Like father, like son

Family fishing partners

Kim Fundingsland/MDN Chuck Berntsen, 75, Minot, holds a walleye caught on day one of the 2019 Governor’s Walleye Cup. Son and fishing partner Brent Berntsen, 50, Minot, is at the front of the boat.

He’s fished 43 of 44 Governor’s Walleye Cup tournaments. His son was his fishing partner each and every time. He wouldn’t have it any other way.

Seventy-five years old now, and with countless hours of enjoyment on the water, Chuck Berntsen of Minot treasures every opportunity to fish with his son.

“I look forward to fishing with him at the Governor’s Cup every year,” said Berntsen. “I’m just happy to pre-fish a day or two with him and getting to fish two days in a row together in the tourney.”

Brent Berntsen, 50, Minot, fished his first Governor’s Cup alongside his father when he was a mere 13 years old.

“I remember it, vaguely,” said Brent. “I was lucky enough to grow up with a dad that took me fishing. I was one of those kids that couldn’t get enough of it.”

Submitted Photo Brent Berntsen with an impressive northern pike pulled from Lake Sakakawea.

Chuck says Brent’s introduction to fishing from a boat started when he was very young. The boat was a 14-foot Sea King powered by a 19 horse Evinrude.

“I’d load that boat into the back of my pickup and we’d carry the motor down to the water,” recalled Chuck Berntsen. “We’d catch fish in that boat too, but there were times when we didn’t know if we’d get back!”

Today’s boats are much larger and equipped with bigger and more reliable motors, a modern necessity when fishing Lake Sakakawea. One year, says Brent, he and his father fished out of a boat that had the motor mounted in the middle.

“It was the craziest thing,” said Brent Bernsten. “I think it came from Louisiana. Everybody talked about that boat and knew who we were! That year we got 18th place in the Governor’s Cup.”

The father/son team has had some memorable tournaments. In 1998 they placed fifth in the Governor’s Cup, their highest finish ever, they won what was then called the Tournament of Champions and placed sixth in the Premier’s Cup at Tobin Lake, Manitoba. In 2001 they managed an eighth-place finish in the Governor’s Cup. A 5.60 pound walleye boated by the Berntsens was the largest catch in the 2011 Governor’s Cup.

Submitted Photo Chuck Berntsen shows off a very nice Lake Sakakawea walleye.

After fishing all but one of the 44 Governor’s Cup tournaments, 36 of them with Brent, Chuck Berntsen remains as determined as ever. He developed a very competitive nature playing football and basketball in Ray.

“I’d like to win this thing once,” said Brent Berntsen on the eve of this year’s Governor’s Cup. “This is a tough one. Brent says if we could just win it once then we could stop. I don’t think we would. If you can go up on stage and even be in the top 10, that’s pretty darn good. That’s what keeps you going.”

Getting along together in a boat, even for family, is not easy. The Berntsens though, have figured it out and look forward to their time together.

“We kind of make decisions together,” said Brent Berntsen. “He’s kind of got a knack for finding fish. One thing I have to say about dad, it always seems like we’re on the same page.”

“I run the boat. He runs the electric. We get together and decide exactly where to fish,” said Chuck Berntsen. “I’ll listen to him. If he’s got a spot he wants to move to I’ll say okay.”

Being on the water or walking for game during the hunting season has long been a passion for Chuck Berntsen, and son Brent has never been very far away. Chuck’s love of the outdoors that he shares with his son remains as contagious as ever.

“I just love to be out there. I love the outdoors. I love to hunt. I love to fish,” said Chuck Berntsen. “There’s nothing like being out in a boat. Catching fish once in a while is a bonus. I like to be able to go with friends. If they want to go out until the sun is setting I’ll say great. Let’s do it.”

It seems that not even 75 years of age has slowed Berntsen’s enthusiasm. If anything, it’s probably more developed and obvious than ever.

“If he goes until he’s 98 I’ll be there to help,” said Brent Berntsen. “I hope I’m in as good shape and active as he is at his age.”

With their fishing skills and combined experience on the water, it wouldn’t be surprising if the Berntsens eventually capture the elusive Governor’s Walleye Cup title. That title aside, they’ve already achieved the something of much greater importance – a winning relationship between father and son.


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