ESCANABA, Mich. – Before the final event of the 2012 National Guard FLW Walleye Tour even started this week many of the anglers were doubting weights would break the 20-pound mark. Day one seemed to set the bar pretty high, but the bite picked up on day two and the weights reflected that. Mercury pro Korey Sprengel of Beaver Dam, Wis., gave himself over a 2-pound lead when he weighed in the largest bag of the tournament at 28 pounds, 6 ounces. With that weight, Sprengel moved from fourth after day one to take the top spot with a two-day total weight of 53-13.
The day started out very slow for the 24-year-old pro.
“I only had two fish in my livewell until about 2:30 p.m.,” said Sprengel. “And right about that time we had all four lines get bit and caught every one of them. But today was definitely a grind.”
Sprengel is fishing one primary area that is about a one mile circle. With every changing wind and conditions on Bays de Noc, Sprengel is lucky to have an area that he feels can produce fish no matter what. The only way he feels that his bite could get tough, is if the wind blows hard tomorrow. All of his fish over the course of this event have come off of that one area.
Sprengel has produced all of his fish on crawlers trolled on spinner rigs.
“Today was much slower for me out there today. The water temperature warmed up about one degree which I think helped the bite at the end of the day. I feel really good about tomorrow, but if the wind blows like the forcast says then it could get tough.”
Dempsey drops to second
After leading day one of the event with 27 pounds, 15 ounces, Ryan Dempsey brought in another solid limit of fish to the scales with 23-8. Though he did slip a little bit, Dempsey still has an overall tournament weight of 51-7 – good enough to land him in second.
“I knew I was off to a bad start when I had some other boats on my spot today,” said the Oneida, Wis., pro. It’s a pretty small spot that I’m fishing, but I managed to catch some good slot fish off of where I normally get my bigger ones. After that I packed up and went to another school of slot fish and caught a 7-pounder.”
Dempsey still did not want to release any information about his presentation, but then again who would when you sit in striking distance of the title.
He plans to start back in the same area as today, yet he did say that he has another spot with some good fish on it if he has to make a move. Dempsey would also like the wind to lay down to make it easier to work his presentation.
“I just need to have another huge day tomorrow.”
Grothe climbs into third
After sitting in eighth place on day one, Ross Grothe of Northfield, Minn., brought 25 pounds, 15 ounces to the scales today to move him up a few notches on the leader board. With a 24 pound, 5 ounce limit on day one, Grothe now holds an overall weight of 50-4.
“Everything just worked today,” said the Ranger pro. “We caught a lot of fish today, but I did let my primary spot rest for tomorrow.”
His primary area is a very specific spot that he noticed had much more boat traffic around it today. And hopefully the fish did not get abuse too much from that area.
Another big help that Grothe pointed out was the fact that he had no missed fish today.
Not surprisingly, Grothe also would like to keep his presentation tight-lipped until after tomorrow.
Plautz in fourth
Mercury pro Danny Plautz of Madison, Wis., is coming off of a top-10 finish at the previous FLW Walleye Tour even on Lake Oahe just a few weeks ago. Today, Plautz made sure that he would end the regular season with another. His day-two catch hit the scales at 26 pounds, 9 ounces, giving him an overall weight of 50 pounds.
In a place in which the fish relate to the wind so much – like Bays de Noc – it is vital to find areas that you know the fish will bite no matter what the wind does. And that is exactly what Danny Plautz did.
“My primary spot I actually found in practice when there was no wind,” said Plautz. “I figured right then and there that it would be excellent no matter where the wind came from. A west wind could hurt the bite a bit, but I think my spot is deep enough it shouldn’t affect it.”
His main fishing spot is a 30-mile ride and is a small hump in which he has focused all of his attention.
“When I got to my spot today and noticed some cloud cover I changed the color of my blades I had been using. I put on a little brighter colored blade and caught a 29-incher right away. After that I got a 25 1/2- incher and doubled on 22 1/2-inchers. We caught a ton of fish, and rounded out our limit with a double on a 26 1/2-inch fish and a 22 1/2-incher. I had my limit by 11 a.m. and began the long, slow boat ride to the harbor.”
Despite catching lots of fish off of his spot, Plautz seems confident that he can duplicate his success.
“There are a lot of fish in that area,” continued Plautz. “The fish should load back up on to that spot for tomorrow.”
Schilling to fifth, claims AOY title
The Akaska, S.D., pro Chad Schilling came into this tournament with one thing on his mind – a victory. Little did Schilling know that by catching 27 pounds, 11 ounces on day one and 21-8 on day two, that he would sit in fifth place moving on to the final day and clinch the National Guard FLW Walleye Tour Angler of the Year title.
