OTTERTAIL, Minn. -- Eric McQuoid of Isle, Minnesota, was noticeably shaking as he stood up on stage just off the shoreline of Otter Tail Lake during Thursday’s weigh-in on day two of the National Walleye Tour championship event.

There was a lot for McQuoid to think about. At 21-years-old and a junior at Bemidji State University, he had some homework he needed to have done by 11 p.m. That’s going to be a little tougher to focus on after he positioned himself firmly as the front-runner to walk away from the final day of this tournament on Friday with the $30,000 cash and a new Ranger boat worth almost $70,000 that goes to the first-place professional angler.

“It’s definitely one of those days you dream about all the time, but it doesn’t happen very often,” McQuoid said after coming off Otter Tail with five walleyes weighing in at 23.72 pounds. “I can’t put words to it yet. It’s one of those things where I’ve grown up watching all these guys fish and looked up to all of them. To be here and sitting on top right now is nothing short of amazing.”

Ten of the best professional walleye anglers from around the Midwest are all that remain for the third day of this Cabela's/Bass Pro Shops National Walleye Tour championship. The tournament started with 40 professional and 40 amateur co-anglers who qualified through season point standings from the tour’s four regular-season stops.

The first two days of the championship on Wednesday and Thursday served as a qualifier as the field is now dwindled down to the 10 professional and amateur anglers with the top weights.

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David Landsteiner of Dodge Center, Minnesota, was McQuoid’s co-angler in the boat on Thursday. He came into the day sitting in 28th place out of 39 co-anglers after a sickness caused one angler to withdraw on Wednesday.

Professional walleye angler Tom Huynh, left, of Moorhead and his amateur co-angler Chris Reinhardt of Mondovi, Wisconsin hold up four of their five-fish limit from day two of the National Walleye Tour's championship tournament on Otter Tail Lake in Ottertail on Sept. 23, 2021. Huynh is currently in second place among the top-10 pros left in the tournament heading into the final day on Friday. (Eric Morken / Forum News Service)
Professional walleye angler Tom Huynh, left, of Moorhead and his amateur co-angler Chris Reinhardt of Mondovi, Wisconsin hold up four of their five-fish limit from day two of the National Walleye Tour's championship tournament on Otter Tail Lake in Ottertail on Sept. 23, 2021. Huynh is currently in second place among the top-10 pros left in the tournament heading into the final day on Friday. (Eric Morken / Forum News Service)

Landsteiner catapulted all the way up to first in those co-angler standings after McQuoid and he finished with a day-two weight that was more than 8 pounds more than the next closest day-two weight from Moorhead’s Tom Huynh (15.68 pounds).

“I didn’t expect this. It’s just mesmerizing to me how it all went down,” Landsteiner said. “Everything went right for us.”

McQuoid, in his first season fishing this tour, was in fourth place after day one with a five-fish weight of 15.62 pounds. He currently holds a 7.5-pound lead over Huynh, who sits in second with a two-day total weight of 31.84 pounds. Kent Andersen, an Alexandria, Minnesota native who currently lives in Amery, Wisconsin, is third at 30.70 pounds.

“Having this big of a lead on this body of water, it definitely makes it higher,” McQuoid said of his confidence in holding on during Friday’s final round of fishing. “It’s still possible that someone can have a big day like I did, but I’m definitely confident that I can go out there and catch in the teens or hopefully in the 20s again tomorrow and run away with this thing.”

Anglers are allowed to weigh in two fish over 20 inches and three under 20 as part of their daily limit. McQuoid and Landsteiner had some good 19.5 inchers in the livewell already when McQuoid latched into their big fish of the day -- a 28.5-incher -- between 11 a.m. and noon.

David Landsteiner, left, of Dodge Center, and Eric McQuoid of Isle with four of their biggest walleyes from day two of the National Walleye Tour's championship tournament on Sept. 23, 2021. (Eric Morken / Forum News Service)
David Landsteiner, left, of Dodge Center, and Eric McQuoid of Isle with four of their biggest walleyes from day two of the National Walleye Tour's championship tournament on Sept. 23, 2021. (Eric Morken / Forum News Service)

“That was the one that sealed the deal for us for the day and being able to fish tomorrow,” McQuoid said.

