Kraus-Anderson hands off walleye tourney to Knights: Annual summer event that raises funds for the community will continue with different name, same rules
BEMIDJI -- The annual Bemidji walleye fishing tournament that reels in money for local charities has a new team taking the lead. For 15 years, the Kraus-Anderson Walleye Classic was run by the business' Bemidji office, however, on Thursday, curre...
BEMIDJI -- The annual Bemidji walleye fishing tournament that reels in money for local charities has a new team taking the lead.
For 15 years, the Kraus-Anderson Walleye Classic was run by the business’ Bemidji office, however, on Thursday, current tournament director Tracy Pogue announced the local chapter of the Knights of Columbus would helm the competition in the years to come.
The announcement came during a distribution ceremony at Kraus-Anderson's Bemidji office, where tournament organizers handed out $52,506 to beneficiaries from funds raised in the 2015 event. Through its 15 years, the Kraus-Anderson tournament has raised a total of $609,901.
"We took it as far as we could with the resources that we wanted to dedicate for 15 years. It was time to pass the torch," Pogue said. "We had been talking about it for three or four months before we decided it was the end of our journey and the beginning of a new one.
"We had several people interested in taking over the tournament, but it was obvious to our team that the Knights of Columbus was our partner and the future of the event."
Knights of Columbus members Joe Czapiewski, Dan Voss and Phil Hodapp were at Thursday's ceremony and promised the group would continue the event in the same manner as Kraus-Anderson.
"We're extremely excited. We were unanimous in our support for the fishing tournament and we are looking forward to having a successful year and doing our best to continue what Kraus-Anderson has been able to do," said Czapiewski, who is the tournament’s new director. "The entire committee here has been fantastic to make sure it's a smooth transition and have been with us every step of the way. We hope to make it fairly seamless for the anglers involved."
"It's a big day and a bittersweet day," Bob Fitzgerald, director of operations at the Kraus-Anderson Bemidji office said. "We started the event as a way to give back to the community. I think we did a fantastic job. This is a hand off, a transition. We were able to find people with the right values as our company."
The new official name for the event is the Knights of Columbus Walleye Classic and next year’s tournament is scheduled for June 11. The event features 100 two-person teams competing on Lake Bemidji and Lake Irving. According to Pogue, the event draws in more than 200 volunteers every year to help with the tournament.
While Kraus-Anderson won’t be managing the event directly, Fitzgerald said the company would still be involved in various capacities.
In 2015, Lauren Ras of Bemidji and Paul Kuhn of St. Cloud won the tournament, turning in 19.88 lbs of walleye and capturing the top prize of $12,500.