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Bemidji father-son team Kelly and Rylee Curb take first place in Knights of Columbus Walleye Classic

After a long Saturday out on the waters of Lake Bemidji, father and son team Kelly and Rylee Curb secured a first-place win and took home the $20,000 grand prize at the Knights of Columbus Walleye Classic’s 20th anniversary tournament.

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Rylee Curb, left, and his father Kelly Curb receive their champion winnings from tournament chair John Marcum at the Knights of Columbus Walleye Classic on Saturday, June 12, 2021, at the Lake Bemidji waterfront. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)
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BEMIDJI -- After a long Saturday out on the waters of Lake Bemidji, father and son team Kelly and Rylee Curb secured a first-place win and took home the $20,000 grand prize at the Knights of Columbus Walleye Classic’s 20th anniversary tournament.

“We got lucky, and that’s our team name, Lucky,” Kelly said of competing in this year’s special field of 120 teams and taking home the largest prize in tournament history.

Although the day started off slow for the two Bemidjians, they said sticking to their game plan -- like staying in the weeds and using a certain bait -- was key to their success. The windy day also helped them out, too, as the fish were in shallow areas and hung around their spot, Kelly said.

“We had some pretty high hopes going in like we always do,” Kelly said. “For the first few hours we didn't do very well and then we went to our second spot and that’s when we started catching the big fish that we needed. It was a pretty incredible day out there.”

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Anglers head out just before 7 a.m. for the Knights of Columbus Walleye Classic on Saturday morning, June 12, 2021, on Lake Bemidji. (Jillian Gandsey / Bemidji Pioneer)

Both men are veterans of the tournament and teamed up in 2019 to take home 18th place. Kelly is a two-time champion of the tournament, having won first place with angler Jim Sutton in the late 2000s. Tournament winners are determined based on the total weight of up to five walleye over 14 inches per team.

Back on the shores of Lake Bemidji, a couple hundred spectators came out to support the many anglers in the day’s awards ceremony. It was well attended after the classic was canceled last year due to the coronavirus pandemic, making people just that much more excited to come out this year.

The Curbs said it felt great to be back competing, especially together, and were satisfied with the turnout of the day.

“I’ve had a great time fishing this tournament,” Kelly said. “They’ve done a super job with all the sponsors and volunteers. It's been a lot of fun and it’s nice because it helps raise a lot of money for the community.”

While neither of the two are certain how they plan to use their prize money, they said that the father-son experience of working together to claim the tournament victory is what matters most to them.

“He’s taught me everything, so being out there with him and having a great time together was amazing,” Rylee said. “We love fishing, we love hunting together. We also work together and love working together. We just have a good relationship and it was especially great today.”

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Related Topics: NORTHLAND OUTDOORSFISHING
Bria Barton covers travel and tourism for Forum News Service and is based at the Bemidji Pioneer. A South Carolina native and USC grad, she can be found exploring Minnesota’s abundance of towns, food and culture. Follow her on Instagram @briabarton.
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