WFXR’s George Noleff was given the rare chance to compete in a high-profile, national fishing tournament, The Cabela’s/Bass Pro/The Walleye Federation National Team Championship. He will provide firsthand accounts of the trials, rigors, and successes anglers find on the tournament trail in an ongoing series of reports.
AKASKA, S.D. (WFXR) — Tournament life can be lonely.
It can be stressful.
It can mean endless hours on the road and days in a boat in strange places far from home.
The pressure to perform and the emotional toll it takes can be immense.
Tournament anglers also have to be physically in shape and mentally tough.
For one team of anglers, though, they have a unique support structure.
First, anglers Nathaniel Stender of Norfolk and Landon Stender of Fordyce, Nebraska have each other. They are brothers. They recently finished 14th in the Cabela’s/Bass Pro/The Walleye Federation National Team Championship (NTC) held on Lake Oahe in Mobridge, South Dakota. That tournament featured some of the top walleye fishing teams in the country.
“It was exonerating, finally broke through,” Nathaniel said of the brothers’ strong NTC finish. “Finally, we were the ones.”
The Stender brothers have been fishing together for decades, and they credit the long hours they spend on the water for the success.
“We spend a lot of time together fishing, and we love each other very much” said Landon. “Our mom and dad introduced us to the outdoors when we were really little, and my passion, even when I was little was every lake, pond we went by, I always asked if there was any fish in there.”
The Stenders take that family aspect to another level. Landon’s wife, Kelsey, and their five children make the tournament road trips to provide a base of support for the brothers.
“When Landon started doing this tournament fishing and stuff like that, we just kind of made it a part of what the kids and I did just because they are gone a lot,” said Kelsey.
While Nathaniel and Landon take care of business on the water, Kelsey is holding down the fort behind the scenes. That can mean everything from handling family business affairs, to procuring vital equipment, to coordinating schedules and meals. That support has been vital to the Stender team’s success, and allowed them to attain All-American status at the NTC this year.
“You know there’s someone always there for you and supporting you,” said Landon.
“It’s been a lifelong goal for us,” added Nathaniel. “It’s been a bucket list to become All-American walleye fishermen.”
According to Kelsey, she would not have it any other way.
“It takes a lot of time, a lot of money, and a lot of effort, but like I said, being able to bring the kids along and see Landon and Nate enjoy what they’re doing is absolutely worth it,” Kelsey said.