Ed Klein and Randy Carroll: The Illinois River has been very, very good to them
What do you get when you add a victory at the Illinois Governor's Cup with a win at the oldest and arguably most prestigious team walleye tournament in the country? You get quite possibly one of the best fishing teams in Illinois. Thanks to a hefty 18.58 pound limit today, Randy Carroll and Ed Klein rolled onto victory with a two-day total of 34.73 pounds at the first event of the 2005 Cabela's MWC season. These boys from Illinois have to make more room on the mantel for another trophy. What a great way to usher in the first day of spring.
Larry Keller and Chad Cropp finished in 2nd with 30.51. In the 3rd spot were Day 1 leaders Doug Newhoff and Neil Hammargren with 29.68 pounds. The 4th position went to the 2003 winners of this event, Mark Meravy and John Broncato with a weight of 29.35. PWT pro Gary Gray and partner Glenn Wangerin took 5th with 29.04.
Today's crowd was in a more celebratory mood than yesterday's rain-soaked bunch. Slightly warmer temperatures and plenty of afternoon sun warmed their backs and their spirits . The crowd was relatively small for such a major event, but thanks to the anglers' interest in the outcome, Carroll and Klein had plenty of cheers to hear.
Carroll Spanked 'Em While most anglers know Carroll and Klein as superb trollers, they laid down the leadcore and opted for the jigging sticks today.
"The day was just phenomenal," he said. "We just spanked 'em today. My partner was so unbelievably hot today. He was really on fire."
Too much debris in the water prevented him from trolling cranks.
"There was really just too much stuff in the water to troll today," he said. "Plus the jig bite was so good, there was no reason to use another technique. I really believe somebody was looking out for us today. We had plenty of extra company today and we still caught big fish. We were culling 3-pounders."
They focused on a breakline in the 10- to 13-foot range in the Clam Beds. The current flow was ideal and settled down at the right time to allow for a slow and methodical presentation. Carroll and Klein worked the jig and minnow combos slowly near the bottom, raising them only slightly.
Jig color changed throughout the day, although a 3/8-ounce blue jig with a small piece of plastic and a fathead minnow was the top producer.
Kropp Popped Early An early jig bite was the ticket for Kropp and Keller today.
"We really had a very good day today," said Kropp. "We headed downriver and caught all of our fish early on a jig and minnow."
Expert jiggers Hammargren and Newhoff adapted to moving fish to hold on to third
Fish Moved for Newhoff Newhoff and Hammargren looked to be in good shaped after their Day 1 performance, but a change in location and uncooperative fish pushed them down two notches.
"When we started pre-fishing, we noticed the fish kept moving shallower each day," said Newhoff. "We had fish close to the bank in 11- to 14-feet. They were not there today. They moved into deeper water. Our spot on the Peru Flats just went dead. We had to weight two 15-inchers today, which hurt us."
They used 3/8-ounce jigs with either a hair or plastic trailer tipped with a minnow to catch their limits both days.
Clam Beds Best for Broncato Like many of the Illinois River anglers, John Broncato and his partner Mark Meravy spent their time on the Clam Beds with a jig and minnow combo.
"We did nothing different from yesterday to today," said Broncato. "The only difference was the quality of the fish.
The clam beds were among several hot areas producing strong limits, typical of ideal conditions on the Illinois
"We fished the Clam Beds and down on the Green Buoy side," he said. We would find fish in some spots and move a bit and it would go totally dead. Then, we moved a little and we would get a double. We caught seven keepers yesterday and eight keepers today."
They used a 3/8-ounce gold jig with plastic and a minnow. They attempted to pull rigs with floaters yesterday, but the jigs were too productive to put down.
Mini-Bites Ron Gazvoda and Tom Nordyke were one fish shy of making the top-five. "We probably would not have won with an extra fish, but a couple of pounds would have moved us into 2nd overall. Instead, we have to settle for 7th," said Gazvoda.
Like many of the Top 10 teams, they were using 3/8-ounce jigs. Jig color was red and white with a natural colored Gulp shad body or minnows. Their hot spot was below Hennepin on flats in the 12- to 13-foot range on Day 1 and adjacent deeper water today.
Russell Gahagan was disappointed with his team's performance today. "We lost a couple of nice ones at the surface at the Clam Beds, but then it went dead for us," he said. "We ended up pole-lining under the Route 89 Bridge to catch our limit."
