The father-and-son team of Gary and Nicholas Zart, of Brunswick, Ohio, put together two solid catches to win the Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit’s Lake Erie qualifying tournament at Huron, Ohio, May 17-19.
“This is a dream come true,” said Gary, the elder Zart. “Nicholas has been fishing with me since he was a baby, and we’ve been competing together on the MWC since 2008, when he was 12 years old. To win an event of this caliber with him, against the best of the best, is incredible.”
After their five-fish MWC limit weighing 43 pounds, 6 ounces landed them in second place on Day One, they added 41 pounds, 7 ounces to their tally on Day Two for an 84-pound, 13-ounce total weight.
The victory earned them the $11,000.00 first-place cash purse, plus the $500 Lowrance Electronics award for being the highest-finishing team using a Lowrance HDS Gen2, HDS Gen2 Touch or Elite-7 unit, a $500 Berkley Tackle Package and $200 gift card from presenting sponsor Lowe Equipment Attachments. They also claimed a $1,000 Cabela’s National Team Championship Prize Package that includes paid NTC entry, travel stipend, team jerseys and plaques.
“It’s the most amazing feeling ever,” added Nicholas. He explained that their top tactic was pulling 6-inch Berkley Gulp! Nightcrawlers and live ’crawlers on spinner rigs .9 to 1.4 mph behind diving planers near bottom in 48 feet of water.
The Zarts, who operate Blue Dolphin Charters on Lake Erie, are no strangers to the fishery. But they credited their teammates Scott Geitgey, of Canton, Ohio, and Jason Kopf, of Avon Lake, Ohio, for pinpointing a school of migrating walleyes during prefishing, which was key to their victory.
David Kolb, of Rockford, Michigan, and Paul Rogers, of McHenry, Illinois, finished second with 83 pounds, 12 ounces, worth $5,500 plus a $1,000 Cabela’s gift card from the Cabela’s Angler Cash Program and $1,000 Ranger Cup contingency. In all, the top 20 percent of the field shared more than $44,000 in cash, sponsor bonuses and Big Fish Pot winnings.
A total of 615 walleyes weighing 3,794 pounds, 8 ounces crossed the stage during the tournament. Big fish was a 12-pound, 7-ounce beauty caught by the Michigan team of Mark Lemke, of Dexter, and Walter Price, of Lowell.
Ohioans Mark Brumbaugh, of Arcanum, and Michael Robertson, of Laura, had big basket of the tournament with 52 pounds, 11 ounces. In doing so, they broke the Circuit’s all-time single-day weight record of 49 pounds, 10 ounces, set by Iowans Marty Stuefen and Carl Holten, both of Harpers Ferry, at the 2013 Detroit River and Western Lake Erie qualifier.
The team-format tournament offered two days of competition on Erie’s legendary walleye fishery, with one day reserved in case of bad weather. Teams fished from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Friday, then waited on shore Saturday, after fishing was cancelled due to a small-craft advisory. The tournament resumed on Sunday. Each day, teams were allowed to bring their best five walleyes to the scale each day.
Weigh-ins were held at the Huron Boat Basin. The Cabela’s MWC, National Professional Anglers Association, Pure Fishing and Zippo Outdoor Brands presented a Youth & Family Fishing Clinic immediately after the first day’s weigh-in. The first 50 youths received rod-and-reel combos courtesy of the NPAA. Fans also gathered at the boat basin to see the anglers off prior to each morning’s takeoff.
While the MWC’s eastern anglers competed on Lake Erie, the Circuit also held a qualifier on Lake Pueblo, Colorado, on the same dates. These were the third and fourth of 10 Cabela’s MWC qualifying tournaments in 2013. The remaining schedule includes Green Bay of Lake Michigan at Oconto, Wisconsin, May 31-June 2; Lake Oahe at Spring Creek, South Dakota, June 7-9; Lake Winnebago at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, June 28-30; Devils Lake, North Dakota, August 2-4; the St. Mary’s River at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, August 22-23; and Cass Lake, Minnesota, out of Stony Point Resort, Sept. 13-15.
Image courtesy Cabela's