The 26.5-incher that McQuoid caught only a few minutes later then clearly cemented him as the favorite to win this event going into day three.

“We had that big one in there, so the pressure was off a little, but he said I got another (over 20-incher) on,” Landsteiner said. “I’m like, ‘OK.’ It came up and right when it came up a wave splashed us on the boat. I was like, ‘Oh, no.’ If you make a false move and you get that net caught in the hook, it’s game over. I was just like, ‘Wait, wait.’ A couple split seconds and then it was, ‘There it is.’ I was just trying to stab at the right time.”

Pre-fishing for this event was the first time McQuoid had ever fished on Otter Tail Lake. It took him a while to figure it out leading up to the championship, but he found enough spots that held good numbers and also some big fish that he could move around to.

“We just needed to keep moving and find some new areas that were holding fish,” McQuoid said. “Using the Garmin Panoptix a lot, just searching for the specific fish we were looking for.”

He found those fish in a big way on Thursday. If he can do it again on Friday, there won’t be much the rest of the field can do to catch him.

Herd wraps up Angler of the Year honor

Alexandria's Drake Herd with two walleyes from day two of the three-day National Walleye Tour championship tournament on Otter Tail Lake on Sept. 23, 2021. Herd unofficially wrapped up the tour's Angler of the Year honor that goes to season's top point-getter. Herd sits in sixth place among professional anglers heading into the tournament's final day on Friday. (Eric Morken / Forum News Service)
Alexandria's Drake Herd with two walleyes from day two of the three-day National Walleye Tour championship tournament on Otter Tail Lake on Sept. 23, 2021. Herd unofficially wrapped up the tour's Angler of the Year honor that goes to season's top point-getter. Herd sits in sixth place among professional anglers heading into the tournament's final day on Friday. (Eric Morken / Forum News Service)

Drake Herd has had a couple of good days on a lake he considers his home waters after fishing Otter Tail many times during his life with him growing up not far away in Alexandria.

Herd advanced to day three of the championship. He is currently sixth with a two-day weight of 26.84 pounds (15.38 day one, 11.46 day two). In the process, he unofficially wrapped up the Angler of the Year honor that goes to the top season point-getter on the National Walleye Tour.

“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.”

Herd still has business to take care of on Friday. He is right there to keep moving up the leaderboard and take home a big check from this tournament if he can put together another good day on the water.

“We lost a couple big fish today which would have really helped us out and moved us up,” Herd said. “But I think we can get them tomorrow. We’re going to get a huge weather change. The temperature is going to drop, the wind is going to pick up and it should be a good day.”

TOP-10 PRO ANGLERS ADVANCING TO DAY THREE (Total weight) -- 1. Eric McQuoid, Isle, MN - 39.34; 2. Tom Huynh, Moorhead, MN - 31.84; 3. Kent Andersen, Amery, Wisc. - 30.70; 4. Ed Stachowski, Canton, Michigan - 30.27; 5. Jason Przekurat, Stevens Point, Wisconsin - 27.50; 6. Drake Herd, Alexandria, Minnesota - 26.84; 7. Brian Bjorkman, Fargo, North Dakota - 26.26; 8. Max Wilson, Campbellsport, Wisconsin - 25.81; 9. Wayne Van Dyke, Spruce, Michigan - 25.13; 10. Jarrod Fredericks Estelline, South Dakota - 22.28

TOP-10 CO-ANGLERS ADVANCING TO DAY THREE (Total weight) - 1. David Landsteiner, Dodge Center, Minnesota - 30.33; 2. James Youngblood, Markesan, Wisconsin - 28.74; 3. Troy Cox, Bono, Arkansas - 26.09; 4. Steve Beasley, Macomb, Michigan - 25.18; 5. Neal Wilkinson, Larkspur, Colorado - 24.36; 6. Greg Ballering, Milwaukee, Wisconsin - 23.43; 7. Chris Reinhardt, Mondovi, Wisconsin - 22.73; 8. Ed Callaway, Clinton, Missouri - 22.72; 9. Jason Treberg, Chaska, Minnesota - 22.64; 10. Chris Stassen - Marshall, Minnesota - 22.09