Sault Ste. Marie to host second National Walleye Tour event

SAULT STE. MARIE, Mich. – After a record-setting National Walleye Tour opener, presented by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s, which saw Korey Sprengel shatter the largest margin of victory, the NWT returns to Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., Aug. 13-14 for the season’s second stop. Last year, the “Soo” was new water for most of the field. In addition to breathtaking natural scenery, the Soo offered diverse fishing and a healthy population of 5- and 6-pound walleyes.

At last year’s Soo event, Ranger pro David Kolb put on a clinic with a two-day total of 10 walleyes weighing 65 pounds. Kolb’s domination stood as the NWT’s largest margin of victory until Sprengel’s recent conquest.

“What I had last year, that was an exceptional weight,” said Kolb, the Rockford, Mich., native. “The big ones just happened to be concentrated like that. I found something special and amazingly had it all to myself. Typically, somewhere around 50 pounds is the mark to win on the Soo.”

Kolb caught most of his fish trolling crankbaits, but he started by casting lipless crankbaits. Either method could trigger strikes, but trolling proved to be more efficient. 

“I think this year it’s 50-50 if it will be won trolling or casting. I’ll be bringing both with me.”

In last year’s event, both Canadian and U.S. waters were in play. This year, Canada is off-limits, not only for fishing, but also for navigation. 

“The no-Canada rule is going to have an impact,” Kolb continued. “A good chunk of fishable water has been eliminated. Running the north channel to Lake George is out of bounds. A lot of the check weights last year came from Canada. It’s still such a big area, so it’s not going to be too bad. There are even spots in the river that you can do well. The salmon are coming up, so there might be an Atlantic Chinook mixed in.”

Hager City, Wis., pro Brett King made the risky decision last year to venture towards Saginaw Bay. Each morning, he would embark on a treacherous 100-mile run south. On day one, he used a bass boat to arrive faster and maximize his fishing time. On day two, in more blustery conditions, he switched back to a more traditional walleye vessel.

“I’m not ruling the run out, but honestly, I’m less optimistic that it will work this year,” said King, who finished fourth by trolling crankbaits. “That’s typically shallower stuff. I don’t know that the fish will still be using those same haunts with the water temperature rising. Last year was an awesome experience, but I’m only bringing the walleye boat this year. Guys like me who’ve done this for a while, our bodies are beat up. I’ll take the Smooth Moves seat under my butt this year.”

Cabela’s and Bass Pro Shops pro Kevin McQuoid made a 50-mile run each way last year en route to a fifth-place finish. McQuoid trolled spinners with inline weights over humps.

“I expect to troll again this year, but I definitely plan to prefish a number of different ways,” explained McQuoid. “The big thing about the Soo is that you can fish to your strength; it fishes both like a river and a lake. I personally like fishing more on the lake side of things. With this year being a few weeks later in the summer, they could be out on the main lake. I will definitely spend a day or two on Lake Huron itself.”

King agreed with McQuoid about the need to be adaptable and explore areas with an open mind.

“August is the time of year those fish like to be up in the river. The last time I fished the Soo in August, the deep channel edges were a big part of the puzzle. Obviously, I’ll be exploring that more. In general, there will be more opportunity to fish up near the Soo itself. That’s just their migration; they follow the bait. There could be a weed bite as well. The weeds are taller now than most of the field has ever seen.”

Kolb believes both bays, particularly Munuscong, will play. In addition, the power plant right in downtown Sault Ste. Marie could be productive. 

“There’s still a wide range of spots,” he said. “And when you fish the river, the shipping barges are a variable that can actually help. Hold on to your hat when they come by, but then the walleyes bite afterwards. All the current stirs them up and gets them activated. One bait that I’m looking forward to trying is the No. 9 Scatter Rap Tail Dancer. When you troll it at 2 or 2.1 mph, it’s got a great kick that I believe is an attractant.”

“You can really fish to your strength on the Soo,” McQuoid added. “You can troll cranks, troll spinners, jig and cast plastics; all of those work. What I really like is we’re getting back to our roots. We’re not just running back old waypoints. We’re actually getting back to scouting and learning new areas.”

“With the new boundaries, I’m going to be spending considerable time studying maps, learning to navigate and how to maximize time,” King explained. “I really believe a big part of success in this event will be eliminating mental errors.”

To win the tournament, all three anglers agree it will take less than the 65 pounds Kolb caught last year. There’s also consensus that the middle of the leaderboard will be stronger.

“I would venture to guess 55 to 60 pounds will win it,” King offered. “I won’t be surprised to see 60. There are a lot of 5- and 6-pound fish in the system.”

“With this being the second year, I expect the average weights to actually go up a bit,” McQuoid concluded. “I don’t think 65 is going to happen again, but the guys that are coming up in check range, that number will be higher than last year. Overall, I’m really looking forward to it. It’s such a beautiful area. It’s a fun week spent.”

Anglers will take off each day at 7 a.m. Eastern time from the Aune Osborn Boat Launch, located at 1225 Riverside Dr. in Sault Ste. Marie. The daily weigh-ins will also take place at the Aune Osborn Boat Launch, beginning at 3 p.m. The full field fishes each day with the winner in each division being determined by the heaviest cumulative weight. 

The National Walleye Tour consists of three regular-season events and a year-end championship. Each regular season event is a two-day, pro-am tournament and delivers over a 100 percent payback. Pros compete against other pros, and co-anglers compete against other co-anglers.

Registration is ongoing for the Sault Ste. Marie event, but the deadline for guaranteed entry (by signing up with a pro or co-angler) has already passed. Registration can be taken over the phone at 501-794-2064 or online by visiting www.nationalwalleyetour.com/tournaments/register/. For more information on rules and tournament payouts, visit www.nationalwalleyetour.com. A BIG thank you for our Local Sault Ste Marie Sponsors!

