Port Clinton MWC Produces Record Baskets
Apr 28th, 2008 by OutdoorsFIRST
Modified Apr 28th, 2008 at 12:00 AM
Port Clinton, OH — Big Blades. Big Crawlers. Big Fish. That was the key for the winners at the Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit East division season opener at Port Clinton, Ohio and the finals for Walleye Madness. Local anglers Jason Kopf from Avon Lake, Ohio and Mike Miller from Brunswick, Ohio delivered a whopping 48.95 pounds to the scale on the first day of the tournament – and shattered the five fish record basket set at 46.65 pounds in June of 2007 on the Eastern Basin of Lake Ontario. They were just as surprised as everyone to see the total weight come up on the stage “The battery was dying on our scale on the boat,” laughed Miller, age 32 and fishing in the MWC for only the second time. “It kept telling us that these big fish were 6 pounds and change and we kept measuring on the board and seeing how big they were and saying…’no way – that’s gotta be a 9 or 10 pound fish, so we just kept culling based on length.” And cull they did. “We got into some big fish about 2:30 pm and before we knew it we were culling 8 pounders out of the boat – 6 or 8 of them! Can you imagine that??!!” It was a great day and something they will remember for the rest of their lives. Add a second day basket of 27.85 pounds and the duo put together 76.80 pounds for the win, capturing $16,850 for first place plus $1,000 for the Ranger Cup. It was Kopf’s first MWC tournament, ever, let alone a circuit win. Their spot was an area that is known to hold fish well between Middle Island and North Bass, about 1/4 mile to 1 mile off the Canadian border. They made a 2 mile stretch trolling in a straight line at 1 mph with their bow mount, using tattle flags on their inline planer boards. Their set up was number 6 or 7 Silver Streak hammered red, copper and chartreuse blades with pink or red beads. They ran a slider with a single treble #4 on 12 pound mono and 7′ fluorocarbon leaders. They were 30-50 feet back with one ounce inline weights, about 20-25 feet in depth in 37 feet of water. The big fish were hungry. The warm weather during the week of pre-fishing really turned them on to eat. “These big fish were vibrant in color, fighting and eating aggressively after this warm up,” shared Kopf. They found clean water they liked and trolled a mud line that held the bait fish. Jason Kopf had just taken delivery recently of his new Ranger Boat and he and Miller signed up to fish the entire MWC East in 2008 and jump in with a commitment. “I’ve been studying and preparing for this for eight months,” shared Kopf. The team has fished local tournaments with some success so decided to step up to the big leagues of team walleye fishing….the Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit. “This is a passion that I have,” shared Miller. “I have an aspiration to achieve success from here forward.”When asked the key to their success they replied their big colorful blades and the absolute biggest night crawlers they could find brought them the big fish they were looking for. It was a match made in heaven. Jeff Koester of Brookville, IN and Scott Rhodes of Traverse City, MI repeated the title of Cabela’s MWC Walleye Madness Champions cashing in a $10,000 bonus out of a total Madness purse of $29,100. Koester and Rhodes have won three out of the last four tournaments held on Lake Erie for the MWC. Last year’s Madness, last year’s World Walleye Championship and now the 2008 Walleye Madness again. They certainly have the program dialed in. The bracketed tournament format isn’t quite the same as a regular tournament. Simply besting the team in your bracket is all that is required. Koester and Rhodes had 31.43 pounds on Friday to knock out Jeff Lash of North Lawrence, OH & Alan Baumgardner of Essex, MD who had 11.83 pounds. Then, 29.83 pounds against Larry Rhoads II of Oregonia, OH & Larry Rhoads, Sr. of Burlington, KY who brought in 14.13 pounds. The final day required a modified program for the Final Four – allowing only 4 fish per team rather than the previous days’ five. That’s because the winners of the first round would fish again and need to stay within state regulations for daily possession limits.The four teams remaining fished from 8 am to 1 pm. Steve