Wisconsinites Mark Schleis and Randy Seidl put together two solid baskets to top the field of 268 anglers from 10 states and one Canadian province at the Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit’s Lake Winnebago tournament.
“It feels awesome, this is great,” said Seidl, of Appleton. After a great start of 18.28 pounds put them in 12th place on Day One, a 21.41-pound Day Two basket gave them a 39.69-pound total weight. The win earned them the $18,300 first-place cash purse, plus $1,000 Ranger Cup award, $500 Berkley Baits Berkley Tackle Package, and U2 Pro Formula contingency for a $19,860 payday.
“Randy concentrated on Winnebago while I eliminated water on the upper lakes,” added Schleis, of Denmark, who explained that the team trolled live nightcrawlers and Berkley Gulp! Alive! Crawlers on harness rigs with hammered gold hatchet-style blades at 1.4 mph over a mud bottom in 14 feet of water on the north end of the Winnebago, at the end of sand fingers extending into the lake. He noted that when the wind picked up, they switched to Berkley Flicker Shad crankbaits.
The Wisconsin team of Gordon Schwarz and Brett Wilkins finished second with 38.67 pounds, good for $7,500 plus a $1,000 Cabela’s gift card from the Cabela’s Angler Cash Program and $500 Lowrance Electronics HDS/Elite DSI contingency. In all, the top 26 teams shared more than $69,650 in cash plus thousands more in sponsor bonuses and $5,350 in Big Fish Pot winnings. Plus, the top three Premier (earlybird) teams received two pairs of Okuma Dead Eye rod-and-reel combos valued at $1,000.
Set for June 29-July 1, the tournament offered two days of competition on the Winnebago chain’s world-class walleye fishery, with one day reserved in case of bad weather. A total of 1,170 walleyes weighing 3,153.91 pounds crossed the Cabela’s MWC scale in the catch-and-release event. Big fish was a 7.34-pound monster brought in by David Kolb of Rockford, Michigan, and Jason Kopf of Avon Lake, Ohio-worth $1,350 from the Big-Fish Pot.
Weigh-ins were held on the shores of Lake Winnebago at Millers Bay in Menominee Park in downtown Oshkosh. The large crowd of walleye fans in attendance was treated to a steady stream of walleyes crossing the Cabela’s MWC stage, along with tips and tricks from the anglers on how their fish were caught. Plus, children 12 and under enjoyed a Youth & Family Fishing Clinic, held immediately after the Day One weigh-in. The Cabela’s MWC, National Professional Anglers Association, Pure Fishing and Zippo Outdoor Brands presented the clinic, which awarded the first 50 youths free rod and reel combos, and offered fishing lessons with the anglers. One lucky family also won a Zippo Family Camping Pack valued at more than $100.
Walleyes were winners as well. The Cabela’s MWC donated $15 per boat, for a total of $2,100, to the Lighthouse Anglers fishing club for its efforts to protect and enhance the fishery. In turn, the group supplied an army of volunteers to assist with tournament operations and release tournament-caught walleyes. Since 1984, the Circuit and its sister trail, the Cabela’s North American Bass Circuit, have donated more than $300,000 to fisheries-enhancement projects in states where its tournaments are held.
This was the sixth of nine Cabela’s MWC qualifying tournaments in 2012. Open to diehard anglers regardless of club or sponsor affiliation, the remaining schedule includes Lake Oahe at Pierre, South Dakota, July 28-29; the St. Mary’s River at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, August 24-26; and Cass Lake, Minnesota, out of Stony Point Resort, Sept. 14-16.
The Cabela’s MWC is open to all anglers regardless of club or sponsor affiliation. Registration costs $650 per tournament per two-person team, and remains open through the Sunday prior to each event. Payouts are based on the number of teams fishing each event. Overall in 2011, the Circuit paid back more than 120 percent of entry fees in cash payouts, team of the year awards, sponsor contingencies and winnings in the no-entry-fee Cabela’s MWC World Walleye Championship. To register or for details, call (877) 893-7947; visit masterswalleyecircuit.com, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Image courtesy Cabela's