Day 3 of AMARA-CAN cut short by weather

Western New York weather strikes again.

There is an old saying amongst outdoors people in our region, “If you don’t like the weather… Wait a minute!”

Day three of the 21st annual AMARA-CAN Walleye Classic was canceled due to small craft warnings issued by the National Weather Service. This columnist heard through associates that the event was canceled and I headed down to the Clarion pavilion to speak with the host New York Walleye Association officials.

Vice President Bill Benk and President Bob Zoeller informed me that before 7 a.m., one of the charter captains showed the officials the small-craft warning issued on the cell phone system. A decision was made to cancel the event for safety reasons. Not all the contestants were happy, obviously, with only 10 teams awarded the prize money and over half the teams entered were within 10 pounds of taking over the lead. 2014 was a very close contest and I daresay, not one of the winners wanted the decision to be decided by the weather.

The officials referred to the rule book and awarded the prize money in the top-10 places to the top-10 finishers from Saturday. The prize structure was amended to the amount of participating teams, as stated in the rules.

The amounts awarded were the same as last year, with Team 93, lead by captain Rick Kaczmarski, receiving $2,350. Team 29, lead by captain Roger Vorhees, took second place prize money of $1,330. Third-place prize money went to Team 31, which was captained by Robert VanDette. The team won $950.

Don Skellie, who led Team 30, took home $600 while Scott Addison of Team 16, took home $400. Captain Don Ruppert of Team 9 was awarded $300 while Dan Bognar of Team 27 took home $250. The seven through 10 positions all paid the same, with Dennis Pillard of Team 15, Nick Schmitt of Team 28 and Jim Bromstead finishing in that order. This columnist has been writing the outdoor column for over 20 years and I can remember one other time when the AMARA-CAN became a one-day event because of the weather. The previous time the officials watched the weather on the first day, attempting to delay the start. Ultimately, they canceled Saturday and started all the teams at the same time on the next day and added an hour to the time frame, if I remember correctly.

The Big Fish of the Day Awards prize money was awarded by a blind drawing. All the team numbers were put in a bin and three were selected, with Boat 16, which was lead by Scott Addison winning $300, Boat 17, which was led by Curtis Lovelets claiming $200 and Boat 20 and Bob Rustowicz claiming $100.

By 3 p.m., the New York Walleye Association crew members quickly and systematically packed up for home. President Bob Zoeller offered some further insight into this year’s event. Food and beverage sales were good for Friday and Saturday because of changes in the menu, including Italian sausage and peppers and onions as well as barbecue hamburgers. Canned beer and single servings of wine outsold draft beer. NYW had a crew of 26 this year, missing long-time members George Boice, because of illness and the Canadian ladies who usually run the raffle, and because their father, who is in his 90s, took ill as they checked in on Friday. No one got injured this year and there was only one mechanical failure, but the boat was able to compete because the officials allowed it to switch its start time position.

The New York Walleye Association greatly appreciated the cooperation from Jeff Gambino and the staff of the Dunkirk Boat Launch, compared to the previous year.

“The people were great!” Zoeller, who also praised Dick Frey, Leon Schrantz and the kitchen help from the Clarion for going above and beyond in their efforts to make their stay and event a great experience, said.

The walleye migration, which moves walleye from the Western Basin toward the Eastern Basin, appears to be in full-swing as NYW members reported catching Ohio-tagged walleye earlier in the month in the Buffalo area. The weather may not be the best, but the fishing for walleye and bass in eastern Lake Erie is great!