NWT logo

Sprengel’s strong statement starts NWT 2020

OCONTO, Wis. – For the better part of a decade, Korey Sprengel has been the most dominant walleye pro in the sport. But over the last few years, other anglers have encroached on his spotlight – namely Brett King and his quest to win back-to-back Angler of the Year titles, Tom Keenan (reigning AOY) and John Hoyer and his ridiculous three-tournament stretch (two wins, one second) to close 2019. After a delayed start to the 2020 National Walleye Tour season, presented by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s, Sprengel quickly and emphatically reclaimed the unofficial title of “hottest walleye stick on the planet.” 

NWT logo

Sprengel fishes Green Bay so often he knows it like the back of his hand. He knows the spots, he understands seasonal migrations and he’s intimately aware of how wind direction impacts current and water temperature. But in a no-cull tournament (anglers can keep six and weigh their best five), even the most experienced pros struggle with the mental turmoil of mistakenly releasing quality fish, or on the other side, keeping mediocre fish and regretting it when the mother lode finally feeds.

Coming into the season opener, Sprengel knew the only person that could beat him was him. With that confidence, he limited himself to only one day of official practice. Instead, he was going to trust himself and make decisions on the fly.

“The whole key this week was my first bite on day one,” recalled the Berkley pro. “With the northeast wind, I knew it was going to be a needle in the haystack. But I also knew the recipe. I just needed to know if the recipe was going to work. That first fish bit twice, if not three times. It was only like a 20-incher, but I knew if they were going to bite multiple times, there was something to be had. From there, it was all about fine tuning it.”

What Sprengel was referring to is a small 100-yard stretch up in the islands area, located roughly 30 miles from takeoff at Breakwater Park and Harbor. This rocky stretch had gobies, but more importantly it had current and warm water. The warm water was especially important and rare with the northeast wind. When Sprengel shocked the field with a 42-pound stringer yesterday, he wasn’t sure the spot would hold up. 

“This morning, when I put the trolling motor down and saw the color and temperature of the water, I knew I was going to win. That sounds cocky, but the water was perfectly murky, algae stained and warm. I don’t know where it came from, but I knew that’s where I was going to live.

With no company around initially, Sprengel made his first full pass and caught an 8 1/2, a 7 1/2 and a 6 1/2. He proceeded to catch and box another 6-pounder on his second pass.

“With 27 pounds for four fish by 8:30, I’m thinking I want to head back ASAP and get off the water as easy and safe as possible. But I knew I needed one more bite. But with more and more company showing up, that didn’t come until noon. At one point I counted 21 boats; it was like a parking lot. I finally was able to get through the same area and caught a 24-incher. About 20 minutes later I caught another 6-pounder. I was done at 12:20 on both days one and two.” 

Sprengel has had success both with the innovative casting methods as well as traditional trolling. This week, all 10 of his fish came via trolling crawler harnesses.

“In the middle of the summer, the fish start suspending, and that’s when crawler harnesses shine. The crawler harnesses allowed me to have multiple doubles and a key triple today. The other thing was that you don’t lose fish with harnesses. I would use a Fusion 19 octopus hook on the front and round bend trebles on the back. Plus, with monofilament line and planer boards, the fish almost swim in with you. They have no bait to fling around, no weight to throw around when they fight.”

Sprengel’s main line was 14-pound Trilene XL, and his leader was 15-pound Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. His blades were a combination of Colorado and willow. Gold was the best color blade yesterday, and purple produced the best today. With 1/2- or 1-ounce  Offshore Tackle Guppy weights, he would troll between 1.4 and 2 mph depending on the desired depth. When he saw the biggest boulders on his Lowrance SideScan, he’d increase his speeds.

“I watched a lot of boards act like submarines. These Green Bay fish hit hard and are built for speed. It’s all rock down there, but there are giant boulders that act as current breaks. I was always looking at my side imaging on my Lowrances, so I knew when the rocks were going to come up. I wanted my baits close to the bottom (in 10 to 20 feet) without touching. The fish were relating to the current and warm water. The current was basically putting them there because that’s where the warm water was. This morning the water was over 70 degrees. If I got out of that little stretch, it would change by 3 degrees. If I ran 2 miles, the water would be around 57 degrees. That’s how much it varied.”

Sprengel’s cumulative weight was 77.48 pounds. Not only did he have the heaviest weight on the first day, he also managed the biggest bag on the second day. He won the tournament by a whopping 17-pound margin.

“It was all about trusting myself. I knew it was going to take time. After that first bite, I knew the bigger fish would show mid-morning or mid-afternoon, and they did.” 

Spanning the National Walleye Tour and the FLW, Sprengel now has six tour-level wins, among other victories on the MWC and NTC. For winning the 2020 season opener, the Beaver Dam, Wis., native earned a Ranger 620FS with a 250-horsepower Mercury outboard, $15,000 cash, and an additional $2,635 in Anglers Advantage cash for a total purse of $92,130.

“This reiterates that confidence in yourself is how you win tournaments. Very few tournaments are won because a guy had a spot and it held up all week. You may not have had the best practice, but you can win if you trust yourself and your electronics. Where I was putting my planer boards, I don’t know that I’ve ever trolled that stretch in my life.

“I’m happy with the win, but it just gives me another start to a consistent year,” Sprengel concluded. “The biggest accomplishment for me is not a win, because wins take some luck. I’m more proud of my AOY finishes over the past eight years. For all those years, I’ve been in contention to win the AOY. That consistency means more to me than winning.”

Lakich up to second

Wisconsin rookie Isaac Lakich made an impressive National Walleye Tour debut. After catching 33.19 on day one, the 24-year-old followed up with another 27.12 today. His two-day total for 10 walleyes was 60.31 pounds. Lakich fished the same general area as Sprengel, but he chose to cast. 

“Yesterday I was mainly snap jigging with a Jigging Rap or a Shiver Minnow,” Lakich said. “Today it was flat calm, so I was casting a crawler harness-type rig. It’s technically a slow death rig by Walleye Nation Creations.”

The setup consisted of a 3/4-ounce jig head, spinner rig and slow death hook. 