Skupien of Frankfort, IL and Dave Kleszyk of Oakbrook Terrace, IL had 10.09 pounds to Jay Walsh of Chicago, IL and Dave Gossar of Wedron, IL who unfortunately zeroed. That meant Skupien and Kleszyk were going up against the winner in the other bracket. It was Koester and Rhodes that brought in 18.96 pounds as Donald Olson of Andover, MN and Randy Carroll of Oswego, IL had 15.32 pounds. You don’t have to have an amazing basket to win – you just have to have enough at the right times to advance forward. It all came together once again for these two – often within the last moments. Skupien/Kleszyk were able to pull 17.14 pounds (3 fish) for the final round and Koester/Rhodes weighed in at 20.56 pounds (four fish). Just like the earlier round on Sunday – their fish came through in just the nick of time. “All week we were hitting fish just fine in the afternoons, but our morning bite was slow,” shared Scott Rhodes. “We were a little nervous about the 8 to 1 time-frame because we’d have to make it come together in order to stay in it for the afternoon round.” And with 30 seconds to spare their last fish hit. “We got that fish in the live-well and threw everything on the bottom of the floor and just booked it. I’m surprised we had all our rods when we got in – it was pandemonium getting in on time.” But they needed that last fish to best Olson & Carroll. “If we wouldn’t have gotten that fourth fish we wouldn’t have been able to advance – they would have beaten us with their three – for sure,” added Jeff Koester. And the afternoon wasn’t much different. “We were sweating it out with only 2 fish, and FINALLY between 4:30 and 5:30 we were able to get our limit and, once again, throw everything down and head for Port Clinton.” They made it with a few minutes to spare – a tribute to their Mercury Motor that got them in on time.”This is a great format for fishing – I love it,” shared Koester. “It’s much more of a mental game than any other format or style,” added Rhodes. “You really have a LOT of stress on the final day. It’s like winning two tournaments within the same day and that’s just crazy stressful.” “But we love it!” exclaimed Koester.Sounding a bit like a broken record, you can read about their strategy at the Northeast corner of Kelly’s Island from either last year’s event in Port Clinton or the Championship out of Dundee, Michigan. It wasn’t much different than this one: in-line spinners with crawler harnesses, white beads, #5 chartreuse bait fish blades, .8 mph, 51′ back. But there was a little “tweak” that got those fish to bite when they were in a panic that something had to change and they had to get more fish. They stalled the boards. Sharp turns that essentially stopped the baits are what triggered the bites that they needed. “Stalling the boards was the key, definitely,” added Koester.”This is a really different tournament style,” shared Kristine Houtman, Director of the MWC. “It’s intense and really made for TV coverage. We are able to get the cameras in the boats with the anglers as they advanced – which means we are going to get a good show – with hopefully good drama – and great fishing.” The Walleye Madness tournament was filmed for Versus (Vs.) television network and will air on Monday, May 19th at 10 am and Wednesday, May 21st at 9:30 am. All times Eastern.There was great fishing everywhere – between Walleye Madness AND the two day MWC East tournament that Kopf and Miller won the day prior. The weekend in Port Clinton paid out a total of $95,770. In the qualifying tournament a total of $59,360 was paid out to the top 18 places, another $4,160 was paid in big fish cash and $3,150 in contingency bonuses for a total of $66,670. Five additional sponsor bonuses were…Kevin Carstensen of Merrill, WI and Rich Olds of Stevens Point, WI captured the Farm & City Insurance Services “Team FCIS” bonus of $250 for their 3rd place finish with 74.07 pounds. Third place paid $4,402 with bonus totaling $4,652.The Toyota bonus of $1,000 was awarded to Dan Byers of Cedar Springs, MI. Byers fished with partner Paul Driggers of Chesterfield Township, MI and finished in fourth place with 73.17 pounds. Byers also had the Oxygenator system to assist keeping fish alive in his live-well. The Oxygenator bonus of $200 was paid to Byers, add the $3,490 for fourth