Alexandria’s Drake Herd went into the Cabela’s/Bass Pro Shop National Walleye Tour championship on Otter Tail Lake last week needing multiple things to go his way in order to come away with the Angler of the Year Award.
Herd certainly always had a chance. He was sitting in third place in those season point standings after four tour stops around the Midwest, but Mark Courts of Harris, Minnesota and Chase Parsons of Denmark, Wisconsin were the anglers in front of him. Both those guys are longtime professional anglers who don’t often open the door for others to pass them.
The championship on Otter Tail was a testament to the fact that even the best anglers out there have days where things just don’t come together. Courts did not weigh in one fish on day one. Parsons weighed in three total as that duo finished 39th and 40th in the field out of the 40 pros who qualified for the championship through the regular-season point standings.
Courts said during the day two weigh-in that Herd was the first guy to call him and wish him well after Courts’ disappointment of that opening day. It was not long after that when Herd took the stage to weigh in a bag that would cement his spot in the top 10 at the championship, and in turn, secure the Angler of the Year honor as this tour’s most consistent pro angler for 2021. Herd fought back tears as he tried to explain getting that honor for the first time in his career.
“I’m overjoyed, I think,” Herd said. “All the work we do from when I was a little kid all the way up to my dad being with me at these tournaments. It’s all important, and I don’t know how to describe it. I’m just so happy right now. It’s just all sorts of emotions.”
The top 10 professional and amateur co-anglers from the first two days of the NWT championship advance to fish a third day. Herd finished sixth overall after the final day last Friday with a total weight of 37 pounds. It earned him a $9,220 check.
“Otter Tail is known for being a shallow lake, and I just concentrated on that 5-8 feet of water,” Herd said of a lake he is very familiar with. “A few of the fish came out of three feet of water. It’s just one of those things where as long as we have some wind, those fish are up shallow, and it seemed to work. We were just ripping jigs with minnows. We pulled a little leeches and threw some plastics, but that minnow has dominated.”
Herd got to know Isle’s Eric McQuoid well through the tournament stops this season in what was McQuoid’s first season fishing professionally on the National Walleye Tour. McQuoid, who is 21-years old and a junior at Bemidji State University, stayed at Herd’s house during the tournament, and those two had plenty of good fortune throughout the week.
McQuoid’s total weight of 58.55 pounds topped the rest of the field by almost 14 pounds and earned him a total prize package of cash and a new boat and motor worth $121,535.
Herd was happy for McQuoid and thrilled with how his own season went as a whole. He had four top 10 finishes on the NWT this summer.
At 34-years old and in his fifth season fishing this tour, he started the year saying he wanted to establish himself as one of the top anglers to beat with more experience under his belt now. It’s safe to say he did that in a big way.
“Everything seemed to flow well this year,” Herd said. “Everything worked out. We fished hard, and I got lucky in some tournaments. That’s what you need. It’s part of it, so to be top of the nation for walleye anglers, it’s just an unbelievable feeling. I can’t even describe it right now.”