“With my Garmin LiveScope, I was able to put that presentation in a fish’s face every single cast. I LiveScoped almost every fish I caught.”

In his first NWT event, Lakich finished second and earned $21,210.

“It’s pretty crazy. I’m feeling really good, really confident, yet really humbled. I feel so blessed to finish where I did against this competition, the Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajeczs of the world. I can’t even begin to describe what that means.”

Dempsey rallies to third

Local Green Bay, Wis., fisherman Ryan Dempsey surged up the leaderboard after catching a 34.70-pound limit, the second heaviest of the day. Combined with 25.38 from day one, he finished with a cumulative total of 60.08 pounds.

“I was trolling the whole time,” Dempsey revealed. “I tried crankbaits for a bit, but everything came on spinners and crawlers. Yesterday I just fished waypoints and memories and the day got away from me.”

Dempsey explained that Sprengel’s big lead actually put him at ease. Knowing that he couldn’t win, he spent more time looking and fishing freely.

“What I learned is that the fish kind of left the structure and were suspending.”

Dempsey would troll at .9 to 1.2 mph – making 1/4-mile passes. His baits would run through 15 feet over water 30-feet deep. His area was also roughly 30 miles from takeoff. He saw Sprengel once, but never got close.

“I wasn’t like I was on them like crazy. I had a decent day, and then I caught a 10-pounder that saved my butt.”

For third place, Dempsey earned $16,070.

“You always want to win, especially on your home water, but without that 10-pounder, I could have easily been in 15th place. It was a really tough bite.”

Ruffalo fourth, Ell fifth

Rounding out the top five are pros Brandon Ruffalo and Jacob Ell. Ruffalo, another promising young stick from Cleveland, Wis., was remarkably consistent in a difficult bite. On day one, he caught 27.06 pounds, and today he boated 26.95. His two-day total weight for 10 walleyes was 54.01 pounds.

Ell, the Bismarck, N.D., pro, finished fifth with a combined weight of 53.66. After catching 28.25 pounds on day one, Ell slipped to 25.41 today.

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pros at the 2020 National Walleye Tour event on Green Bay:

6th: Tim Long of Bergland, Mich., 51.93

7th: Tommy Kemos of Oconomowoc, Wis., 50.36

8th: David Kolb of Grand Blanc, Mich., 49.52

9th: Jeff Erickson of Appleton, Wis., 49.01

10th: Dylan Nussbaum of St. Marys, Pa., 46.49

Atkinson claims co-angler title

Steve Atkinson took home top honors in the Co-angler Division with a total weight of 57.67 pounds. On day one, Atkinson fished with Jacob Kaprelian and the two caught four walleyes worth 22.97. Today he fished with Dempsey, and together they weighed a limit worth 34.70.

“I won’t be falling asleep at the wheel on the way home tonight,” quipped Atkinson. “The credit goes to my great pros. Those guys knew this lake, and they put me around quality fish. It was a great week.”

Atkinson, the Sault Ste Marie, Mich., native, earned $7,186 for his win.

Up next

The second event of the 2020 National Walleye Tour season is scheduled for Aug. 13-14 in Sault Ste Marie, Mich.

OCONTO, Wis. – For the better part of a decade, Korey Sprengel has been the most dominant walleye pro in the sport. But over the last few years, other anglers have encroached on his spotlight – namely Brett King and his quest to win back-to-back Angler of the Year titles, Tom Keenan (reigning AOY) and John Hoyer and his ridiculous three-tournament stretch (two wins, one second) to close 2019. After a delayed start to the 2020 National Walleye Tour season, presented by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s, Sprengel quickly and emphatically reclaimed the unofficial title of “hottest walleye stick on the planet.” 

Sprengel fishes Green Bay so often he knows it like the back of his hand. He knows the spots, he understands seasonal migrations and he’s intimately aware of how wind direction impacts current and water temperature. But in a no-cull tournament (anglers can keep six and weigh their best five), even the most experienced pros struggle with the mental turmoil of mistakenly releasing quality fish, or on the other side, keeping mediocre fish and regretting it when the mother lode finally feeds.

Coming into the season opener, Sprengel knew the only person that could beat him was him. With that confidence, he limited himself to only one day of official practice. Instead, he was going to trust himself and make decisions on the fly.

“The whole key this week was my first bite on day one,” recalled the Berkley pro. “With the northeast wind, I knew it was going to be a needle in the haystack. But I also knew the recipe. I just needed to know if the recipe was going to work. That first fish bit twice, if not three times. It was only like a 20-incher, but I knew if they were going to bite multiple times, there was something to be had. From there, it was all about fine tuning it.”

What Sprengel was referring to is a small 100-yard stretch up in the islands area, located roughly 30 miles from takeoff at Breakwater Park and Harbor. This rocky stretch had gobies, but more importantly it had current and warm water. The warm water was especially important and rare with the northeast wind. When Sprengel shocked the field with a 42-pound stringer yesterday, he wasn’t sure the spot would hold up. 

“This morning, when I put the trolling motor down and saw the color and temperature of the water, I knew I was going to win. That sounds cocky, but the water was perfectly murky, algae stained and warm. I don’t know where it came from, but I knew that’s where I was going to live.

With no company around initially, Sprengel made his first full pass and caught an 8 1/2, a 7 1/2 and a 6 1/2. He proceeded to catch and box another 6-pounder on his second pass.

“With 27 pounds for four fish by 8:30, I’m thinking I want to head back ASAP and get off the water as easy and safe as possible. But I knew I needed one more bite. But with more and more company showing up, that didn’t come until noon. At one point I counted 21 boats; it was like a parking lot. I finally was able to get through the same area and caught a 24-incher. About 20 minutes later I caught another 6-pounder. I was done at 12:20 on both days one and two.” 

Sprengel has had success both with the innovative casting methods as well as traditional trolling. This week, all 10 of his fish came via trolling crawler harnesses.

