|Flood Conditions on the Illinois River Create
Difficult Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit Season Opener
Spring Valley, IL -- The bite was awesome on the Illinois River
just three to five days before the annual Cabela’s MWC
tournament in Spring Valley. Unfortunately, with Mother Nature’s
fierce hand, the river drastically changed on Wednesday and
flood conditions by the weekend’s tournament forced an
entirely different scenario, allowing the field out for only
a single day. As was predicted, Barto Landing was nearly underwater
as the last team trailered their boat.
||Brothers Marty & Mickey Stuefen of Cedar Rapids, Iowa
netted one sauger at 2.71 pounds for $60,630, the largest
single payout in the history of the well-established circuit.
The $115,860 purse was paid to four places – as only
four teams weighed just one fish.For the Steufen brothers,
it turned into gold at over $1554 per ounce. Jerry Plourde
of Cornell, Michigan and Daniel Stier of Pierre, South Dakota
came in only .01 behind, cashing in $29,694.
Bill Koehne of Abrams, Wisconsin and Tim Cain of Mankato,
Minnesota cashed $13,916 for their 1.41 pound fish, and Dave
Schmidt and Mark Zillges of Oshkosh, Wisconsin took home $11,620
for their 1.35 pound treasure.
“It has happened twice before in the 21-year history
of the MWC in Spring Valley,” shared Spring Valley Walleye
Club Executive Director Bill Guerrini, who managed the tournament
for 15 of the 21 years. “I always asked the field when
they were skeptical of holding a tournament during a tough bite,
‘why wouldn’t you want a chance to have one fish
mean so much?’
The swollen river was filled with debris and as muddy as ever.
Steve Pennaz, television host of North American Fisherman was
traveling with the cameramen, filming for a show on Versus network.
The crew filmed many whole trees in the river as well as appliances,
drum containers, tires and other such fodder. “You really
had to go slowly and watch for all the hazards when traveling,
but it was definitely fishable. The further up-river you went
the more it cleaned up,” shared Pennaz. “From what
I could see all the anglers were using their heads and proceeding
cautiously as they were instructed to at the rules meeting,
to avoid damage to their boats, or worse, causing anyone any
injury. They seemed to manage, and those that didn’t want
to try to get on plane just stayed really close to Barto Landing.”
The Stuefens were jigging with white-headed purple-haired ½
ounce jigs in twelve feet of water or less. Mickey realed in
the “trophy” two-pounder at 11 a.m. just a quarter
mile below the red can at Split Rock. Marty couldn’t have
been happier that his younger brother caught the only fish.
“Between the two of us, I am definitely more of the serious
fisherman,” shared Marty. “I probably fish ten times
to Mickey’s one, but he picked a great time to boat the
right fish for us. I couldn’t be happier that he caught
that fish!” They admit there was a little bit of “chest
bumping” going on in the boat when it landed in the net.
Everyone in the field knew with such a tough bite that any fish
would probably cash a check. Indeed it was very true. The duo
also cashed the $1,000 Ranger Cup bonus for being the top finishing
team in a Ranger Boat and enrolled in the Ranger Cup program.
The difficult conditions made the Stuefens change up their
tactics a bit. While they love to jig fish on the river, they
modified their approach due to the murky water. “We added
a lot of movement, sound and scent to compensate for what the
fish couldn’t see,” added Marty. “And that
seemed to make the difference. Not to mention – a little
bit of luck didn’t hurt.”
Stuefen and Stuefen were the only team in the Walleye Madness
competition that advanced due to weighing fish. Everyone else
advanced based on their seed. The Sweet Sixteen finals will
be held May 10-12 at Port Clinton, Ohio on the famous walleye
factory, Lake Erie. See attached bracket to see how the teams
will face-off at that time, enroute to the title of Walleye
Madness Champions. The following sixteen teams advanced:
1 - Jeff Manz & Greg Yarbrough
2 -- David Kolb & Dan Byers
3 -- Jeff Seyka & Todd Robinson
4 -- Paul Curmi & Mike Jurik
5 -- Troy Skorich & John Swanstrom
6 -- Michael Olson & Donald Olson
7 -- Kevin Dahl & Steve Stack
8 -- Dan Johnson & Mike Defibaugh
9 -- Mark Michael & John Mannerino
11 -- Jeff Koester & Scott Rhodes
12 -- Scott Hausauer & Tony Larson
13 -- Robert Blosser & Gary Tomlinson
14 -- Matt Davis & Dan Gies
15 -- Steve Skupien & Dave Kleszyk
16 - Jess King & Dave Kreger
23 -- Marty Stuefen & Mickey Stuefen
Over sixty kids and families attended the NPAA and MWC Youth
and Family Fishing Clinic immediately following the weigh-in.
New rods and reels were distributed to the kids with their very
own tackle box rigged up for slip-float fishing. Frank Pilney,
NPAA #920 encouraged the kids to “dream over a bobber”
as they learn their new sport of fishing. Many thanks to the
NPAA & MWC sponsors who made the gear possible for the kids.
Toyota donated a new mountain bike that the anglers rigged with
rod holders and storage for their new gear. Cierra Espinoza,
age 7, of Ogelsby, was all smiles when she won the bike.
None of the four teams weighing fish were in a Toyota Tundra,
therefore the Angler Award from Toyota Trucks of $1,000 will
roll over into the next Central Division tournament at Green
Bay, increasing that payout to $2,000.
The Inhibitor, which makes rust prevention chips used in tackle
boxes and storage units, will provide two specially coated boat
covers, one to each member of the winning team.
The team of Mark Magura and Steve Franz of Valparaiso, Indiana
won $40 and “real food” in the drawing at the rules
meeting from Food Source Lures. “We want to draw attention
to the fact that fish, just like people, prefer real food over
plastic” stated Steve Wisdom, of Food Source Lures.
A drawing was held at the rules meeting and the Illinois team
of Mark Michael and John Mannerino won a new set of Ice Armor,
a great line of cold weather outdoor gear.
Farm & City Insurance Services Anglers Choice drew the
Illinois team of Guy Lopez and Paul Dimock for two new PFDs.
Also, as $5 for each new quote from last year was collected,
Chris Higgins announced that $395 was being added to the MWC
Conservation fund, which will increase the planned $2940 contribution
to the Spring Valley Walleye Club to $3335.
Cabela’s is the title sponsor for the Masters Walleye
Circuit. Official Sponsors are Ranger Boats, Mercury Motors,
MotorGuide, Lowrance Electronics, Toyota Trucks, North American
Fishing Club and Versus (Vs.). Associate sponsors are Tommy
Docks, The Inhibitor, Food Source Lures, Ice Armor and Farm
& City Insurance Services.
Openings exist for the remainder of the year in the following
tournaments. Contact the MWC office at 877-893-7947 or register
online at www.masterswalleyecircuit.com.
April 21 & 22– Trenton, MI -- Detroit River and Lake
June 2 & 3 – Henderson Harbor, NY – Lake Ontario
July 21 & 22 – Youngstown, NY – Niagara River
and Lake Ontario
June 23 & 24 – Green Bay, WI – Bay of Green
Sept 8 & 9 – Dubuque, IA – Mississippi River
MWC West (Exhibition Tournament)
August 18 & 19 –Ortonville, MN – Big Stone
Walleye Madness Sweet Sixteen (bracketed tournament, invitation
May 10-12 -- Port Clinton, OH – Lake Erie
World Walleye Championship (invitation only)
Oct 4-6 -- Dundee, MI -- Detroit River and Lake Erie