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FLW Walleye Championship lets community catch the big fish

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Fishing is a popular sport for lots of folks around our area. Turns out, it's also a great hook for the local economy.

The National Guard FLW Walleye Championship takes place through Sunday along the Mississippi and at Davenport's RiverCenter.

On a blustery Thursday near Lock and Dam 14 in LeClaire, some of the country's best fishermen are working to earn big bucks.

"People think that being a fisherman is a lot of fun," said Jim Kresin, Bettendorf, as he watched the competition.

But as these anglers struggle to control their boats, they're also racing the clock. Kresin brought his binoculars for a closer look.

"They can't pick the days that they go," he continued. "They have to go out in this nasty stuff to make the best of it."

It took a four-step process of tournaments for fishermen to qualify. Competition is intense because the winner gets $100,000.

"This is the top level of Walleye fishing," said Mark Dorn, director of operations for FLW Outdoors.

All of this fishing helps to hook some tourism money. The tournament is estimated to have a $2 million impact on the local economy.

Inside the Great Hall of the RiverCenter, crews are putting a boat in place. This will be FLW's Outdoors Expo. The free weekend event at RiverCenter South takes place on Saturday and Sunday from 12-4. It will draw spectators to downtown Davenport.

The first 300 kids to arrive on Sunday, October 28, can receive free a free rod and reel.

In addition, tournament families and staff are spending money.

"There's a big injection into the local economy," Dorn said. "We have a huge staff. I think we've got 45 to 50 people we brought in just to conduct this event."

With lots of fish stories and spending, it adds up to a good tournament.

Daily weigh-ins at 4 p.m. are free and open to the public at RiverCenter North in Davenport.

"It was a long road to get here, but these guys are the best of the best," Dorn said.

On the windy Mississippi River, they're earning their prizes.

"These guys are doing it for a living," Kresin concluded.

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