“In the middle of the summer, the fish start suspending, and that’s when crawler harnesses shine. The crawler harnesses allowed me to have multiple doubles and a key triple today. The other thing was that you don’t lose fish with harnesses. I would use a Fusion 19 octopus hook on the front and round bend trebles on the back. Plus, with monofilament line and planer boards, the fish almost swim in with you. They have no bait to fling around, no weight to throw around when they fight.”

Sprengel’s main line was 14-pound Trilene XL, and his leader was 15-pound Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon. His blades were a combination of Colorado and willow. Gold was the best color blade yesterday, and purple produced the best today. With 1/2- or 1-ounce  Offshore Tackle Guppy weights, he would troll between 1.4 and 2 mph depending on the desired depth. When he saw the biggest boulders on his Lowrance SideScan, he’d increase his speeds.

“I watched a lot of boards act like submarines. These Green Bay fish hit hard and are built for speed. It’s all rock down there, but there are giant boulders that act as current breaks. I was always looking at my side imaging on my Lowrances, so I knew when the rocks were going to come up. I wanted my baits close to the bottom (in 10 to 20 feet) without touching. The fish were relating to the current and warm water. The current was basically putting them there because that’s where the warm water was. This morning the water was over 70 degrees. If I got out of that little stretch, it would change by 3 degrees. If I ran 2 miles, the water would be around 57 degrees. That’s how much it varied.”

Sprengel’s cumulative weight was 77.48 pounds. Not only did he have the heaviest weight on the first day, he also managed the biggest bag on the second day. He won the tournament by a whopping 17-pound margin.

“It was all about trusting myself. I knew it was going to take time. After that first bite, I knew the bigger fish would show mid-morning or mid-afternoon, and they did.” 

Spanning the National Walleye Tour and the FLW, Sprengel now has six tour-level wins, among other victories on the MWC and NTC. For winning the 2020 season opener, the Beaver Dam, Wis., native earned a Ranger 620FS with a 250-horsepower Mercury outboard, $15,000 cash, and an additional $2,635 in Anglers Advantage cash for a total purse of $92,130.

“This reiterates that confidence in yourself is how you win tournaments. Very few tournaments are won because a guy had a spot and it held up all week. You may not have had the best practice, but you can win if you trust yourself and your electronics. Where I was putting my planer boards, I don’t know that I’ve ever trolled that stretch in my life.

“I’m happy with the win, but it just gives me another start to a consistent year,” Sprengel concluded. “The biggest accomplishment for me is not a win, because wins take some luck. I’m more proud of my AOY finishes over the past eight years. For all those years, I’ve been in contention to win the AOY. That consistency means more to me than winning.”

Lakich up to second

Wisconsin rookie Isaac Lakich made an impressive National Walleye Tour debut. After catching 33.19 on day one, the 24-year-old followed up with another 27.12 today. His two-day total for 10 walleyes was 60.31 pounds. Lakich fished the same general area as Sprengel, but he chose to cast. 

“Yesterday I was mainly snap jigging with a Jigging Rap or a Shiver Minnow,” Lakich said. “Today it was flat calm, so I was casting a crawler harness-type rig. It’s technically a slow death rig by Walleye Nation Creations.”

The setup consisted of a 3/4-ounce jig head, spinner rig and slow death hook. 

“With my Garmin LiveScope, I was able to put that presentation in a fish’s face every single cast. I LiveScoped almost every fish I caught.”

In his first NWT event, Lakich finished second and earned $21,210.

“It’s pretty crazy. I’m feeling really good, really confident, yet really humbled. I feel so blessed to finish where I did against this competition, the Gary Parsons and Keith Kavajeczs of the world. I can’t even begin to describe what that means.”

Dempsey rallies to third

Local Green Bay, Wis., fisherman Ryan Dempsey surged up the leaderboard after catching a 34.70-pound limit, the second heaviest of the day. Combined with 25.38 from day one, he finished with a cumulative total of 60.08 pounds.

“I was trolling the whole time,” Dempsey revealed. “I tried crankbaits for a bit, but everything came on spinners and crawlers. Yesterday I just fished waypoints and memories and the day got away from me.”

Dempsey explained that Sprengel’s big lead actually put him at ease. Knowing that he couldn’t win, he spent more time looking and fishing freely.

“What I learned is that the fish kind of left the structure and were suspending.”

Dempsey would troll at .9 to 1.2 mph – making 1/4-mile passes. His baits would run through 15 feet over water 30-feet deep. His area was also roughly 30 miles from takeoff. He saw Sprengel once, but never got close.

“I wasn’t like I was on them like crazy. I had a decent day, and then I caught a 10-pounder that saved my butt.”

For third place, Dempsey earned $16,070.

“You always want to win, especially on your home water, but without that 10-pounder, I could have easily been in 15th place. It was a really tough bite.”

Ruffalo fourth, Ell fifth

Rounding out the top five are pros Brandon Ruffalo and Jacob Ell. Ruffalo, another promising young stick from Cleveland, Wis., was remarkably consistent in a difficult bite. On day one, he caught 27.06 pounds, and today he boated 26.95. His two-day total weight for 10 walleyes was 54.01 pounds.

Ell, the Bismarck, N.D., pro, finished fifth with a combined weight of 53.66. After catching 28.25 pounds on day one, Ell slipped to 25.41 today.

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pros at the 2020 National Walleye Tour event on Green Bay:

6th: Tim Long of Bergland, Mich., 51.93

7th: Tommy Kemos of Oconomowoc, Wis., 50.36

8th: David Kolb of Grand Blanc, Mich., 49.52

9th: Jeff Erickson of Appleton, Wis., 49.01

10th: Dylan Nussbaum of St. Marys, Pa., 46.49

Atkinson claims co-angler title

Steve Atkinson took home top honors in the Co-angler Division with a total weight of 57.67 pounds. On day one, Atkinson fished with Jacob Kaprelian and the two caught four walleyes worth 22.97. Today he fished with Dempsey, and together they weighed a limit worth 34.70.

“I won’t be falling asleep at the wheel on the way home tonight,” quipped Atkinson. “The credit goes to my great pros. Those guys knew this lake, and they put me around quality fish. It was a great week.”

