Bemidji couple claims first place at state fishing tournament
Three years ago, Bemidji couple Brent Knutson and Shawna Erdmann, decided to enter into tournament angling together, becoming a team on the water, just as they are in life. Last month, they prevailed over 86 rival teams on Lake of the Woods to claim the Minnesota Tournament Trail Championship, taking home a variety of winnings that totals about $80,000.
BEMIDJI -- Three years ago, Bemidji couple Brent Knutson and Shawna Erdmann, decided to enter into tournament angling together, becoming a team on the water, just as they are in life.
Last month, they prevailed over 86 rival teams on Lake of the Woods to claim first place in the Minnesota Tournament Trail Championship, taking home a variety of winnings that totals about $80,000.
Over the course of the two-day event, the couple faced their share of ups and downs, but, with a solid game plan and team dynamic (Erdmann angled while Knutson netted and drove the boat) they were able to come out on top.
On the first day, they achieved a large limit of walleyes, but an electrical storm caused them to turn in early. By the second day, they endured 30 mile per hour winds and five-to-six-foot waves as they labored to reel in a smaller limit to finish the tournament.
But by the end of the weekend, the couple brought in a total weight of 75.21 pounds, which solidified their win.
Secrets to success
Erdmann grew up in Bemidji and works at Sanford Health, meanwhile, Knutson moved to the area from Moorhead about 14 years ago to manage the Bemidji Country Club, and now works at AmeriPride Services.
While they both keep busy schedules, the couple said that when they find the time, they enjoy taking out their boat and fishing, especially farther north in Lake of the Woods.
“We fish on Lake of the Woods quite a bit. With it being only two hours away from Bemidji, it's nice and we love to go there because it has a lot of big fish,” Knutson said. “Really the secret (to winning) is we’ve just been going up there with friends for 15-plus years, and we've figured out a way to fish that is a little different than most people out there.”
While they credit a piece of their success in the tournament to being familiar with the lake, Knutson and Erdmann said products from local companies, Northland Fishing Tackle and Elliott Rods, played a significant role in it as well.
Knutson said they trolled Northland’s Rumble Sticks, Rumble Shiners and Rumble Beasts on lead-core lines while constantly making adjustments to keep their crankbaits slightly above their quarry’s heads. They said choosing the biggest and brightest lures also played a role, as they attracted fish more successfully in the murky water caused by poor weather conditions.
“Lake of the Woods is a huge, deep body of water,” Knutson said. “With lead-core, there is lead inside the line, so it sinks basically six feet for every 30 feet of line you let out, and that enables you to get bait down into deep water and to troll them at two miles an hour over 35 feet of water.”
Bringing the ladies onboard
Knutson had been participating in tournaments a few years prior to him and Erdmann teaming up to tackle the MTT. But it was an idea between him and his high school friend, John Dickelman, that convinced the men to get the ladies involved.
“One of my friends and I decided to start fishing the MTT with our significant others because we thought it’d be fun to do something like this with them,” Knutson said. “There are several other husband and wife teams that compete in it, so we thought it would be a great tour to join.”
Dickelman teamed up with his fiancée Heather North, and last year, they won the MTT Championship. During this year’s tournament, they placed fourth and worked in tandem with their friends during practice to locate prime walleye spots.
“The fact that they won too, and we've all only done this for three years means it’s been a pretty good decision for us,” Knutson said. “Now, Shawna and Heather have become really close friends and spent a ton of time together, so it’s worked out pretty well.”
Knutson and Erdmann’s championship win garnered them a Skeeter WX1910 boat, Yamaha outboard and a trailer, as well as a significant chunk of change, which they hope to use for constructing another garage.
At the moment, their boat takes priority over their vehicles, meaning they’re left to battle the cold of winter when starting their cars.
“Shawna curses at me every cold day in the winter,” Knutson said with a laugh. “So we need another big shop garage where we park vehicles because it's no fun when your boat is in the heated garage and you have to go out to start your car in the middle of the winter here.”
In addition to their championship win, the couple also placed sixth out of 154 teams in the MTT's team of the year standings, which tabulates teams' performances throughout the year using a point system. There were also five couples who placed in the top 12, which Knutson said illustrates how an increasing number of couples -- and women in general -- are participating and succeeding in these angling tournaments.
“I think it's great that more women are getting involved. There needs to be more of it, so I hope that it continues to become more and more popular,” Erdmann said. “That's why we like the MTT, there are a lot of women who fish it and it's a very supportive group of people. The camaraderie between everybody is just awesome.”
In their downtime, the couple occasionally fishes with their 11- and 6-year-old daughters Riley and Paityn. Erdmann said she hopes to instill in them that they too can one day become involved in tournaments, just like their mom.
“More women and girls, like my daughters, want to get into it and they're all about it, which there needs to be,” Erdmann said. “I'm glad that there are more women showing little girls that they can do it.”