Jacob friede/lakeland times
Pictured are Matt Raley, left, of Arbor Vitae, and Nate Osfar of Marathon City. They won the 2019 Mercury Marine Summer Challenge on the Eagle River chain of lakes this past weekend by catching muskies that measured 33.5 inches, 36 inches, 36.25 inches, and 37 inches. They took home a $16,360 check for the win.
6/29/2019 7:30:00 AM Professional Musky Tournament Trail visits the challenging Eagle River chain Local anglers well represented on the leader board
Jacob Friede Of The Lakeland Times
For the 18th year, the Professional Musky Tournament Trail (PMTT) stopped in Eagle River last weekend for the Mercury Marine Summer Challenge on the Eagle River chain of lakes.
On June 22 and 23, 118 boats took to the water in search of muskies and over the weekend 53 of them were caught. Competitors came from 13 different states to fish the Eagle River chain, but it was some locals who stole the show.
Matt Raley of Arbor Vitae and Nate Osfar of Marathon City won the tournament by catching four fish. Their muskies, caught casting jerk baits, measured 33.5 inches, 36 inches, 36.25 inches, and 37 inches.
Raley said though the Eagle River chain is not that far from home, he doesn't fish it that often, and therefore he didn't feel like he had a local advantage.
"Honestly, I don't fish out here very much besides tournaments," Raley said. "I'm fishing out here for two, three tournaments a year. There's enough good water around that I don't really spend a lot of time out here."
Raley and Osfar sure make the most of it when they do fish the Eagle River chain. This is the second time they've won a PMTT event there and this time, Raley said, the trick was finding neglected spots.
"We didn't really have a pattern going, a lot of what we did today was just fished good spots that nobody else was fishing," Raley said.
For their work they won championship trophies, rings and $16,360.
Raley, a full time fishing guide, said he appreciated the win because it was earned against some tough competition.
"There's a lot of very good fishermen that know this water very well," he said.
Two of those fishermen were the second place team of Ben and Matt Michlig, who also have local ties. Ben is from Minocqua and Matt lives in Milwaukee and over the weekend, casting medussas, the Michligs caught muskies that measured 30 inches, 37 inches, and 43.25 inches.
And like Raley and Osfar, with whom the Michligs are friends, they've had great success on the PMTT before, so they expected to finish high on the leader board.
"It feels great," Ben Michlig said. "It's sort of expected I guess, a body of water so close to your house, you should be able to produce and do well. I've gotten a second, a third, and a fourth here. I was hoping for the win, obviously, but Matthew (Raley) had to beat us out."
Taking third place was Lance and Darrell Seasor from Kentucky. The Seasors caught four muskies that measured 31.5 inches, 32.5 inches, 33.5 inches, and 34 inches. They caught all of their fish between 10:30 and 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, while trolling crank baits over deep water and looking for bait fish.
Being able to troll is fairly new to the PMTT stop in Eagle River, and according to tournament director Tim Widlacki that has increased its popularity.
"That's the good thing about the Eagle River chain now because you can cast and troll. A lot of them states out there didn't come before because it was casting only in Wisconsin," he said. "So now there's trollers too, which opens up the boundaries for everybody so to speak."
The big fish of the tournament measured 45.25 inches and was caught on Saturday by local Eagle River residents Jared Adamovich and Clayton Spiess. They finished in eight place overall in the tournament with that fish.
Saturday, with its clear skies, had the better bite of the two days with 33 muskies caught, compared to 20 caught on a Sunday when it was cloudy.
All fish were scored by photo on a tournament-issued bump board and then released.
The Mercury Marine Summer Challenge is the second qualifying tournament on the professional trail.
The first was held on Cave Lake in Kentucky. Following the stop in Eagle River, the PMTT will move on to Lake Minnetonka in Minnesota, then to Leech Lake in Minnesota, and will end with the Ranger Boats World Championships on the Spirit and Okoboji chain of lakes in Iowa.
The teams that finish in the top 40 in points qualify for the World Championship where the grand prize is a $60,000 Ranger 619 boat with a Mercury motor.
The tournament stop in Eagle River was sponsored in part by Ranger Boats, Mercury, Musky Hunter Magazine, and the Eagle River Area Chamber of Commerce.
According to chamber executive director Kim Emerson, it was wonderful having the PMTT in town.
"They have really enjoyed the Eagle River area," Emerson said. "They love fishing Eagle River and so we're very pleased and happy to have them all here and look forward to them coming back next year."
Widlacki said the feeling was mutual and the tournament stop in Eagle River is always a favorite.
"It's muskies," he said. "We're in northern Wisconsin. So they know how to roll out the red carpeting."
Jacob Friede may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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