Atkinson, the Sault Ste Marie, Mich., native, earned $7,186 for his win.

Up next

The second event of the 2020 National Walleye Tour season is scheduled for Aug. 13-14 in Sault Ste Marie, Mich. The guaranteed deadline is Monday, July 27, 2020.

CLICK HERE OR FULL RESULTS AND DAY1&2 PHOTOS

Sprengel shoots out of Green Bay gate

OCONTO, Wis. – The professional walleye fishing season typically begins in April with an early springtime cold-water clash. This year, however, has proven to be anything but normal as the National Walleye Tour, presented by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s, was forced to delay the start of the 2020 season by several months. When the revamped scheduled was announced, no one was happier than Berkley pro Korey Sprengel. After day one on Green Bay, the Beaver Dam, Wis., native has even more to smile about. Sprengel’s five walleyes Thursday weighed an incredible 42.13 pounds as he kicked off the new season in style.

With winds out of the northeast, most anglers didn’t have lofty expectations this morning, despite Green Bay being one of the best walleye fisheries in the world. Sprengel himself decided to deliberately target shorter, fatter walleyes instead of the true 30-inch Green Bay giants, the type of fish John Hoyer won with last year.

“I was realistically shooting for 35 pounds this morning,” Sprengel said. “When I got to my first area, I downgraded that; I thought maybe 30 to 35 was realistic. The northeast wind is the worst possible conditions. The wind just blows right down the bay; it brings cold water and cold current.”

Sprengel’s plan was to fish slow and stay in the right area – waiting for a sign. His first fish came at 9 a.m. and although it was only 21 inches (and was thrown back), it hit twice.

“That was a sign that they would still bite for me today, so I threw it back. I knew if I could get a few bites I could figure them out. We’re allowed to keep six and weigh five, so I only had one fish to play with. My second was a 5 1/2-pounder that we kept. Then I just started throwing back 5-pounders. At 10:30, I caught a 30-incher right after catching and throwing back a 5.8. After that, it was like they would bite in pairs. I was getting one pair an hour or so, maybe a little better than that. At 12:20, I put my sixth fish in the box, and we were done. That was a 28-incher that weighed 7.7 pounds.”

Sprengel is meticulously weighing every walleye he catches. This time of year length alone can be misleading. The plump, healthy fish are likely the key to bringing home the title tomorrow.

“I wanted the 25- and 26-inchers that were 6 3/4- to 7 1/2-pounds. I got lucky today that they were both long and fat.”

Sprengel has had considerable success over the years both casting and trolling on Green Bay. While casting has proven popular lately, today he stuck with trolling.

“I never did cast today,” Sprengel went on record. “I maybe should’ve casted, but I was getting bites, so I stuck with what I was doing. I wasn’t going to change until I got my five.”

Sprengel also revealed that he’s pointing his Ranger north out of Oconto, but he described it as, “not too long of a run.” Tomorrow he plans to revisit the same area, but he’s not as optimistic as one would think.

“The pattern itself is bulletproof, and it has nothing to do with the spot really either. I’ll try it, but I don’t think it’s going to hold up because the currents are going to change. Even if I have to change spots, my goal will be the same – 35 pounds. I’m not giant fishing; I’m not. Those fish are just not easy to catch yet. I’m targeting smaller, fatter fish that are feeding. Those can win it tomorrow.”

Lewis second

Captain Mike Lewis sits in second place with a five-walleye limit weighing 36.03 pounds. The Seymour, Wis., native owns and operates the Exclusively Walleye Guide Service. The 50-year-old Lewis describes himself as an “old-school troller.” Today, his trolling pattern was in jeopardy until he located warmer water.

“My plan was to set up and fish just like the previous day in practice,” explained Lewis. “I went to the same area, but I didn’t mark a fish, didn’t see a fish; it just wasn’t happening. Then I noticed the further I went the warmer the water got. So I kept going and then almost immediately a board went back, and it was a 27-incher.”

Lewis is well aware that tomorrow’s forecast calls for light winds, which could hurt the trolling bite. 

“It doesn’t matter; I’m trolling again tomorrow. I know how to cast; I can catch fish doing it, but I’m not Korey Sprengel or Max Wilson. I’ve got nothing but respect for those young kids. I don’t think I can catch Sprengel, but it’s possible. I got a few tricks up my sleeve.”

Rookie Lakich third

In his first ever National Walleye Tour event, Isaac Lakich sits in third place with 33.19 pounds. While Lakich is new to the NWT, he’s not new to walleye fishing. In 2018, he won the MWC Team of the Year award with partner Max Wilson. Like Wilson, Lakich prefers to cast whenever possible.

“I was casting today; Max and I fish a lot alike,” said the 24-year-old from Richfield, Wis. “The bite has been tough, so I’m happy with 33.19.”

Lakich explained that he did lose a couple key fish at the boat, leaving another 3 or 4 pounds out there. 

“You can’t cry over spilled milk.”

Despite catching only nine keepers, Lakich is confident that he is in the right area.

“I’m feeling good about tomorrow. They’re set up on that area pretty well, and there’s a ton of fish. It’s more about triggering them to bite. It’s not really about finding them anymore.”

Lakich isn’t quite sure how aggressive he’ll be in chasing down Sprengel.

“I’m going to play it by ear. If my first couple fish are big, I might go for the win. I don’t think Sprengel is out of reach by any means. I don’t think anyone in the top 20 is out of it.” 

Nussbaum fourth, Kemos fifth

Rounding out the top five are pros Dylan Nussbaum and Tommy Kemos. Nussbaum, the young gun from Pennsylvania who won the 2018 event on Devils Lake, caught a limit worth 30.81.

“I wasn’t really expecting that to be honest,” said the Rapala pro. “I only had 3 1/2 days of practice. My main plan was to troll, but in practice it just wasn’t that easy for me. My partner (Ryan Rieger) ended up getting on a Jigging Rap bite. We never got any big ones, but the spot just felt right. Today we were fortunate to get a 28 1/2 and a 30-incher.”

