ESCANABA, Mich. – The National Guard FLW Walleye Tour features the best anglers in the world of walleye fishing. Many of the anglers struggle throughout their careers to win a title at an event. For young Korey Sprengel of Beaver Dam, Wis., he proved this week that he has what it takes to hang with the pros. Though, for Sprengel, this victory may have been too close for comfort.
Starting the tournament with a 25 pound, 7 ounce bag had him in fourth place after day one. He then managed to catch the largest bag of the tournament on day two – 28 pounds, 6 ounces – to grab the lead. Today, Sprengel brought 23-4 to the stage and had an overall total of 77-1. His total weight actually tied him with eventual second place pro Ryan Dempsey. The rules say that a tie will be broken based upon the place of the anglers on the previous day. Having led the tournament after day two, Sprengel was awarded the title and walked away with a check for $50,000.
“This feels so great, I can’t possibly feel any better” said the 24-year-old pro.
Sprengel focused on on main underwater shoal located in Big Bays de Noc to produce his fish this week.
“Within that shoal there was one main point that the fish really seemed to hold on,” Sprengel continued. “I pulled crawler harnesses all week, but today I had to switch to crankbaits around noon to fill my limit. I only caught one fish on a crank – a 26-incher – that really helped today. All of the fish I caught were in 14 to 22 feet of water.
“One thing that really helped my confidence were the two overs I caught yesterday. I pulled a 31-incher off my spot which got me pretty jacked up. It helped show me the quality fish I knew were there, were still there, since I didn’t have any big ones on day one. And today, the first fish we caught was a 29-incher at about 8 a.m.”
When it came to his spinner rigs this week, Sprengel kept it simple. He used number 6 Colorado blades or number 4 willows in metallic colors. Sprengel also used chartreuse beads on his rigs.
This victory wasn’t the first time that these pros have seen Sprengel in the top-10. Back in 2009 he placed tenth in the FLW Walleye Tour event on Lake Winnebago; proving that he will be someone to watch out for in years to come.
“I have wanted to fish the entire tour for a while now, it just didn’t work out this year except for this event. Next year I will be fishing the tour full-time for sure. Having a win under my belt just helps to reassure me that I can do it. All you can do is the best you can do.”
Dempsey stays in second
Pro Ryan Dempsey of Oneida, Wis., came out of the gates with a bang this week after weighing 27 pounds, 15 ounces on day one to take the lead. Day two saw his weight fall slightly – 23 pounds, 8 ounces – yet he only dropped into second. Today, Dempsey knew he had to bring in another solid limit. He weighed the largest bag of day three – 25-10 – giving him a three-day total of 77-1, but in the end lost in a tiebreaker.
“I ran south all week down by the Cedar River,” said the Mercury pro. “There is a series of humps down that way and I would just bounce around them. Today I got on my third spot before the bite really picked up and we loaded the boat. My co-angler had a 30-incher follow the crawler up to the boat when he reeled the line in, that’s how good the bite was.”
Dempsey used number 4 and 5 spinners – gold in color – on his crawler harnesses but says it didn’t really matter when you found the fish. The most productive water for him had rocks with scattered weeds on them in 8 to 10 feet of water.
“It doesn’t feel good to lose this way, but I can be happy that in three days of fishing I didn’t lose a fish. It would have been nice to have that 30-incher today, but I did what I could.”
For his efforts, Dempsey will take home $15,400 in winnings.
Plautz takes home third
Mercury pro Danny Plautz of Madison, Wis., ends his season with back-to-back top-10 finishes after placing eighth on Lake Oahe a few weeks ago. Plautz continued to climb the rankings all week long from 11th after day one with 23 pounds, 7 ounces, to fourth after day two with 26-9. He ended his week with 23-1 on the final day – 73-1 overall – and a check for just under $11,000.
Like Dempsey, Plautz also ran south down by the Cedar River to fish the many humps in that area.
“I knew that area could produce good fish,” said Plautz. “I just stayed on the fish all week. There were lots of fish in that area, I just had to stay patient and wait for the good over bites.”
Plautz used rubber-core sinkers - ½-ounce size - in front of his spoon harness tipped with a crawler. He also pulled spinner rigs with 1-ounce weights. Plautz varied his blade colors based upon the conditions that day – bright colors on cloudy days, light colors on clear days. For the most part he focused on running his baits in the 19- to 20-foot range around a hump that came up to 16-feet deep.
