For the second year in a row, the Central Wisconsin River Series held a qualifier tournament on the Willow Flowage in Hazelhurst. The Willow is one of the biggest bodies of water anglers take on during the four qualifying tournaments. In each tournament, anglers receive points, based on how they place, toward the end-of-year championship tournament. This year that tournament will be held on the Minocqua Chain out of The Beacons of Minocqua.
While only four teams were able to bring a five fish limit to the scale last year, this year that number jumped to 17. Last year 92 fish were caught for a total of 299.65 pounds. Compare that to this year's 130 fish totaling 394.19 pounds, and it can be said that while the quality of fish seemed to stay the same, more teams were able to find fish this year than last.
The water was high this year, which helped some with navigation, teams reported. Also, familiarity with the fishery went a long way toward anglers finding and catching more fish. While this was only the second year teams pitted themselves against the brown and green bass of the Willow Flowage, it does not usually take long for these anglers to "figure out" a body of water. Last year 11 teams were unable to bring any legal fish to the scales. This year that number dropped to two, a sizeable improvement as anglers are now more familiar with the fishery.
As far as practice, all Flowage water was off limits to anglers starting at 11:59 p.m. on Sunday, June 16. Anglers were free to practice up until that time. The issue with some earlier season tournaments, however, is if fish are spawning, or in pre-spawn, it is sometimes difficult to say whether they will be in a post-spawn funk on tournament day or if they will be recovered from the spawn and ready to eat again. This leads to anglers having more than one "game plan," as they head out on the water. Depending on the stage the fish are in, anglers may need to change the way they fish and the areas in which they fish. Those who can think best on their feet and adapt are often victorious in these sorts of circumstances.
It took just under a pound more to win the tournament this year over last year. This year's winning weight was 19.23 pounds, brought in by the team of Pat Kilbey and Justin Borski. Last year the Kilbey-Borski team was also able to boat a limit of 14.16, which landed them in 6th. The team would also weigh in a 4.67-pound smallmouth, but that would not prove to be the biggest brown fish of the day. That honor would go to Darren Weiks and Shawn Weiler, who were able to coax a 5.16-pounder into biting as part of their 8th place 16.02-pound limit.
With a first take-off position in the morning, Jak Przekura and his partner were able to land themselves squarely in second place with a 18.56 pound limit. Last year the pair were only able to boat one fish, but it was a good one at 4.99 pounds. These two young hammers proved to the field they had found something on the flowage. Third place went to Chase Vaugn and Tyler Jesse with an 18.17 pound limit anchored by a 4.54-pound smallmouth. This pair also improved over last year, when they added no points to their overall season total at the Willow qualifier.
It would take over 15 pounds to gain a top 10 spot in the tournament. Fourth place went to Chris Withers and Tom Perkins, with a total of 16.80 pounds. Close on their heels with 16.72 in fifth was Brent Taylor and Pete Kolzow. Sixth place went to Andy Dassow and Robin Pester with a 16.60-pound bag. Seventh went to the team of Ted and Eric Brandl with 16.30. Eighth place went to Weiks and Weiler with 16.02 while ninth place was secured by Kyle Martinson and Brendan Garrigan with a 15.75-pound limit.
The top 10 was anchored by the 15.62 pound bag of Rick Wirtz and Bernie Thompson. The pair have limited tournament experience, they said, but had a great time out on The Willow. They showed that even newer tournament anglers, with the right fishing knowledge, can do well in competition.
The winner of the big largemouth trophy was no surprise to regular tournament anglers. The team of Jimmy Juel and Rich Rein seems to always play a role in every tournament they enter, often proving to be the team to beat. While they were only able to boat two legal fish in the tournament, one of them was the one that counted. Their big largemouth tipped the scales at 5.97 pounds.
The next stop for the Wisconsin River Series will be on Boom Lake Sunday, July 21. There are still spots open in that tournament for anyone who would like to fish. Registration starts at Boom Lake boat landing at 4 a.m. with a pre-tournament meeting at 6 a.m. Anglers fish until 3 p.m. Anyone interested in fishing can contact the series through their Facebook page or by calling Beckie Gaskill at 715-360-3242. Entries must be in one week prior to tournament day. The public is encouraged to come to the landing for weigh-in to see the quality of fish anglers are able to find in competition that day.
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