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Kraus-Anderson Walleye Classic launches in Bemidji

Since the Kraus-Anderson Walleye Classic opened in 2001, the tournament has donated more than $250,000 to local nonprofits.

Last year, the tournament raised more than $45,000 divided among Special Olympics, Bemidji, Minn., Youth Hockey, Fishing Has No Boundaries, Let's Go Fishing, Take a Kid Fishing, Boy Scouts and the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources. In addition, volunteers from these and other organizations, as well as individual volunteers, have helped launch the tournament each year.

The eighth annual Kraus-Anderson Walleye Classic will open today with contestants' check-in, registration and rules meeting from 3-4:45 p.m. at the Hampton Inn & Suites. From 5-5:30 p.m., there will be silent and live auctions. The activity will then move to the Lake Bemidji waterfront where the prizes will be on display. A community fish fry and meet and greet the anglers will be held from 6-8 p.m. followed by a tournament party until 10 p.m.

John Davies, vice president and director of operations for Kraus-Anderson, said the organizers decided to forego the boat parade this year.

"With all the construction downtown this year, we didn't want to add to the congestion," Davies said. "It will be back next year, in all likelihood."

The tournament will get an early start Saturday with a participant boat check from 5:30-6:45 a.m. followed by the singing of "The Star Spangled Banner" led by Joe Vene.

The professional and amateur anglers will take off in three flights with the 100 teams divided in thirds.

"All during the rest of the day, there are family activities happening at the waterfront," Davies said.

The activities will include such amusements as a bounce house, casting contest, dunk tank and face painting.

The teams will be judged on the five fish they bring in for weigh-in between 3:30 p.m. and 4:30 p.m. The first-place finishers with the heaviest collection of fish will receive $10,000, and there will be more than $60,000 in cash and prizes given away.

The fish will be released at the end of the competition under the supervision of the DNR.