Living close to the Illinois River, you can sense the challenge of a constantly changing aquatic environment. I was really awestricken the first time I got to see Starved Rock at Utica, Illinois. The rock formations at Starved Rock State Park did not seem to fit in with the rest of Illinois. The dam at Starved Rock and Plum Island had a certain charm that seemed to be calling me to test the waters. I read the articles in the Peoria Journal Star written by the now retired Jack Ehresman. Mr. Ehresman wrote articles about the Masters Walleye Circuit (MWC) walleye/sauger tournaments held at Spring Valley each spring. His stories about Gary Roach and Randy Amerud battling it out with Mike McClelland and Bob Probst, Sr. really got my attention.
I decided to learn how to fish the river. I fished and took some guided fishing trips when I could. I fished with Buster Cajun and other area guides who taught techniques that would conquer the illusive Illinois River sauger and walleyes.
In 1994 at a Walleye Masters Institute, I heard of the In-Fisherman’s Professional Walleye Trail (PWT) and their Pro-Am fishing tournaments. They offer a three-day tournament format allowing the amateurs to fish with a different pro each day. I was hooked! Since then I have fished with 40 of the top walleye pros in the nation, including Gary Roach, Mike McClelland, Paul Maleen, Ted Takasaki, Rick LaCourse, Leon Houle, Keith Kavajecz, Gary Parsons, Tony Puccio of BaitRigs, and "Doc" Tom Johnson of Eagle Claw.
In 1995 I won 2nd place amateur ($4000 merchandise) at the PWT tournament in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. At this event I learned to use Off-Shore Planer Boards trolling crankbaits and how to pitch jigs tipped with leeches into the Lake Winnebago cane.
In 1996 at the Walleye Super Pro on Lake Norfork in Mountain Home, Arkansas, I won 4th place ameteur. I had the good fortune to fish with Gary Roach, "Mr. Walleye", Rick LaCourse, the 1997 PWT Champion, and Norb Wallock, the 1997 NAWA Champion. I gained even more valuable experience fishing with these walleye legends.
1997 was my banner year. I won 6th at Dubuque, Iowa, 24th at Glascow, Montana, and 2nd at Lake Erie. The Dubuque tournament was held on the Mississippi River shortly after the spring flood. The water was high and very dirty. The third day of competition, I got to fish with Keith Kavajecz. As a team we caught the biggest walleye of the day and shared a $1800 purse. At Lake Fort Peck in Glascow, Montana, I caught and shared money big fish money ($1200) with pro Todd Riley. The final day of the tournament I fished with Dale Stroschien. The three-and-a-half-pound walleye I caught helped Dale qualify for the PWT Championship and won 24th place for me. The 3rd day at Lake Erie tournament, I fished with pro Paul Meleen. At the weigh-in we had 49 ½ pounds and still got beat out of 1st place. Again, I won second place.
At the 1998 PWT tournament at Lake Oahe. In Pierre, South Dakota, I fished with "Rookie Pro of the Year" Dan DeJaeghere, previous "Angler of the Year" Gary Parsons, and "The Original Super Pro Winner" Ron Analuf. I won 2nd place amateur for the third time and shared another big fish pot ($1800) with Ron Analuf. That same year, my Team Walleye partner Dan Vinovich and I shared Illinois "Angler of The Year" honors.
This year, my partner Joe Struna from Lasalle, Illinois, and I are currently 4th place in the points standings in Team Walleye in Illinois.
This spring I will be fishing the PWT, but now as a Pro. There will
be six events ranging from the Detroit River to Devils Lake in North Dakota.
Six years of experience has earned me sponsorship from Ranger Boats, Buell’s
Marine, Mercury Motors, BaitRigs Tackle, Eagle Claw, DieHard Marine Batteries,
and Erhardt "fishing sticks" and their great products.
Stay tuned and watch for my big win!!
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