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Pro anglers cast their lures and test the waters of the St. Lawrence

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WADDINGTON - With the Evan Williams Bourbon Showdown only six weeks away, anglers are flocking to the St. Lawrence River to see what’s in store for the professional bass fishing tournament.

The world’s top 102 anglers are set to take to the river and compete for two and a half days in August.

But for many professional anglers like David Walker, this will be their first time fishing on the river.

“I’ve fished in Lake Champlain, but this is my first time ever being up here,” he said after docking his boat at the Whittaker Park Boat Launch Wednesday. “I don’t even know anyone who has fished up here before.”

Mr. Walker, who is in 16th place in the Elite Series standings, said he is taking extra time to familiarize himself with the river than he normally would. For many anglers, the Evan Williams Showdown could make or break their chances for taking home the championship title or decide whether they can compete in the Classic Series tournament.

Since he arrived on Tuesday, Mr. Walker has been traveling up and down the river, scoping out fishing spots.

“It’s difficult to have any kind of strategy at this point,” he said. “Some of the bass are still spawning, so they won’t be in the same spot in August. But I am glad I came up here. There are dams east and west of the launch in Waddington. I don’t think they will be closed on the days of the tournament, but if the dams are closed, it will be a game changer.”

The tournament is expected to extend as far east as Lake Ontario and as far west as Massena.

Mr. Walker, who is from Michigan and now lives in Tennessee, said the St. Lawrence is unlike many rivers he’s visited.

“There’s great water quality and plenty of fish,” he said. “Obviously, since it’s a channel for ships, it’s very easy to navigate and very user-friendly. I’ve really enjoyed it up here so far.”

Mr. Walker said he is most excited about the size and quantity of the fish, particularly the small mouth bass.

“I am a bass fishing junkie,” said the past Elite Series champion. “I always look forward to the fishing the most no matter where we go. But coming to the north is especially exciting because we know we’re going to catch fish.”

He said in the southern areas where fishing happens all year round, bass can be difficult to catch.

“It’s also an issue of the weather,” he said. “I am sure some of the locals will say it’s a bit warm. After fishing in areas like Texas and where I live in Tennessee it can get really hot. But when you’re in the north, and its 80 to 90 degrees on the water, it’s a good day for fishing.”

But it’s not all about the fish. Mr. Walker said he is also visiting the north country to familiarize himself with the lay of the land.

“It’s also about knowing your way around when you’re not in the water—finding a place to stay, eat and fuel your boat,” Mr. Walker said. “These are all things you need be familiar with when you compete in a new place.”

So far, Mr. Walker said he’s feels welcomed by the locals.

“It’s great to see to see the northern venues really welcome us,” he said. “Hopefully they’ll see a boost to the economy and more people will come out and enjoy the sport. It’s something a whole family can enjoy. Whether you go pro and travel the country like me or fish with your dad in the creek bank, there’s an appeal for everyone.”

The Evan Williams Showdown is scheduled for Aug. 8 to 11.

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