Erie again proves its worth

A walleye pro from Boardman turned tournament promoter last weekend and is pleased with the results as once again the Walleye Capital of the World lived up to its name.

John Csizmadia, a veteran competitive walleye fisherman, pulled together sponsors and anglers to host the inaugural Walleye Madness Tournament on Aug. 18 on Lake Erie out of Ashtabula. The second event in the new series will be Sept. 30 on either Berlin or Lake Milton, depending on water levels.

For the Erie event, 29 teams took to the lake in favorable weather, most chugging out 20 miles or so to work the deep water for oversized walleyes. The top finishers all returned with livewells stuffed.

Lake Erie proved it is worthy of its reputation for world-class walleye fishing, as numerous fish topping 8 pounds were scored. The winning team was husband and wife Mitch and Donna Shipman, whose five-walleye limit weighed 41.25 pounds.

Second went to Scott Geitgey and Jason Kopf with 40.75 pounds, while Joe Leighton and Mike Puruska finished third with 38.15 pounds.

The Buckeye Sports Center/Mercury Marine Big Fish Bonus was earned by Leighton and Puruska for their 9.45-pound walleye.

The top performers zeroed in on schools of suspended walleye 50 feet down over 74 feet of water. Trolling with deep-diving crankbaits with weights or wire line was a hot ticket, along with stickbaits behind divers to drop them into the strike zone.

Finesse was critical, too, as the fish were tuned into precise speeds. Boat control was important throughout the day as the anglers adjusted their presentations to tease the fish into striking.

Walleye Madness is a dream of Csizmadia, who was able to make it happen after events came together earlier this year.

He gained sponsorship support from Buckeye Sports Center, Lund Boats and Mercury Marine. Wildwood on Lake Savant, an Ontario, Canada, resort, donated a seven-day stay as a fundraiser prize for the benefit of On Target Outfitters, which was designated the Walleye Madness benefactor. On Target Outfitters, based in Canfield, is a faith-based nonprofit youth outdoors group.

With strong support from sponsors and anglers, Csizmadia was able to pay out prize money at a rate of 150 percent of the entry fees. “I’d never seen an event offer that level of reward,” he said in explaining the name Walleye Madness. “The icing on the cake is that we are also helping a very worthy cause in On Target Outfitters.”

Walleye Madness competitors now turn their attention to Berlin Reservoir. The tournament is scheduled Sept. 30, but its location will be dependent on the lake’s level. Berlin is very low this year due to the lack of runoff regionally and the Corps of Engineers’ need to run water downstream to aid commercial navigation on the Ohio and Mississippi rivers.

Csizmadia’s backup plan is to hold Walleye Madness number two at Lake Milton.

“We’re keeping our eye on the water levels in the lakes and we’ll make the decision on the event location in early September,” he said.

For information, visit or call Csizmadia at 330-881-0994.

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