For Immediate Release –
Hastings, Minn.—May 3, 2014—Iowans Tommy Skarlis and Jeff Lahr sacked an impressive 35 pounds, 8 ounces to win the Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit’s Mississippi River qualifying tournament.
“It’s totally awesome,” said Lahr, of Dubuque. “We’ve been close a couple of times, so this is really fulfilling.” He and Skarlis collected the $6,600 first-place cash payout, plus $500 in Berkley Artificial-Only Bonus Cash, $1,000 in Ranger Cup winnings, the $500 Berkley Baits contingency, $510 from the big-fish pot, and the $200 Optima True Blue award. They also claimed a $1,000 Cabela’s National Team Championship Prize Package including paid NTC entry, travel stipend, team jerseys and plaques. And as an added bonus, co-presenting sponsor Lowe Equipment Attachments presented them with a $200 Cabela’s gift card.
Held May 2-3 out of the Hastings Public Launch at Jaycees’ Park, the event offered two-person teams the chance to battle for thousands of dollars in cash and prizes in a professionally run setting. And in an exciting twist on traditional walleye tournament formats, the event was “artificial-only”—with extra winnings at stake as anglers fished their favorite crankbaits, spinners, Berkley Gulp!-type softbaits and other man-made presentations, while live bait such as minnows and nightcrawlers were off limits. The concept emerged thanks to a partnership between Berkley Gulp! and the Cabela’s MWC, with Berkley kicking in an additional $2,500 in prize money for the top eight teams.
The artificial-only format was no handicap to Skarlis and Lahr, who bought four fish weighing 23 pounds, 4 ounces to the scale on day one. It was the heaviest catch of the day and landed them solidly atop the leaderboard. On day two, they followed up with two fish weighing 12 pounds, 4 ounces for the 35-pound, 8-ounce total weight.
Skarlis explained they were fishing a pair of steep breaks in the Wisconsin Channel that dropped from 16 to 22 feet of water. Three-way rigs and stickbaits sweetened with Gulp! Alive! Attractant spray produced a number of their fish. “One of the neat things was, the homemade, teardrop-shaped, do-it-yourself jigs Jeff and I poured last winter while we were dreaming of fishing the MWC’s 30th season caught some of our biggest walleyes,” Skarlis noted. Tippings included Berkley Gulp! Minnows and PowerBait Rib Worms fished solo, but the big-fish ticket was a 3-inch Gulp! Minnow piggybacked on a PowerBait Twitchtail Minnow.
Skarlis also credited the team’s Optima Batteries for powering their bow-mount trolling motor throughout day-long battles with the swollen Mississippi. “The fish were pressured and finicky, so we relied on the stealth of our electric,” he said. “The Optimas held up all day, and I’m sure could have kept going for hours.”
After a slow start on day one with a single fish weighing 3 pounds, 15 ounces, the father-son team of Mike Schommer Sr., of Prescott, Wisconsin, and Mike Schommer Jr., of Woodbury, Minnesota, finished strong with a five-fish limit weighing 26 pounds, 5 ounces to claim second place, worth $3,750 in cash, along with the $500 Lowrance HDS Gen2 Touch and Elite 7 contingency. The Schommers also pocketed $320 from the MWC Big Fish Pot and the $250 Zippo Hot Hands Big Fish Award for catching big fish of the tournament, a 7-pound, 15-ounce walleye.
Rounding out the top 5 teams were Jim Preissner, Chilpon, WI and Mike Olsen, Andover, WI in third with 23-15, Zach Horton, Pine Island, MN and Ben Baune, Rochester, MN in fourth with 20-15 and in fifth the team of Don Olsen, Oak grove, MN and Randy Carroll, Oswego,Il. with 19-07.
In all, the top eight teams shared $23,980 in cash and prizes plus another $1,250 from the big-fish pot.
Despite high, cold water, the Mississippi River yielded 135 fish weighing a total of 301 pounds, 4 ounces. The fish were returned to the river thanks to the Circuit’s catch-and-release format. The Cabela’s MWC, National Professional Anglers Association, Pure Fishing and Zippo Outdoor Brands presented a Youth & Family Fishing Clinic immediately after Saturday’s weigh-in. Youths received rod and reel combos courtesy of the NPAA.
Under the umbrella of The Walleye Federation (TWF), the Cabela’s MWC is open to avid walleye anglers from all walks of life. The 2014 trail includes 10 stops spread across seven states in the Walleye Belt. Teams showcase their skills—and sponsor products—at world-class venues such as the Illinois, Detroit and Mississippi rivers, Green Bay, Big Stone Lake, Kinzua Reservoir, Cass Lake and Lake Erie.
Along with great payouts at each event, teams fishing three or more tournaments battle for coveted berths in the 2015 Cabela’s MWC Championship, set for October 2015 on Lake Erie out of Huron, Ohio. Teams fishing at least three qualifiers also compete for Team of the Year awards, including a $25,000 “Living the Dream” sponsorship package, which includes fully paid entries to the Cabela’s National Walleye Trail as a pro and co-angler, use of a 600 series Ranger boat, travel stipends and more.
Cabela’s, the World’s Foremost Outfitter for hunting, fishing and outdoor gear, is in its 12th season as title sponsor of the MWC. Official sponsors include: Berkley Gulp!, Lowe Equipment Attachments, Lowrance Electronics, Mercury Marine, MotorGuide, Ranger Boats, The Walleye Federation and Zippo Outdoor Brands. Associate sponsors include: Berkley Trilene, Church Tackle, Lindy Legendary Fishing Tackle, Optima Batteries, Rockstar Hitch Mounted Mud Flaps, T-H Marine and Sea Grant.
Entry fees are $650 per tournament, of which more than 100 percent is returned to anglers at the qualifiers, World Championship and Team of the Year races. Registration closes at 10 a.m. on Monday prior to each tournament. For more information, visit masterswalleyecircuit.com, email [email protected], or call (580) 765-9031.