Minnetonka, MN - Illinois anglers Ed Klein of Wayne and Randy Carroll of Oswego produced two impressive baskets of sauger to win the Cabela's Masters Walleye Circuit 2005 season opener, held March 19 & 20 at Spring Valley, IL.
Their ten fish MWC allowable limit, which totaled 34.74 pounds, was worth $28,512. It was their first circuit victory.
The winning team fished south of the tournament site of Barto Landing in the clam beds, using hot pink and blue minnow-tipped jigs. All but one of their fish came on stringer hooks. They used 6 lb. no-stretch line for sensitivity, and said the key was a subtle jig stroke 6-8 inches off the bottom. Steve Pennaz, emcee for the Cabela's MWC Central and Executive Director of the North American Fishing Club proclaimed, "The winners' basket today was the most impressive stringer of sauger I've ever seen in my lifetime." 2005 marked the 19th consecutive year the MWC held the season opener in this favored spot. Pennaz asked the duo why their fish were bigger, even though they used the same technique as many other anglers.
Klein responded "We had some help from the man upstairs, but we also worked hard for this win, and it was a sweet victory at this point in our fishing career." Carroll quickly added "everything just went right for us today - everything! We sure smoked 'em!"
The Neshkoro, Wisconsin team of Chad Kropp and Larry Keller finished with 10 fish weighing 30.51 lbs. which was worth a hefty second place check totaling $13,200. They also fished in the same general area as the winners.
Taking home $10,032 were MWC veterans Neil Hammargren and Doug Newhoff of Waterloo, Iowa. They finished third with 10 fish weighing 29.68 lbs; after an impressive 17.94 lb. basket on day one to grab the lead. They struggled a bit on Sunday, forcing them to bring in one smaller fish which they knew would cost them. They fished the Peru flats, along with the clam beds. Most of their fish on Sunday came later in the afternoon.
The top 35 teams shared the $107,014 cash purse. An additional $9,200 was paid in big fish prize money. Fourth place team Mark Meravy (Morris, IL) and John Broncato (Coal City, IL) took day two honors and $1,795 for their 4.40 pounder, while Gary Jacobson (Iron Mountain, MI) and Jerry Merritt (Niagra, WI) earned the same amount the first day with the largest fish of the tournament, a 4.55 pounder. Brothers Dan and Dean Krukow from Rochester, MN were the highest place finishing team in the Ranger Cup -- netting an additional $1000 bonus. A $300 bonus of Salmo Performance Lures was awarded to the top finishing team using Salmo's products in the tournament - Tom Hoinacki of Waupun, WI and Bill Reabe of Eau Claire, WI.
Tournament teams donated $3,300 to the MWC Conservation Fund which will be used for fisheries related projects in the local Illinois River Valley area.
It's that time of the year again. The robins have returned, the days are longer and the weather is getting warmer. For professional walleye anglers, the first sign of spring is this weekend's Cabela's MWC event on the Illinois River. With the same excitement of opening day at the ballpark, a full field of 220 teams is ready to rumble in Spring Valley, Ill.
With weather predicted to be stable and air temperatures in the forties, most of the contestants will be comfortable. Add to the stable weather, normal pool conditions and water temperatures around 40 (and slowly on the rise), saugers will be active throughout the river.
Last fall, it was common for anglers to pull dozens of chunky saugers out of the Illinois each day with weights exceeding 4 and even 5 pounds per fish. Rumors of the occasional 6-pounder surfaced from time to time. The males have started to milt and the females are ready to move up. Look for plenty of fish and some heavy weights.
Paul Fournier at Spring Valley 2004
Versatility Key for Fournier
Paul Fournier and his partner Ryan Olson are no strangers to the MWC winners circle. Last year, they won the Leech Lake event and finished second at Spring Valley. He knows that versatility will make all the difference this year.
"The fish are so active right now, guys are gonna be catching them using a wide variety of techniques," he said. (During the interview he paused to catch a fat 3-pounder) "Trollers, handliners, jiggers, they will all catch a few.
"What is important is the ability to upgrade your limit. It will come down to the ability to make a change in what you are doing to go and get a kicker fish. You will need a kicker each day to win the event. I think 15 pounds per day gets you into the Top 10 and 35- to 40-pounds will win the tournament."
He feels that the river is in the best shape it has been over the last three years of MWC tournaments held at Spring Valley.
