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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.

MWC Spring Valleye 2007 Tournament Winners 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.

MWC East
April 21 & 22– Trenton, MI -- Detroit River and Lake Erie

June 2 & 3 – Henderson Harbor, NY – Lake Ontario

July 21 & 22 – Youngstown, NY – Niagara River and Lake Ontario

MWC Central
June 23 & 24 – Green Bay, WI – Bay of Green Bay

Sept 8 & 9 – Dubuque, IA – Mississippi River

MWC West (Exhibition Tournament)

August 18 & 19 –Ortonville, MN – Big Stone Lake

Walleye Madness Sweet Sixteen (bracketed tournament, invitation only)

May 10-12 -- Port Clinton, OH – Lake Erie

World Walleye Championship (invitation only)

Oct 4-6 -- Dundee, MI -- Detroit River and Lake Erie

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