It was a rout. A bulldozing. A total thrashing. And Josh Wiesner and Brad Schrauth, who call Lake Winnebago their home water, handed the field their collective behind both days, using jigs to best the second-place team by 20-plus pounds to go home with $8,000 at the AIM Weekend Walleye Series Nitro Boats Wisconsin Division Championship.
And the thing is, they did it in such a convincingly nonchalant fashion, if you talk to them, that it’s obvious they knew something the other teams didn’t. As usual, Wiesner said, it was all about that well-used fishing adage: knowing where the fish aren’t, and concentrating on where they are, that brought home the win, and a guaranteed berth in next year’s National Championship shootout. They used jigs and half-crawlers, jigged slowly in the 80-degree Winnebago water.
“We’re locals here so we have a little more knowledge than some other teams,” said Wiesner. Here’s some of that knowledge:
“Years ago, we figured out what these fish do in July when the water warms up,” said Wiesner, who’s been fishing here for about 18 years. “There’s a bunch of different spots we fished and it all came together at the right time. We had the right weather, right conditions, with a flat calm that helped us achieve our boat control. We were fishing deep water and needed that control. If it was really rough, it would have been a totally different situation,” he continued.
“We used roundball jigs and a half-crawler, very simple, crazy simple. And it was a slow presentation with 1/16- to 3/16-ounce jigs. It couldn’t be fast. The shallower we went, the lighter the jig we used to maintain contact with the bottom, and if it was too aggressive of a presentation they wouldn’t bite,” Wiesner went on.
Heading for some of their 200 known walleye dens on the lake, they picked those in 12- to 16-foot depths. “That’s where the majority of fish were. It was pretty quick either way. They were there or they weren’t. We’d give each one five or 10 minutes and we’d move. There weren’t fish on a hundred, but we isolated where the fish were and spent our time on those,” he said.
The team spent Day One, he said, running across the lake finding the biggest fish in their Triton 206 Fishhunter, equipped with two Power-Pole 8-foot blades and powered by a Mercury 250 Pro XS, finding fish with their Garmin electronics. “I’ve got spots, Brad’s got spots. We were all over the lake especially Friday, from the north end, the south, the east side and the west. I would say we had our weight we wanted on Day One by 10:30 or 11 a.m. We didn’t upgrade after that. We caught fish all day, but in 15 minutes on Saturday, we upgraded three fish at 2 p.m.
Their total weight for two days: 47.63 pounds. The second-place team of Mike Gengalo, of Merrill, WI, and Ted Winkelman, of New London, WI, came to the podium with 27.46 pounds.
Wiesner also praised AIM’s Catch-Record-Release™ format. “The main advantage, and it’s huge, is that you can’t cull in other tournaments here. With the AIM format, we were able to upgrade fish all day Saturday. In any other tournament we would have been done for the day by 8:30 a.m. That was absolutely huge, that we could upgrade.”
In this case it’s also the experience in July and August, knowing what those fish actually do that made the difference between a few, and $8,000 worth of fish, he said. “Even if you’re trolling spinners, the hotter it gets, the slower their metabolism and they don’t want to move. They’re so fat and well-fed, you need to stick something right in their faces. If you don’t they’re not going to bite.”
The second-place team of Gengalo and Winkelman, winners of $3,000, had the same issues most of the teams did.
“We had a really spotty practice Wednesday and Thursday. We didn’t have a consistent bite so my partner and I decided to go into the river at Oshkosh on the first day to see how the current was,” Gengalo said. Current equals fish.
“We were trolling Flicker Shads and Shad Raps and we caught a 24-incher within 5 minutes, so that convinced us we needed to stay there all day, Gengalo said. They came in with three fish over 24 inches.
On Day Two, they tried again. “Things started off great. We ran upriver and caught a 22-1/2-incher again within the first 5 minutes, then went 3-1/2 hours without another walleye. We realized there wasn’t any current in the river, and that determines the bite.”
They headed into the lake and into “the mud” at Winnebago’s north end, adding two small fish. “That’s how we ended up. We started with crank baits and couldn’t catch anything so due to the water being flat calm, we switched to nightcrawler harnesses, and that’s how we caught the two,” Gengalo said.
He and Winkelman, just the same, are happy with their finish. “That was our goal, to make the top five,” he said, and they did just that.
Rounding out the top five, all of whom earned a berth in the next AIM National Championship Shootout, were Corey Rodewald, DePere, WI, and Jason Bischoff, Fond du Lac, WI, in third with 24.92 pounds, earning them $2,500, In fourth were Scott Hausauer, Appleton, WI, and Neal Soyka, Green Bay, with 24.36 pounds, for $2,000. In fifth, Greg Golliher and Randy Harwood, Oshkosh, who netted 22.52 pounds and $1,800.
It ain’t over yet. Two more championships remain next month, in North Dakota Aug. 5-6, and in Minnesota Aug. 26-27.
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