Traveling Angler – Women on Winnie

Traveling Angler – Women on Winnie

Jul 25, 2012

Mike’s Excellent Grand Rapids, MN, Summer Fishing & Dining Adventures

2012 Women on Winnie a Winning Event

By Mike Pehanich

July 21, 2012

Only two things can bring a Saturday of fishing in the Northwoods to a fitting end — a celebratory meal and fish talk!

I headed to the shores of Lake Winnibigoshish and Molly Greiner’s Gosh Dam Place for a taste of both.

My hunger seemed determined to eclipse the glow of a day’s fishing with Marty Glorvigen, co-founder of Wired2Fish and Gemini Sports Marketing. Marty had brought me to nearby Trout Lake to demonstrate a trolling technique for deep water northern pike (see upcoming video and feature on this technique) and, later, to fish grassline bass. But even thought of Marty’s 4.5-pound largemouth finale began to fade as I bellied up to the bar, all thought centered suddenly on a single monumental decision– whether to order Gosh Dam’s Saturday evening rib special or the Walleye Dinner.

But before I could order or even sip the foam from my beer, I was deep into tournament talk with Molly Greiner, owner of the Gosh Dam Place resort and restaurant, and Renee Neustrom and Judi Hart. The three had helped bring the Women on Winnie event together the preceding Sunday, July 15, and had competed as well.

Surviving the Storm

That “Women on Winnie” had taken place at all was historically significant and even a moral victory for the region, given the devastating July 2 storm that had damaged homes, knocked out electrical power for most of the area, and downed countless trees.

The momentum of the event’s 13 prior successes had trumped all notions of calling off the tournament. Yet the effects of the storm were evident. The field of 24 boats (48 anglers) was barely half the number anticipated before the storm.

Still, Molly’s Gosh Dam staff and friends along with Pat and Mike O’Reilly of Northland Resort put the two weeks of hardship behind. By the time the ladies had assembled at Pat & Mike O’Reilly’s Northland Resort for doughnuts and rule review, it was time.

“Let’s go fishing!”

The tournament offers the opportunity to target multiple species, and that is part of its appeal. Women on Winnie awards awards first and second place cash awards for  largest walleye stringer (six fish limit), largest walleye, largest stringer of northern pike (three fish limit), and largest northern pike, as well as a single prize for largest perch.

“Every year a different team wins the largest walleye stringer,” said Molly Greiner, noting that rules allow only one award per competitor. “And having all these categories gives everyone a chance to win.”

The ladies are clear that the absence of men is part of the tournament’s appeal, and part of the challenge, too. Most of the women were accustomed to fishing while husbands and boyfriends ran the boat before the dawn of Women on Winnie. The tournament challenge compelled them to learn boat launching and operational skills and to learn to use electronic depth finders, trolling motors and GPS units.

Today those skills factor into braggin’ rights as well as their totals at the weigh-in station.

“We’re proud to show that we can get out and do it, too!” said Judi Hart, a Women on Winnie vet who fishes local waters three to four days a week.

Winners’ Circle

To no one’s surprise, Renee Neustrom took first place for best walleye stringer. The wife of Hall of Fame angler and local guide Tom Neustrom, Renee, who partnered with Terri Worrath has made her walk to the winner’s dais an annual Women on Winnie ritual. But, surprisingly, this year’s prize was her first Best Walleye Stringer award, which many in this walleye-wild region regard as the crowning achievement of the event.

“Perch were killing our crawlers, so we switched to spinner and leech rigs,” explained Renee.

Judi Hart noted that she had stuck with crawlers on a similar spinner rig to harness her team’s second place finish.

The catch of the day was Laura Starck’s 8.54-pound fish, which captured the Largest Northern Pike award.

2012 “Women on Winnie” Winners

Largest Walleye

First Place: Chris Grabau and Patti Puffer

Second Place: Tami Jerry and Jill Strock

Largest Walleye Stringer

First Place:            Terri Worrath and Renee Neustrom

Second Place: Andrea Turk and Judi Hart                 

Largest Northern Pike

First Place: Laura Starck and Mary Wixson

Second Place: Shelly Holland and Jennifer Holland

Largest Northern Pike Stringer

First Place:            Carol Procopio and Amanda Procopio

Second Place: Amanda Horton and Lianna Scholl

Largest Perch

First Place: Brittany Duoos and Susan Adams

Second Place: Mickey Bakken and Pam Bakken

A crowd began to mushroom well before the Women on Winnie weigh-in that afternoon thanks to the growing popularity of the event and, as more than one competitor admitted, the perennial gathering of guys hoping that their gals – and their boats – arrive safely to dock.

The day culminated with competitors, families and friends gathering at Gosh Dam Place for trophy/raffle/awards festivities.

“It’s just a great event” summed Judi Hart. “It shows that gals like to get out and fish too. It’s a great chance to compete and participate with ladies who have the same passion you do!”

Food for thought

Fish talk continued late into the evening. Husband Tom joined Renee Neustrom for a round of walleye talk. Then Corey and Dayton Jahn added their take on Winnibigoshish walleye from a Minnesota Tournament Trail perspective.

I managed to order Molly’s Gosh Dam walleye dinner between sentences. By then, I was so hungry that I would have eaten one of the trophy walleye overlooking the Gosh Dam bar. But the meal soon arrived, and, like all of Molly’s fabled fish presentations, the walleye and homemade tartar sauce did not disappoint!

In addition to its broad breakfast, lunch and dinner menu and evening specials, the Gosh Dam Place restaurant offers anglers a “cook-your-catch” option. Check out “Mike’s Excellent Grand Rapids Ice Fishing & Dining Adventure” for more on the dining extravaganza our group staged around our crappie catch last February.

Coming: Walleyes in Wonderland; Secrets of Summer Pike; Highway 2 Largemouth; The World’s Busiest Fishing Guide; Smallmouth Bassin’ with Bro, and more! 


Renee Neustrom warmed up for Women on Winnie fishing for smallmouth bass and walleye with her husband, Hall of Fame angler and guide Tom Neustrom.

Ladies Choice: Favorite panfish lakes, from the Hart

Here are Judi Hart’s favorite panfish lakes in the Grand Rapids area:

  • Little Ball Club – Streaky, but very good!
  • Sand Lake – Good walleye, too.
  • Round Lake – Judi’s home lake…and she must live there for a reason!
  • Rush Island Lake – You’ll find good crappie action on this Sand Lake neighbor!
  • Cut Foot Sioux and Little Cut Foot Sioux lakes – Take your pick. These small waters are connected to fabled Lake Winnibigoshish but get neither the weather nor the pressure of “Winnie.”

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