BILLINGS — McKeever Dahlberg will never forget where he was on Sept. 24, 2021.
“We were watching it in a boat shop in Mandan, North Dakota," Dahlberg said. "The announcer goes, ‘It’s too close to count Angler of the Year yet, so we’ll have to add up the points.' And I was like, of course, after I leave.”
Twenty-four hours earlier, the Billings 19-year-old was competing in the National Walleye Tour Championship in Ottertail, Minnesota. After a strong first day, he had jumped to No. 1 in the Co-Angler of the Year overall standings, the Tour's best amateur competition.
“We took off at 8 a.m., and by 8:30 we had six fish, our limit, in the boat," Dahlberg said.
But day two was almost the exact opposite.
“We only caught five fish. We caught one in the morning, and then in the last 20 minutes before we had to go in, we caught four more.”
He ended up three-quarters of a pound short of qualifying for the final day, so he figured there was no way he'd hold his top spot in the Co-Angler of the Year standings. Dahlberg packed up his truck to head back toward home, stopping at Aqua Traction of North Dakota to get a new floor put in to his boat.
"And I said, 'Let’s throw on the livestream (of the awards ceremony) and see who wins it all," Dahlberg said.
It turned out to be the best math mistake he's ever made.
Dahlberg watched - in half amazement, half embarrassment - as his name was announced as the 2021 Co-Angler of the Year.
"The only way he knows it is that he’s watching us right now. I guarantee he’s watching us," the announcer said with a knowing smile.
The win earned Dahlberg a shiny new trophy, and more importantly, all of his entry fees paid for every 2022 tournament, a prize worth close to $10,000. No longer an amateur by any definition of the word, Dahlberg will take aim at the pro title next year. His goal - what else?
“Make it to the championship next year."
You can bet he won’t miscalculate that.