Nussbaum explained that he was casting glide baits up to shallower rock – going up and down the break line in 8 to 20 feet of water.

“It wasn’t a fast bite by any means. We only had eight fish today, and they kind of came in the wrong order, but I’m not complaining based on my practice.”

Kemos, the veteran Wisconsin stick who nearly claimed last year’s championship, managed five keepers weighing 30.56. 

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pros at the 2020 National Walleye Tour event on Green Bay:

6th: Curt Reeff, five fish, 28.99

7th: Paul Mueller, five fish, 28.59

8th: Jacob Ell, five fish, 28.25

9th: Ryan Buddie, five fish, 28.21

10th: Rodger Riggs, five fish, 27.56

The final day of competition begins tomorrow at 7 a.m. Central time as the full field takes off from Breakwater Park and Harbor. The final weigh-in also takes place at Breakwater Park and Harbor at 3 p.m. The full field fishes each day with the winner in each division being determined by the heaviest cumulative weight. 

Abu Garcia Introduces the World’s Lightest Spinning Reel, the Sub-5 Ounce Zenon

COLUMBIA, S.C.— Abu Garcia’s new Zenon spinning reel is poised to reset the standards by which all ultra-premium fishing reels are judged. Designed to give serious bass and walleye anglers the advantages they need to propel them to fish to win, the Zenon is the lightest spinning reel ever produced, tipping the scales at an unbelievably light 4.9 ounces for the Size 20 and 5.4 ounces for the Size 30. Paired with a light spinning rod, the result is a configuration that brings unparalleled sensitivity and all-day comfort to serious anglers.

Zenon was developed for those who desire the very best to complement their skills, regardless of whether anglers are fishing for fun or for a paycheck. Abu Garcia engineers worked with their Japanese design team to build the ultimate finesse-style spinning reel that would succeed in the sophisticated finesse-specific Japanese market and find a strong foothold in the competitive U.S. bass and walleye tournament scene.

“The Zenon sets the bar for future spinning reels in terms of weight, comfort and overall performance in finesse fishing applications,” said Abu Garcia Vice President of Marketing Jon Schlosser. “With the smoothness of the drag, you can fish light line with confidence and do so comfortably because the reel is so light and easy to hold. Our reel designers minimized the weight of the reel to a point few thought possible while making sure the reel retains its Abu Garcia durability. I believe we will see a lot of these reels on the front decks of tournament boats next year.”

At the heart of the Zenon’s weight-saving design and striking looks is the elimination of empty spaces commonly found in spinning reels. The Zenon body design is noticeably smaller than the spool and rotor; it features a one-piece gear box with no sideplate while the frame is integrated with the stem. Combined, these design features shrink the overall footprint and weight of the reel while providing a rigid system for the gears. The magnesium body is contoured to fit comfortably in hands and provides greater weight savings and durability than the advanced plastics commonly used in other spinning reels touted as “lightweight.”

Featuring a silky-smooth drag across all settings to make the most of light-line finesse presentations, the Zenon is equipped with low-inertia, silent-rotation rotors and an ultralight hybrid spool. Additional weight savings are found in the hollow, soft-touch handle knob. Both sizes of the Zenon feature a 6.2:1 gear ratio.

The new Abu Garcia Zenon will be available in March 2021 and will have an MSRP of $499.95 for both the Size 20 and Size 30 versions. For more information about the reel or the entire lineup of Abu Garcia products, visit AbuGarcia.com.

Abu Garcia Zenon: Specifications

Size 20

Weight: 4.9 ounces

Bearings: 11

Gear Ratio: 6.2:1

Max Drag: 11 pounds

Line Capacity: Mono (Std spool) 6 pounds/185 yards

MSRP: $499.95

Size 30

Weight: 5.4 ounces

Bearings: 11

Gear Ratio: 6.2:1

Max Drag: 11 pounds

Line Capacity: Mono (Std spool) 6 pounds/225 yards

MSRP: $499.95

Key Features:

• Lightest spinning reel ever produced

• Contour-formed magnesium body

• Ultra lightweight Hybrid Rocket Turbine Spool

• Hollow, soft-touch handle knob

• Friction-free main shaft support

• Spare shallow spool included

About Pure Fishing

Pure Fishing, Inc. is a leading global provider of fishing tackle, lures, rods and reels with a portfolio of brands that includes Abu Garcia®, All Star®, Berkley®, Fenwick®, Fin-Nor®, Greys®, Hardy®, Hodgman®, Johnson®, JRC®, Mitchell®, Penn®, Pflueger®, Sebile®, Shakespeare®, SpiderWire®, Stren®, Ugly Stik®, and Van Staal®.

New Berkley Hit Stick: Better Than Balsa in Every Category

COLUMBIA, S.C.— While it’s true that balsa baits have long been favored by lure makers and anglers for their ability to deliver a desirable action, they lack in durability and consistency due to the imperfections that are inherent in natural materials. Berkley scientists knew there had to be a better way, and after extensive research, their bait development team developed the new Hit Stick, a durable, polycarbonate, floating minnow-style bait that delivers the large, rolling action of a balsa bait. This versatile bait epitomizes Berkley’s dedication to science-driven innovations that put more — and bigger — fish in the boat.

The new Hit Stick achieves the unique, high-speed rolling action of balsa baits by using FlashDisc™ technology developed by the Berkley bait development team. The integrated FlashDisc weighting in the Hit Stick also means every bait produced has consistent action and tracking unlike many balsa baits. Combined with the construction of Polycarbonate and ABS materials, the Hit Stick delivers exceptional durability to withstand toothy bites and keep the bait swimming consistently.

The added mass of the polycarbonate construction also makes the Hit Stick easier to cast, both for accuracy and significantly longer casting distance. This means anglers can set up on fishing locations from increased distances, lessening the likelihood of spooking fish all while covering more water on the retrieve.

