Champagne and Gordon Win MWC on Saginaw
Jul 20th, 2008 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Jul 20th, 2008 at 12:00 AM
Linwood, MI – Looks like the ones just out of school did a little bit of schooling of their own. Two eighteen year olds that just graduated from Au Gres-Sims High School entered into their first Cabela's Masters Walleye Circuit tournament on Saginaw Bay and put two very impressive baskets together to win the 70 boat field tournament. On the first day, Justin Champagne and Josh Gordon of Au Gres, Michigan were sitting just 1.68 pounds out of the lead with their 19.89 pound basket. On the second day they brought in 25.12 pounds (the largest basket of the event) to grab a win with just over ½ pound. Their 45.01 pound two day total brought the young bucks a little extra cash to go with their graduation money — $14,956 to be exact. That represents a $13,456 first place payout and a $1,000 bonus from Ranger Boats for being the top finishing team in the Ranger Cup program, and a $500 bonus from Mercury as well.
The two best friends fished a couple of other local tournaments this summer and won two. The third time is a charm as they stepped into a more National spotlight with MWC anglers from 8 outlying states and one Canadian province. The young men bested a field of very talented veterans and experienced local anglers.
Justin and Josh were trolling their own hand-tied crawler harnesses with 2 ounce inline weights and #5 Colorado blades, 25'-30' back at a fast troll of 1.4 to 1.5 miles per hour. They worked 44-45 miles out from Linwood Beach Marina just North of Big Island in 25-40 feet of depth over small structure. They made a ¾ mile pass over a flat into a shelf with a trough running through it. They caught their bigger fish up higher in the water column. A plethora of colors worked for the guys, but purple and chartreuse seemed to stand out as productive colors for beads. They changed it up constantly as the day would move from overcast and foggy to sunny.
"We set a goal and then fished to that – and didn't stop until we reached it," shared Justin. "We're learning how to figure out what it will take each day for a particular tournament – and then we fish to that," added Josh. "We had confidence in our #1 spot."
"We knew the fish were there," added Justin, "but there was no sleep either night, none."
Surprisingly, when asked how two young guys got to be such good fishermen, Josh answered that it all tied to experience. Experience?! Some anglers have fished the MWC more than 18 years. But veteran angler Wayne Butz agreed with Josh. "Good experience can start even when a kid is very young," acknowledged Butz. "If you grow up doing this and gather experience from all the people who you learned from, a young person can be very competitive, very early. In fact, they probably have an advantage with regards to all the high tech electronics for today's fishing — because it doesn't intimidate them at all."
Butz and partner Don Frederick finished in 11th place – but more importantly are sitting at the top of the field for Team of the Year points. There are still a couple more tournaments to go in the season but they are in the best position – so far – to cash the Team of the Year bonus prize money as well as the coveted honors. They have cashed a check in all four tournaments that they fished this year – Spring Valley (18th), Marinette/Menominee (3rd), Oshkosh (24th) and now this Linwood event on Saginaw Bay.
Second place went to local anglers Shanon Robinson of Standish and Craig Gushow of Midland for 44.38 pounds. Second place paid out $5,540.
Bob Devine of Windsor, Ontario and Steve Velte of Belleville, Michigan for 43.90 pounds. Third place paid out $3,536 plus an additional $200 from The Oxygenator and $100 from the National Professional Anglers Association (NPAA) for a total of $3,836.
Jeff Koester of Brookville, Indiana and Scott Rhodes of Traverse City, Michigan finished in fourth place with 39.52 pounds for a payout of $2,848 plus a $100 bonus from NPAA and a $250 bonus from Farm and City Insurance Services (Team FCIS) for a total of $3,098.
Rounding out the top five were Michiganders Tod Conner (Hopkins) and Mike Bringedahl (Fruitport) with 39.32 pounds for a payout of $2,538.
Jason Kopf of Avon Lake, Ohio and Mike Miller of Brunswick finished in seventh place and are currently in the lead for East Division Team of the Year. This 8th place finish plus their win at Port Clinton has them with a 17 point lead heading into the final stop for the MWC East at Dunkirk, New York in August.
Alan Baumgardner of Essex, Maryland finished in 8th place and captured the Toyota Tundra bonus of $1,000. He and partner Jeff Lash of North Lawrence, Ohio brought in 37.90 pounds payout out $1,738 for a total of $2,738.
The biggest fish of the tournament was an 8.03 pounder caught by Ron and Vickie Goldapske from Van Dyne, Wisconsin, which brought in a $650 bonus.
A walleye conservation fund of $1,050 was donated to the Saginaw Bay Walleye Club for their assistance with tournament operations such as boat inspection in the morning and release of fish in the afternoon. The club can use the funds for their ongoing efforts on Saginaw Bay to improve the fishery.
Saginaw Bay proved to be a prolific fishery. A total of 651 fish were caught by the field weighing just a fraction below 1955 pounds. That makes for an average 9.3 fish per team and 27.9 pound average basket size, with the average fish 3 pounds.
The tournament was held at the host site of Linwood Beach Marina which did an incredible job of meeting all the needs of the tournament anglers. Bay City Area CVB assisted with hosting the event.
William Schuman, age 11, of Linwood, Michigan cashed in on a new bike – compliments of Toyota. William is the son of Loraine Marchbanks and Kenneth Schuman. About 20 kids attended the MWC/NPAA Youth and Family Fishing Clinic where new young anglers received rods and reels of their very own and had a great time learning how to use their new tackle.
Complete results from this tournament as well as points for East Division can be found at www.masterswalleyecircuit.com
Cabela's, the world's foremost outfitter for hunting, fishing and outdoor gear, is in their seventh season as the title sponsor of the Masters Walleye Circuit. Official sponsors include MotorGuide, Mercury, Lowrance, Toyota, Ranger Boats, Versus (Vs.) Television Network and North American Fishing Club. Associate sponsors are Farm & City Insurance Services, The Inhibitor, O2 Oxygenator and Sticker Dude.