Border-Battle Slated to begin 2015 NWT Season
Apr 16th, 2015 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Apr 16th, 2015 at 12:00 AM
Border-Battle Slated to begin 2015 NWT Season
Mississippi River event runs May 7-8 out of Lake City, MN
LAKE CITY, Minn.- High-level competitive walleye fishing returns to action May 7-8, as the
Cabela’s National Walleye Tour visits pools 3, 4 and 5 of the Mississippi River. The season-opening tournament features the sport’s most accomplished anglers and boasts the most lucrative purse in professional walleye fishing – including a first-place prize of a fully-rigged Ranger 1880 and $15,000 cash, plus numerous sponsor bonuses.
The venue, which serves as part of the Minnesota-Wisconsin border, is both vast and diverse. Lake Pepin itself, located in Pool 4, is 21 miles long and spans nearly 30,000 surface acres. Anglers can probe Pepin’s depths in search of chunky saugers or they can sample many of the river’s shallower cuts and channels for post-spawn female walleyes. After a relatively mild winter with little snow, the water level is down and the clarity has uncharacteristically improved.
“Right now, the river is low and really clear,” said veteran pro Brett King of Claremont, Minn. “You can see 2 or 3 feet down in some places when it’s usually only inches. Guys are going to have be cautious when venturing outside of the main river channel. There’s a lot of stuff like deadheads sitting just beneath the surface.”
King explained that the low water and lack of flow has repositioned and spread the fish out.
“This tournament is going to be different for sure,” he said. “Guys that have fished here early in previous years might as well leave their notes at home. There’s not anything that is applicable. In a normal year, that stronger current puts them in predictable places. Without it, it’s wide open. And once you find them, they really aren’t all that concentrated so you have to have multiple spots.”
Korey Sprengel, the winner of the 2014 NWT Championship, said employing multiple presentations will be necessary as well as having multiple spots.
“There will be a lot of guys pulling lead,” said the Berkley pro. “But I think it will take more than pulling lead to win. It seems like about 20 pounds is the max you can catch with lead. I think it will take a little more than that, like 50 to 55 pounds (over two days) to win. One option would be to get a limit trolling and then go camping out for a big one.”
When Sprengel won the inaugural NWT event on the Mississippi in 2013, he pitched a purple and white PowerBait Rib Worm in addition to handlining. That’s the same bait, just with a heavier jig, that he used to win the 2014 championship on Lake Winnebago.
2014 Tour Championship winner Korey Sprengel, who also won the last time the NWT visited the Mississippi River, expects multiple presentations and multiple spots will be necessary to win this year.
“When I won in 2013, I had a decent bag going, but I pulled up to one current seam and caught three good ones in four pitches. Then I filled out my limit handlining. I think it’s going to take multiple presentations like that to get it done again this year.”
Sprengel also explained that launching further downstream in Lake City will help spread out the field.
“What I didn’t like was that it used to be a boat race to about three different spots in Pool 4,” Sprengel said. “With the water being low, I think a lot of fish will be relating to Lake Pepin. Instead of the food coming to them, they’re going to have to go to the food. Launching in Lake City, we’ll be that much closer to the lake.”
While traditionally thought of as a place to earn a small check, King agreed that Lake Pepin is developing more and more into a true factor.
“The saugers are definitely bigger than they were a few years ago,” King explained. “We’re starting to see 18- to 20-inch saugers and they are fat. The lake definitely has its share of walleyes too. Right now, the walleyes are spawning, but when they’re done, some may go to the lake. They’re looking for a resting spot, and right now there’s not enough reason to stay (in the river).”
King described the event as akin to an autumn Mississippi River tournament.
“Unless we get a lot of rain, weights are going to be down,” he said. “You’re not going to see those huge 40-pound stringers. My goal is to put together 25 pounds per day. With that low flow, I just don’t see it taking much more than 50 or 52 pounds to win. I fish the system all the time and it’s been difficult to get anything over 7 pounds; the better fish now are 4 to 6 pounds.”
While the lack of current has changed the system, traditional river techniques such as pitching jigs and trolling crankbaits with leadcore line will prove popular. In addition, live-bait rigs with willow cats or night crawlers will put fish in the boat. King reported that he’s had success recently pitching jigs and employing the anchor feature on his Motorguide Xi5 trolling motor that is integrated with his Lowrance unit for hands free boat control.
“With the fish being so spread out, those little details really matter,” King said. “Overall, I see this one being more of a run-and-gun tournament; you get one here and you get a couple there. It’s going to be wide open.”
Sprengel agreed and said he believes the winner will be bouncing spots or fishing a milk run.
“It’s going to be a totally different tournament this time around and that should make it interesting,” he said. “It was a long off-season, so I can’t wait to get back to the Mississippi River. There’s just an endless possibility of where the fish might be.”