The Hit Stick offers ultimate species versatility in a minnow-style bait that floats. Trollers will appreciate the consistency with which the Hit Stick runs. The bait delivers a high-speed rolling action long associated with balsa baits with maximum side flashes at even the slowest trolling speeds. The tail of the Hit Stick exhibits a tight, finesse action that entices trailing predatory fish, while the versatility of the Hit Stick makes it ideal for use as a finesse jerk bait, a trolling bait for everything from walleye to trout or a casting bait for all predator fish. The new Hit Stick is equipped with ultra-sharp Fusion19™ hooks, comes in seven sizes from 3.5cm to 15cm and 21 of the hottest colors for walleye, bass, trout and other predator fish. The Hit Stick has an MSRP of $5.99 for Sizes 3.5 through 9; $6.99 for sizes 11 and 13 and $7.99 for the Size 15.

For more information on the Berkley Hit Stick visit https://bit.ly/HitStick.

Berkley Hit Stick: Specifications

Sizes:

3.5 (Sinking) • 5 • 7 • 9 • 11 • 13 • 15

Colors:

Black Silver • Firetiger • Black Gold • Blue Bullet • Yellow Perch • Clown • Crazy Steel • Rainbow Trout • FX Shad • Sunset 84 • Stealth Minnow • Purple Glimmer • Blue Smelt • Ghost White • Sand Shiner (Ayu) • Tennessee Shad • Danald • Hot Pink Silver • Fluorescent Orange/Gold • Green Shad • Brown Trout

MSRP:

$5.99 — Sizes 3.5 through 9

$6.99 — Sizes 11 and 13

$7.99 — Size 15

Key Features:

• Equipped with ultra-sharp Fusion19™ hooks

• Integrated FlashDisc™ improves tracking stability and accuracy to give the bait true balsa-like action

• High-pitch rattle to attract predator fish

About Pure Fishing

Pure Fishing, Inc. is a leading global provider of fishing tackle, lures, rods and reels with a portfolio of brands that includes Abu Garcia®, All Star®, Berkley®, Fenwick®, Fin-Nor®, Greys®, Hardy®, Hodgman®, Johnson®, JRC®, Mitchell®, Penn®, Pflueger®, Sebile®, Shakespeare®, SpiderWire®, Stren®, Ugly Stik®, and Van Staal®.

Media Contacts

Josh Ward: (405) 802-7045 or joshw@gunpowderinc.com

Kasey Cooley: (262) 227-8357 or kaseyc@gunpowderinc.com

AFTCO Introduces New Air-O Mesh Fishing Shorts

The only shorts you need to diffuse any situation. AFTCO checks yet another box off the innovation bucket list with the first pair of technical fishing shorts made entirely of AFTCO’s breathable, yet durable Air-O Mesh® technology. The Diffuse Air-O Mesh fishing shorts accomplish this with a proprietary 100% polyester mechanical stretch fabric with dissolving yarn to creates the micro Air-O Mesh® venting throughout the shorts. Reap the benefits of ultimate comfort in warm, humid climates that would otherwise make for a sticky situation. Built with durability and function in mind, Diffuse features a reinforced pliers / utility pocket, AFLEX 4-way stretch for ultimate on the water mobility, DWR treatment to prevent stains, and multiple pocket storage options. The future is now with AFTCO’s Diffuse Air-O Mesh® fishing shorts.

FEATURES

  • 100% Polyester Mechanical Stretch Disolvable Yarn
  • Pliers Pockets
  • AFLEX 4-way Stretch
  • DWR
  • Outseam 20″ , Inseam 9″
  • Regular Fit
  • AIR-0 MESH FABRIC
  • 4-WAY STRETCH
  • PLIERS POCKET
  • DURABLE WATER REPELLENT

See details here:

National Walleye Tour to Open on Green Bay, Wisconsin

SRINGFIELD, Mo. – The National Walleye Tour Presented by Bass Pro Shops & Cabela’s will host its season opener on Green Bay at Oconto, Wisconsin, July 23-24. The tournament circuit features a pro-am style format and guarantees over 100 percent payback.

The Oconto event will take place at Oconto Breakwater & Park (1301 Harbor Rd., Oconto, WI 54153). Registration/Check-In will take place online with a mandatory pre-tournament meeting set to start at 5:00 p.m. via Live Coverage at nationalwalleyetour.com. Pro- and co-angler pairings will be announced at the pre-tournament meeting and will be texted to each angler.

Anglers will launch Thursday and Friday mornings at 7 a.m. from the park and return to the launch for weigh-in at 3 p.m. Spectators will not be allowed at this event.

Registration for the event is already underway. To register, please go online and click on register at NationalWalleyeTour.com.

Anglers who are participating in any of the numerous contingency prize programs are encouraged to submit all pertinent information when you check in online to remain eligible for any potential bonus money.

As always, all NWT events will deliver 100 percent payback. New for 2020 – A fully rigged Ranger 2080MS with a Mercury 250, plus cash, is guaranteed for first place at each event – a minimum total value of $78,000. First-place also offers potential boat and motor upgrades. Anglers that fish all three regular-season events, in addition to the top points leaders, will qualify for the three-day, entry-fee championship.


The National Walleye Tour includes unmatched television and media coverage, allowing a national audience to watch the action unfold from each eventthroughout the season. Airing on multiple national and regional networks, the NWT will be seen on the Pursuit Channel, CBS Sports Network, NBC SportsNet Chicago, Wild TV Canada, and the World Fishing Network. Additionally, NWT has a large digital presence where episodes can be seen 24×7 on Outdoor Action TV, Pursuit UP, Fishing TV, and others; plus all weigh-ins are streamed live on Outdoor Action TV, our website, and social media.

National Walleye Tour events are made possible through the sponsorship and continued support of these well-respected brands: Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Ranger Boats, Mercury, Lucas Oil, AFTCO, Triton Boats, Power-Pole, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Sunline, Valley Fashions, T-H Marine, Atlas, G-Juice, Powertex Group.