place and Byers/Driggers cashed in $4,690.The Ranger Cup/Mercury Motors $500 bonus contingency was paid to Dan Stier of Pierre, SD. Stier was fishing with MWC partner Jerry Plourde of Cornell, MI and brought in 71.94 pounds for a 6th place finish. Stier also won the NPAA bonus of $100 for being the top finishing angler as an NPAA member. Sixth place paid out $2,928 plus bonus money of $600 for a total of $3,528.The next highest NPAA member was ninth place finishing Jeff Manz and Greg Yarbrough for their 71.58 pounds. They cashed $2,266 plus $100 for a total of $2,366.Big fish cash was awarded for both days accordingly:Day 1Larry Rhoads II of Oregonia, OH & Larry Rhoads, Sr. of Burlington, KY – 11.89 pounds — $1050Jason Kopf of Avon Lake, OH & Mike Miller of Brunswick, OH – 11.41 pounds — $615Dave Casper of Bloomingdale, MI & Willy Casper of Grand Junction, MI – 10.63 pounds — $415Day 2Richard Shew of Frankfort, IL & Danny Grapenthien of Crownpoint, IN – 10.35 pounds — $1050Tony Larson of Shelby Township, MI & Scott Hausauer of Appleton, WI – 10.06 pounds — $615Greg Yarbrough of Port Clinton, OH & Jeff Manz of Vanderbilt, MI – 10.00 pounds — $415An additional $8,000 ($1,000 each) was paid out to the eight teams that made it to the Sweet Sixteen round of Walleye Madness finals:Vince Raimondi of Hoffman Esattes, IL & Doug Larsen of Westmont, ILScott Yarman of Fredericktown, OH & Jason Walls of Chillicothe, OHConrad Grubbs of Roulette, PA & Jamie Grubbs of Sheffield, PADan Johnson of Fayetteville, OH & Ferd Lohman of Mt. Orab, OHNathan & Stephanie Zelinsky of Bailey, COJeff Manz of Vanderbile, MI & Greg Yarbrough of Port Clinton, OHJeff Lash of North Lawrence, OH & Alan Baumgardner of Essex, MDRuss Wagner of Pewaukee, WI & Steven Wagner of Pewaukee, WIThe following four teams advanced to the Elite Eight round. They each received a payout of $1300.Chad Wiskow of Menasha, WI & Matt Seifert of Wisconsin Rapids, WIGary Zart of Hinckley, OH & Scott Bower of Macedonia, OHMatt Davis of Marion, OH & Dan Gies of Huron, OHLarry Rhoads II of Oregonia, OH & Larry Rhoads Sr. of Burlington, KYThe following two teams advanced to the Final Four round. They each received a payout of $1800.Donald Olson of Andover, MN & Randy Carroll of Oswego, ILJay Walsh of Chicago, IL & Dave Gossar of Wedron, ILThe following team advanced to the Championship round. They received a payout of $2300.Steve Skupien of Frankfort, IL & Dave Kleszyk of Oakbrook Terrace, IL Kids from the surrounding community also benefited as the MWC and NPAA co-hosted another Youth & Family Fishing Clinic. Nearly fifty kids attended on Saturday and received their very own rod, reel and tackle box, courtesy of MWC sponsors Cabela’s, Lowrance Electronics, Ranger Boats, North American Fishing Club and Toyota. Toyota also donated a bike and the lucky winner was seven year old Morgan Swick of Ada, Ohio. Morgan is the daughter of Jim and Erin Swick. The bike was rigged with a rod holder, new rod and reel as well as a tackle box to be the ultimate fishing machine.Lake Erie is known for its prolific fishery and it did not disappoint. Four hundred and forty-nine fish were caught on day one for 2759.34 pounds and 417 fish on day two for 2376.16 pounds for a total of 866 fish for 5135.5 pounds. That’s an average of eight fish per team (48.44 pounds) and a 5.93 pound average size fish.Cabela’s, the world’s foremost outfitter for hunting, fishing and outdoor gear, is entering their seventh season as the title sponsor of the Masters Walleye Circuit. Official sponsors include Ranger Boats, Mercury, MotorGuide, Lowrance Electronics, Versus (Vs.) Television Network, North American Fishing Club and Toyota Tundra. Associate sponsors are Farm & City Insurance Services, The Inhibitor, O2 Oxygenator and Sticker Dude.The remaining 2008 schedule is:May 17 & 18 Bay of Green Bay out of Marinette, WI/Menominee, MichiganJune 21 & 22 Lake Winnebago out of Oshkosh, WisconsinJuly 18, 19, 20 Saginaw Bay out of Linwood, MichiganAugust 9 & 10 Devils Lake in Devils Lake, North DakotaAugust 22, 23, 24 Lake Erie out of Dunkirk, New YorkOctober 1-4, 2008 Lake Erie out of Dundee/Monroe, MichiganSpots are available in future tournaments. For more information please contact MWC headquarters at 877-893-7947 or by email at: [email protected].