6/22/2019 7:26:00 AM Central Wisconsin River Series coming to Willow Flowage this weekend
Beckie Gaskill Special to The Lakeland Times
The Central Wisconsin River Series anglers from across the state have been fishing in the Northwoods for several years now, but they will head to the Willow Flowage this weekend for only the second time.
For many of the anglers who participated last year, learning where to start on such a large body of water proved to be a daunting task. With the flowage being on the schedule for the first time, many anglers had never seen the body of water before pre-fishing for the tournament. Based on the fishery's reputation, most felt it would take more than 20 pounds to best the field. The day was windy, making for tough fishing in some areas, but many nice-sized fish were still brought to the scales.
Last year, two local anglers, Rich Hirman and Kyle Froehlich, won the tournament with 18.41 pounds. Big smallmouth of 6.12 went to another local angler, Derek Schotz, who fished with his partner Nathan Barnett. Schotz also runs the Lincoln County Bass League, a team league which fished throughout north-central Wisconsin. A big largemouth was brought in by Eric Fix and Dan Firkus last year, weighing in at 5.42 pounds.
In all, seven fish over the 5-pound mark were brought to the scales and nine over 4 pounds. These numbers were exciting for anglers, who could see for themselves the quality of fish the flowage was capable of producing. On the other side of the coin, several teams also found there are several places to hit things on the Willow while moving from spot to spot. While the flowage can be daunting for those who do not know their way around, the tournament is capable of producing the biggest bag of the year.
Many anglers are eagerly anticipating this year's tournament and prefishing has been reported as good. Fish will likely be in a post- spawn pattern by the time the anglers hit the water Saturday morning.
Some have reported finding fish in the 4-pound range during practice but, of course, only tournament day will tell the full story. A field of 40 boats and 80 anglers will take to the Willow Flowage before 7 a.m., with each team in search of the heaviest five fish they can find on this pristine body of water.
The public is welcome to attend the weigh-in, which will commence at 3 p.m. at Willow Haven Supper Club in Hazelhurst. Anglers in the series are all vying for a spot in the Championship Tournament, which will be held on Lake Minocqua, out of The Beacons. The top 36 teams will earn their way into the championship for the year.
The first stop of the year, as has been the case since the series started, was the Stevens Point Flowage. Weights at Stevens Point were lower than those expected at the Willow, but were in the normal wage for Point.
The winning weight there was 13.33, which was brought in by John Bestul and Ryan Langman. This pair leads the points going into Willow and also took big smallmouth for the Point tournament with a fish weighing 4.43 pounds. The top three teams had over 12 pounds at Point with Tom Dowe and Tyler Schuettpelz bringing 12.56 pounds to the scale and Chris Withers and Tom Perkins weighing 12.37 pounds. The fourth place team of Matt and Dan Hirman also brought in big largemouth, with a 4.29-pound fish.
The next stop for the Central Wisconsin River Series will be Sunday, July 21 at Boom Lake in Rhinelander. From there the series will hit Lake Mohawksin on Saturday, Aug. 10. The top 36 teams in point will then go to Minocqua on Sept. 7 and 8 for a two-day challenge.
Fishing the Minocqua Chain is always exciting as anglers make the decision to stay on Lake Minocqua and fish largemouth, or head to Lake Tomahawk and put their money on the deep, finicky smallmouth there.
The team that consistently makes the right decisions will be victorious at the end of the 2019 season.
The Northwoods River News | Walker Communications, LLC 232 S. Courtney Street, Rhinelander, WI 54501 | Office (715) 365-6397 | Fax (715) 365-6361
Corporate billing office: The Lakeland Times / Lakeland Printing Inc. | P.O. Box 790, Minocqua, WI 54548 | (715) 356-5236 | Fax (715) 358-2121 Members of the Wisconsin Newspaper Association, Wisconsin Community Papers, Rhinelander Area Chamber of Commerce, Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce