madison Chain to catch both bass and walleyes on a weekend during the middle of summer. Dodging jet skis and water skiers made for some tough fishing.
Gofron drew the legendary Denny Brauer for his partner. They took off at dawn and were instructed to fish for bass all morning. They did well, and Gofron more than held his own with Brauer.
Around noon, it was time to hunt walleyes. Can you imagine anything more challenging than trying to find walleyes at high noon on the Madison Chain on a Saturday in July?
Gofron caught enough fish to win the gold medal for the Gofron/Brauer team. Denny Brauer was in disbelief at Gofron’s walleye skills.
Mike’s home body of water is the Fox Chain.
He had fished local tournaments for years before hitting the big-time circuits. Now, he still will enter a Chain tourney or two with his wife Tammy as his partner. She is pretty darned good, too.
Mike’s forte is finesse fishing with jigs.
He has an incredible feel for a walleye bite and tougher conditions and a lighter bite only increase Mike’s chances at cashing a check.
Scott Duncan says, “I’ve been addicted to the outdoors since birth. My younger days I hunted, and trapped. These days I only have time for fishing. I caught walleye fever back in 1996.”
Spring Grove’s Duncan is another Fox Chain walleye specialist. As a matter of fact, Scott was the founder and director of the Chain Walleye Series from 1998 through 2000. He was also the operations consultant and emcee for the Charlie Chain Fishing Series. He has fished successfully on the venerable Masters Walleye Circuit, the RCL Pro Am Tournaments and the AIM Pro Walleye Series. Cashing a tournament check is something Duncan does on a regular basis.
Scott just had a huge first-place finish at the AIM Can Am Challenge Tournament out of Bay Mills, Mich., the first weekend of June. He cashed his biggest tournament paycheck ever, $40,000. He also earned a $6,000 bonus for being a Lund boat operator in the event. Lund fishermen took four of the event’s top-five places, including Gofron’s top-five finish.
Not surprisingly, Duncan is also a finesse jigging specialist like Gofron. When you learn walleye fishing on the Fox Chain, that is usually what you learn to do best.
To Scott and Mike’s credit, they have become incredibly versatile and have honed their talents to include casting and trolling crankbaits, working planerboard rigs and running deep with lead core line. Although jigging probably is the toughest skill to master, many of the big-money tournaments take place on “big water,” like Green Bay and Lake Erie. If you haven’t become a proficient troller, your chances of success on these kinds of waterways is very minimal. Duncan and Gofron have, indeed, mastered trolling on big water.
I talked to Scott Duncan and told him my theory that The Fox Chain and Illinois, in general, is vastly underrated for its walleye fishing. Scott respectfully disagreed with me. He said, “Steve, I really think that the attraction of the Fox Chain is because it is such a tough place to fish, not that it is too easy. It’s a really hard bite most of the time. We all know that when the current gets going, you head to the bridges and you can catch a bunch of fish. That isn’t the case most of the time. The bite is tough on the Chain, more often than not. That is what draws me to it. I love the challenge.”
He said, “The Fox Chain has conditions that can change so fast it can be frustrating. Once you think you’ve determined a pattern, things go haywire and you have to figure out something new. The fish are constantly changing locations.
The color that turns them on changes every hour, or so it seems. Leeches, minnows, crawlers or plugs are also something that they’ll change their taste for on a constant basis. If you can figure out the walleyes on the Fox Chain, you should be able to catch walleyes anywhere.”
Gofron and Duncan are longtime friends.
They have tremendous followings and are very popular and charismatic, making them attractive to sponsors, as well as the public. When we next meet, I’ll tell you about the joint business effort that these gentlemen have entered into.
• Northwest Herald outdoors columnist Steve Sarley’s radio show, “The Outdoors Experience,” airs live at 5 a.m. Sundays on AM-560. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.