For more details, anglers are encouraged to call 612-424-0708 or check out the website at www.nationalwalleyetour.com. From here, site visitors can learn more about the NWT, view the TV schedule and learn more about what’s in store for 2020 season.

2020 NWT scheduled events:
July 23-24 – Oconto, Wis.
Aug. 13-14 – Sault Ste. Marie, Mich.
Sept. 10-11 – Garrison, N.D.

Championship
Oct. 14-16 – Huron, Ohio

NWT logo

National Walleye Tour Releases Updated 2020 Schedule

Registration Opens Monday June 22 at 8am!

NEW SMYRNA BEACH, Fla. (June 19, 2020) – After a delayed start due to concerns for COVID-19, the National Walleye Tour Presented by Bass Pro Shops & Cabela’s releases the updated schedule for the 2020 season. Before each regular-season event and the championship, the NWT will detail new protective procedures beforehand to help protect anglers and tournament personnel. 

The NWT will open on Green Bay at Oconto, Wisconsin, July 23-24, before moving on to Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, on August 13-14. The NWT will head to Garrison, North Dakota, to wrap up the regular season on September 10-11. The championship is set for October 14-16 on Lake Erie at Huron, Ohio. 

Registration for the regular-season events opens June 22 at 8 a.m. Anglers who are participating in any of the numerous contingency prize programs are encouraged to submit all pertinent information to remain eligible for any potential bonus money. 

As always, all NWT events will deliver over 100 percent payback. A fully rigged Ranger 1880, plus cash, is guaranteed for first place at each event – a minimum total value of $61,000. First-place also offers potential boat and motor upgrades. Anglers that fish all three regular-season events, in addition to the top points leaders, will qualify for the three-day, entry-fee championship.  

The National Walleye Tour includes unmatched television and media coverage, allowing a national audience to watch the action unfold from each eventthroughout the season. Airing on multiple national and regional networks, the NWT will be seen on the Pursuit Channel, CBS Sports Network, NBC SportsNet Chicago, Wild TV Canada, and the World Fishing Network. Additionally, NWT has a large digital presence where episodes can be seen 24×7 on Outdoor Action TV, Pursuit UP, Fishing TV, and others; plus all weigh-ins are streamed live on Outdoor Action TV, our website, and social media. 

National Walleye Tour events are made possible through the sponsorship and continued support of these well-respected brands: Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Ranger Boats, Mercury, Lucas Oil, AFTCO, Triton Boats, Power-Pole, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Sunline, Valley Fashions, T-H Marine, Atlas, G-Juice, Powertex Group

For more details, anglers are encouraged to call 612-424-0708 or check out the website at www.nationalwalleyetour.com. From here, site visitors can learn more about the NWT, view the TV schedule and learn more about what’s in store for 2020 season.

2020 NWT scheduled events:

July 23-24 – Oconto, Wis.

Aug. 13-14 – Sault Ste. Marie, Mich. 

Sept. 10-11 – Garrison, N.D.

Championship

Oct. 14-16 – Huron, Ohio

NWT logo

2020 NWT Chamberlain, SD Event Cancelled

After much consideration, and working closely with the city officials in Chamberlain, SD, the National Walleye Tour feels that it is not in the best interests of everyone who would be attending the upcoming event, or the local area, to hold this event as scheduled.   

Our decision is based on the current CDC guidelines and with the safety of all our anglers who travel from all over, our staff and the local community in mind.  

At this time, we plan to move forward with the July event in Oconto.  We are working on updates for the 2020 NWT season and will release information as soon as it is available.  

Refunds for the Chamberlain event will begin today and will go back to the card you paid with.  Please keep in mind there are a lot of refunds to be processed and we appreciate your patience as we get through them all. 

If you have any questions please email cschad@outdoorteamworks.com

Stay Safe!

National Walleye Tour Presented by Bass Pro Shops & Cabela’s Pushes 2020 Season Start Back to May 28-29

SPRINGFIELD, MO (March 30, 2020) – The National Walleye Tour presented by Bass Pro Shops & Cabela’s announces its 2020 season will now open May 28-29 on Lake Francis Case at Chamberlain-Oacoma, South Dakota. Dates and event details for subsequent tournaments will be released at a later time. Decisions being made are based on recommendations from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) concerning the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Lake Francis Case event begins Wednesday, May 27, with tournament registration from 2-4 p.m. at Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center at Cedar Shore (1500 Shoreline Dr., Oacoma, SD 57365) with a mandatory pre-tournament meeting set to start at 5:00 p.m. Pro- and co-angler pairings will be announced at the pre-tournament meeting.

Anglers will launch Thursday and Friday mornings at 7 a.m. from Arrowwood Resort & Conference Center at Cedar Shore and return to the launch for weigh-in at 3 p.m. 

Registration for the event is already underway. To register, please go online and click on register atNationalWalleyeTour.com. All anglers that register online will be entered in to a drawing for a $100 Cabela’s gift card. 

As always, all NWT events will deliver 100 percent payback. A fully rigged Ranger 1880, plus cash, is guaranteed for first place at each event – a minimum total value of $61,000. First-place also offers potential boat and motor upgrades. Anglers that fish all three regular-season events, in addition to the top points leaders, will qualify for the three-day, entry-fee championship.  

The National Walleye Tour includes unmatched television and media coverage, allowing a national audience to watch the action unfold from each event throughout the season. Airing on multiple networks, the NWT will be seen on the Pursuit Channel, CBS Sports Network, Fox Sports Net North, NBC Sports Chicago, WildTV Canada and the World Fishing Network.

National Walleye Tour events are made possible through the sponsorship and continued support of these well-respected brands: Bass Pro Shops, Cabela’s, Ranger Boats, Mercury, Lucas Oil, AFTCO, Triton Boats, Power-Pole, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Sunline, Valley Fashions, T-H Marine, Atlas, G-Juice, Powertex Group.  

For more details, anglers are encouraged to call 612-424-0708 or check out the website at www.nationalwalleyetour.com. From here, site visitors can learn more about the NWT, view the TV schedule and learn more about what’s in store for 2020 season.