Schilling had plenty of confidence when day two began, but quickly found out the fish were much finickier today.
“I could see them all over my graph,” said the Mercury pro. “They were still there but they just wouldn’t bite. I changed baits three different times today and it still didn’t seem to do anything. All I could catch today were 22- or 24-inchers.”
Schilling started his day on a spot that produced some quality fish on day one. Within ten minutes of the day, Schilling had a 22 ¾-incher in his boat. After that he began to run different spots and eventually went looking for those giant Bays de Noc walleyes.
“I know I’m in the right area, I know the fish live there. They just need to cooperate tomorrow.”
The spots that Schilling has been fishing are the same ones that helped produce a fourth place finish back in 2008 – the last time the FLW Walleye Tour visited Bays de Noc. This gives Schilling the confidence to know what caliber of fish live in those areas. Schilling is also the kind of angler that likes to know every detail about the structure he is fishing. And after five years of fishing these spots, it’s safe to say he knows them well.
Schilling is using a two-tactic approach with spinners and crankbaits.
The Mercury pro couldn’t help but point out the quality of anglers on the water. He backed that statement up with this, “When I pulled up to one area that happens to be a community spot today, there were three other anglers already fishing it. As soon as they noticed it was me joining the crowd all three of those guys offered to back off the spot. They have every right to be there, but they still acted like they were imposing on me even though I got there last. That really goes to show you how quality the guys out here are.”
Making the top-10 was exciting enough for Schilling, but when it was announced that he had officially won the Angler of the Year title he became speechless.
“I’m numb. My body is numb. It’s like I am in one of those dreams you can’t wake up from,” said Schilling. “I am the luckiest guy on the planet; I have a fantastic wife, wonderful kids and a great support from family and friends.
“Last year seemed incredible to me but this year just keeps on getting better. I still don’t know how to swallow this. But now I guess this means I have to get the next one because the best one is the next one,” Schilling said with a smile.
Along with the AOY trophy, Schilling will receive $10,000 and a berth in the 2013 National Guard FLW Walleye Tour Championship.
Going into the final day Schilling plans to fish hard and try to grab the victory.
“I don’t relax, that’s just not how I fish. Tomorrow I’m going out to fish like it is the first day of the season.”
Rest of the Best
Rounding out the top-10 pros from Bay de Noc:
6th: John Schneider of Shawano, Wis., 48-15.
7th: Nick Schertz of Tomahawk, Wis., 47-14.
8th: Dusty Minke of Forest Lake, Minn., 47-11.
9th: Bill Shimota of Lonsdale, Minn., 47-10.
10th: Derek Parker of Skandia, Mich., 47-6.
Riccio Jr. takes co-angler lead
In his first ever National Guard FLW Walleye Tour event, Philip Riccio Jr. of Huntley, Ill., sits in the lead going into the final day of competition. His day one weight helped to set the pace with 27 pounds, 11 ounces. He followed that up today with help from Chevy pro Jason Przekurat with a catch of 26-3. This gives Riccio a overall total of 53-14 – barely over a 1-pound to start the final day.
“I have been trying to talk my wife into letting me do this for a long time now,” said Riccio. “I come out to Bays de Noc in the fall to do some fishing, so this isn’t my first time out here.”
Riccio hopes that his nerves do not get the best of him and that he will be able to get some sleep tonight. And he is definitely excited to see how tomorrow plays out.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top-10 co-anglers from Bays de Noc:
2nd: William Bay of Berlin, Wis., 52-13.
3rd: Douglas Ripperger of Eldridge, Iowa, 49-12.
4th: Kenney Brenner of Moline, Ill., 49-11.
5th: Steve Beasley of Macomb, Mich., 47-7.
6th: Todd Rieder of Fond Du Lac, Wis., 45-4.
7th: MSG Leroy McCoy of Fridley, Minn., 45-0.
8th: Tyrone Larson of Amherst, Wis., 44-15.
9th: David Klamfoth of Waverly, Iowa, 44-12
10th: Keith Hahn of McHenry, Ill., 44-12.
Walleye fans take note
Anglers will take off from Escanaba Harbor located at Loren W. Jenkins Drive in Escanaba at 7:00 each morning. Thursday’s and Friday’s weigh-ins will be held at the marina beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday’s final weigh-in will be held at the Walmart located at 601 North Lincoln Road in Escanaba beginning at 4 p.m.
Prior to the final weigh-in on Saturday fans will be treated to the FLW Expo at Walmart from noon-4 p.m. The Expo includes the opportunity to interact with professional anglers, a trout pond and interactive games and activities. The NPAA will be offering a free Youth and Family Fishing Clinic beginning at 2:30 p.m. Prizes, including rods & reels, will be given away after the clinic. All activities are free and open to the public.