Grothe falls to fourth
Ross Grothe of Northfield, Minn., not only celebrated his birthday today, but also had a good ending to a consistent week of fishing. On day one, Grothe brought 24 pounds, 5 ounces to the scales. He followed that up with a day-two weight of 25-15. Today, he could only manage four keepers, yet still had 20-3 for a three-day total of 70-7. Grothe received a nice birthday gift of $8,200 in prize money.
“It was a great day,” said the Ranger pro. “Anytime you make a top-10, it’s a great day.”
His idea for the tournament was simple – cover water quickly.
“I trolled number 12 Rapala Husky Jerks all week. I wanted to fish a little faster so that I could cover water better. And the faster you fish, the more your line is in the water, and the more opportunities you have to catch fish. I also didn’t want to deal with perch, so I trolled cranks.”
Schneider takes fifth
John Schneider of Shawano, Wis., battled through the rough conditions today to claim the fifth spot. Schneider brought 23 pounds, 1 ounce to the scales on day one, followed by 25-14 on day two. Today, Schneider battled the waves to bring in 21-4, giving him an overall weight of 70-3.
“Today that wind beat the living tar out of me” said Schneider. “I was fishing the west shore mostly all week. I picked my spots based on the wind for that day. Unfortunately by the time I found the fish and really started to catch them today, I had to pack it up to make it back on time.”
Schneider – like many other pros – pulled spinner rigs with number 4 blades. He kept his speed around 1.2-1.4 mph. He also focused mainly on 20 feet of water.
The Wisconsin pro credits fishing the wind-blown shores as a key to his finish.
Schneider received a check for over $8,000 in winnings.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top-10 pros from Bays de Noc:
6th: Bill Shimota of Lonsdale, Minn., 70-3, $6,300 + $1,000 Ranger bonus + $1,500 Evinrude bonus.
7th: Derek Parker of Skandia, Mich., 67-2, $5,400 + $1,000 Ranger bonus.
8th: Nick Schertz of Tomahawk, Wis., $4,500 + $1,000 Ranger bonus.
9th: Chad Schilling of Akaska, S.D., 59-14, $4,050.
10th: Dusty Minke of Forest Lake, Minn., 56-5, $3,600 + $1,000 Ranger bonus + $1,000 Evinrude bonus.
Bay wins co-angler title
Fishing in his first ever National Guard FLW Walleye Tour event was co-angler William Bay of Berlin, Wis., and what a way to start. After his first two day weights of 25 pounds, 7 ounces and 27-6, he sat in second place coming into the final day. With help from his pro – Ryan Dempsey – Bay weighed 25-10 on the final day to capture his first victory with a three-day total weight of 78-7. To go along with his first title, Bay also took home a check for $6,000.
Johnson wins co-angler AOY title
Co-angler C.J. Johnson of Monticello, Iowa, won the 2012 National Guard FLW Walleye Tour Co-Angler of the Year title. He started out the season with by finishing tenth in Red Wing, Minn., on the Mississippi River. At the next stop on Lake Erie, Johnson made another top-10 and finished in seventh. Just a few weeks ago on Lake Oahe, Johnson landed his worst finish – 41st. After rounding out the season on Bays de Noc in 12th, Johnson secured his first ever AOY title.
For now, he is excited to attend the 2012 National Guard FLW Walleye Tour Championship this October in the Quad Cities.
Along with the trophy, Johnson received $2,500 and an automatic berth into the 2013 National Guard FLW Walleye Tour Championship.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top-10 co-anglers from Bays de Noc:
2nd: Phillip Riccio Jr. of Huntley, Ill., 77-2.
3rd: Kenney Brenner of Moline, Ill., 72-12.
4th: Douglas Ripperger of Eldridge, Iowa, 69-15.
5th: David Klamfoth of Waverly, Iowa, 67-5.
6th: Todd Rieder of Fond Du Lac, Wis., 66-8.
7th: Keith Hahn of McHenry, Ill., 64-8.
8th: Steve Beasley of Macomb, Mich., 58-2.
9th: MSG Leroy McCoy of Fridley, Minn., 57-8.
10th: Tyrone Larson of Amherst, Wis., 53-9.
Walleye fans take note
Coverage of the Bays de Noc tournament will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) on NBC Sports Network when “FLW” airs Oct. 21 from 1-2 p.m. ET. “FLW” is hosted by Chip Leer and is broadcast to more than 559 million households worldwide, making it the most widely distributed weekly outdoors-sports television show in the world.
The next event for the FLW Walleye Tour will be this year’s championship in Davenport, Iowa, Oct. 25-28 on the Mississippi River, and anglers could win as much as $100,000.