"Compared to the last three years, the river is optimal right now," he said. "The river is falling slowly and it is gonna be a matter of who can find their own fish."
Fournier didn't have the easiest start to his journey from Minnesota to Spring Valley.
"I just had the front end done on my vehicle and then the tie rod blew on the day I was leaving," he said. "Hopefully, all the bad things are out of the way for this tournament."
High water complicated the 2004 bite, but 2005 conditions on the Illinois are near ideal
Petros Predicts Pigs
A whole lotta oinking is what Ranger/Mercury Pro Pete Petros expects from the Illinois. He is a PWT pro who also guides on the Illinois and has hooked many hogs last fall and this spring.
"Right now we are seeing the males move up, ready for spawn," he said. "I think the females will be soon to follow. In fact there may be some real pigs brought to the weigh-in on Saturday and Sunday.
"With normal pool and water temperatures hovering around forty, the conditions are right for big fish."
His choices for presentations include trolling number 5 and 7 Shad Raps in bright colors along with number 7 or 9 floating Rapalas. With so many fish active, leadcore, three-ways, handlining and even jigs will have a role in the outcome.
"It is not going to be easy for anglers to initially zero in on what the best presentations will be," he said. "All sorts of approaches will work. This can be both bad and good for anglers. You will need to figure out what the big fish want."
Known Spots Hot for Blanck
While many competitors will be in search of secret spots Ranger/Mercury pro Kevin Blanck is inclined to fish the known haunts.
"I think that the Highlines, Peru Flats and Clam Beds will all be the areas to find fish," he said. "I think the difference will be how you present your baits and if you know the small spot on spot locations of the fish. If you can locate the larger fish in the popular areas, you will do well."
The Illinois River is one massive community hole, so being able to deal with heavy traffic is a plus.
"I admit that I am not the best river angler there is," he said. "I am always watching boat traffic and barges. Right now the traffic is not bad, but I look for the barge and boat traffic to get worse over the weekend. You have to deal with it to become successful."
Anglers will weigh-in at Barto Landing on Saturday and Sunday, March 19 and 20. First flight is due in at 2:00 p.m.
Minnetonka, MN - Cabela's Masters Walleye Circuit anglers know the cure for cabin fever -- it's called the Spring Valley, Illinois MWC tournament - a sauger factory that every walleye tournament angler looks forward to. And that relief is right around the corner.
The 19-year running competition on the Illinois River is slated for March 19 & 20 with Lowrance Electronics as the title sponsor for this qualifying tournament stop. The local Spring Valley Walleye Club hosts the tournament and welcomes the teams, fans and sponsors to the area. As has become the tradition for most of the 19 years, the 220-team field filled in one day with a waiting list. Over $107,000 is at stake; with $28,512 slated for the winning two-person team.
"It'll be tough to repeat" pined Keith Carlson of Goodhue, Minnesota. He and his partner last year won the tournament with 21.58 lbs. "The water temperature will be a big factor and we expect it will take more to win this year than 21 pounds. We'll sure give it a good try though," Carlson added with laugh.
Conditions are a little more stable than last year. Tournament dates are a week earlier due to the Easter holiday falling the last weekend in March this year, which should land larger pre-spawn fish in the anglers' baskets.
Favorite techniques for this tournament include trolling three-way rigs up-river as well as vertical jigging with plastic baits. However, there are no secrets in this tournament environment. While dozens of miles of river are within the boundaries; many anglers are packed in like sardines on some of the most productive areas, such as the Peru flats and the DePue clam beds.
What's new in the boat this year? Anglers will use their new color Lowrance electronics for the tournament. "Everything's gone color now" indicated MWC angler Gordy Powers of Rockford, Minnesota. "Lowrance has developed such a wide variety of products with color application. There are quite a number of products in a wide price range; which makes it great to have a variety of applications in the boat. Probably half the field will be using the color units in Spring Valley....but just wait - it will be 99% the following year. The color technology is so great that once you see the difference it's just night and day."
The Masters Walleye Circuit and the Spring Valley Walleye Club workside-by-side with the Illinois DNR on improving the Illinois River. Theteamwork approach works well, and is highly sustainable. Not only are eggs from the fish caught during the tournament used in a re-stocking program,conservation funds are generated to cover the expenses. MWC will donate $3300 to the Spring Valley Walleye Club at the conclusion of the tournament for such work.