Mike Van Houten of Des Moines, Iowa, weighed a five-bass limit totaling 16 pounds, 14 ounces Saturday to win the Walmart Bass Fishing League Great Lakes Division event on the Mississippi River-La Crosse. For his victory, Van Houten earned $4,720.

Despite the fact that Van Houten couldn’t see the beds due to murky water, he was targeting rock and sand gravel bottoms which can be ideal spawning areas for bass.

“I was slowly pulling my bait rather than letting it bounce off the bottom because it was hard for me to feel the bite,” said Van Houten. “I was probably pulling over beds, but it was hard to tell.

“I had intended to stay on my first spot only for a short time but then I caught a 17-incher and followed that up with a 3 ½ – pounder so we hung around there a little longer than I had originally planned,” continued Van Houten. “I was fishing a 50 yard stretch that had a gradual slope. The boat was in 16 to 20 feet of water and I was casting into about 2 feet of water. My primary bait was Strike King’s Rage Craw in pumpkin seed.”

Van Houten said that he and his co-angler, Don Gerz who won the co-angler division, both had their limit by 8:45 a.m. They bounced around to a few other spots and Gerz was able to upgrade. Van Houten said that he could never get anything big enough to cull with adding that they did lose several big fish. Ironically he and Gerz were paired together at last year’s BFL tournament on the Mississippi River.

Rounding out the top 10 pros were:

2nd: Doug Stanton, Winona, Minn., five bass, 15-10, $2,360
3rd: Dan McGarry, Tomah, Wis., five bass, 15-9, $1,574
4th: Brandon Gann, Sparta, Wis., five bass, 14-9, $1,101
5th: Troy Anderson, Galesville, Wis., five bass, 14-6, $944
6th: Rich Lindgren, Lakeville, Minn., five bass, 14-2, $865
7th: Mike Brueggen, La Crosse, Wis., five bass, 14-1, $747
7th: Bill Sepke, Indian Head Park, Ill., five bass, 14-1, $747
9th: Mike Gabel, Woodridge, Ill., five bass, 13-7, $629
10th: Mike Feldermann, Galena, Ill., five bass, 13-6, $551

Don Gerz of Oshkosh, Wis., weighed five bass totaling 15 pounds Saturday to win the co-angler division. Gerz earned $2,360 for his victory.

Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers were:

2nd: Frank Cipra, Prairie Du Chien, Wis., five bass, 13-11, $1,180
3rd: Nathan Kromke, La Crosse, Wis., five bass, 13-3, $787
4th: Christian Burzynski, Milwaukee, Wis., five bass, 12-15, $551
5th: Jeff Christensen, Franklin, Wis., five bass, 12-11, $452
5th: Tong Lor, La Crosse, Wis., five bass, 12-11, $452
7th: John Thao, Milwaukee, Wis., four bass, 12-7, $393
8th: Kevin Anderson, Ettrick, Wis., five bass, 11-13, $354
9th: Joe Wilcox, Brodhead, Wis., five bass, 11-4, $315
10th: Nick Zimbauer, Eau Claire, Wis., five bass, 10-13, $275

The next BFL Great Lakes Division tournament is scheduled for June 15 on the Wolf River Chain in Winneconne, Wis. After the last divisional tournament is complete, the top 40 boaters and 40 co-anglers based on point standings will qualify for the Oct. 10-12 Regional Championship on Kentucky/Barkley lakes in Gilbertsville, Ky. Boaters will compete for a top award of a Ranger Z518 with a 200-horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard and a Chevy Silverado, while co-anglers will fish for a new Ranger Z518 with a 200-horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard.

The BFL is a 24-division circuit devoted to weekend anglers, with 120 tournaments throughout the season, five in each division. The top 40 boaters and co-anglers from each division qualify for a regional tournament and compete to finish in the top six, which then qualifies them for one of the longest-running championships in all of competitive bass fishing – the Walmart BFL All-American presented by Chevy. The 2013 BFL All-American is being held June 27–29 on the Nickajack Lake in Chattanooga, Tenn. Top winners in the BFL can move up to the EverStart Series or even the Walmart FLW Tour.

Image courtesy FLW Outdoors

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