–Presented by the North American Fishing Club
April 17, 2011—Trenton, MI—A slow-handed jigstroke with Berkley Gulp! softbaits landed Greg Bliznik and Keith Greear, both of Brownstown, Michigan, 43.49 pounds of walleyes and first-place honors in the Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit’s Detroit River Eastern Division season opener.
“It’s a great feeling to win on our home waters,” said Greear. Added Bliznik, “We’ve done well on the MWC before but first place is what we’ve been fishing for, and we finally got it!” Given the tournament’s Motor City setting, it was fitting that the six-year Circuit veterans are sponsored by the United Auto Workers Region 1A, and Bliznik works at the Ford Auto Alliance Plant in Flat Rock, Michigan.
The team jigged ½-ounce chartreuse-and-orange leadheads armed with stinger hooks, and tipped with smelt-pattern Berkley Gulp! softbaits and minnows. “Other teams were jigging aggressively, but we were almost deadsticking,” said Greear. “We’d find bottom, then slowly raise the jig a couple of inches.” Their top area was an eight- to 10-foot-deep flat protruding into the main channel, Bliznik noted. Jigs were tied direct to 10/4 Berkley FireLine Crystal.
Bliznik and Greear collected the $16,350 first-place check for their efforts, plus a $1,000 Cabela’s gift card through the Cabela’s Angler Cash program, $500 Berkley Baits prize package, and a portable Oxygenator unit. Jeff Vereeke of Grand Rapids, Michigan, and Joe Lockman of Middleville, Michigan, finished in second with 41.85 pounds, earning $6,820 plus the $1,000 Ranger Cup award, and $500 Lowrance HDS/Elite DSI contingency. Bob Devine and Steve Velte won the $300 Worldwide Marine Insurance contingency for being the highest-placing team to request a quote prior to the tournament. In all, the top 22 teams shared the $58,240 cash purse, plus thousands in contingencies and $4,910 in Big Fish Pot winnings.
Day One was marked by a great bite as the 112 teams brought 485 walleyes weighing a total of 3,047.69 pounds to the MWC scale—of which a full 91 percent were released alive back into the river. Day Two was cancelled due to strong west winds and resulting low water levels at the Elizabeth Park Marina making the ramps unusable.
“It’s extremely disappointing not to get our teams out on the water on Day Two, especially given the fantastic bite on the river,” said MWC executive director Dan Johnson. “Our on-site tournament director Dan Palmer and local site coordinator Danny Bloxem reviewed all the options and we had no choice but to call the tournament. We are already working with our Angler Advisory Panel members to schedule a bad-weather day for our return to this great destination in 2012. We thank all of our MWC anglers for fishing this tournament with us, and the Downriver Walleye Federation volunteers for making it possible.”
With the mighty Detroit yielding world-class numbers of walleyes, 81 teams tallied 5-fish MWC limits. Big fish of the tournament was an 11-pound behemoth brought in by Dave Schmidt and Mark Zillges, both of Oshkosh, Wisconsin. The catch earned the team $2,560 for first place in the Big-Fish Pot.
Walleyes and non-tournament walleye anglers were winners in the equation as well. Since 1992, the MWC Conservation Fund has donated more than $175,000 to fisheries-enhancement projects in states where our tournaments are held. At the Detroit River event, a $15-per-boat donation from each team’s entry fee—made via the MWC’s non-profit affiliate Wildlife Forever—will benefit the Downriver Walleye Federation’s efforts to protect the local fisheries.
The MWC and National Professional Anglers Association presented a Youth & Family Fishing Clinic immediately after Saturday’s weigh-in. Youths received rods and reels thanks to the NPAA and Berkley, and tackle packages courtesy of Northland Fishing Tackle.
This is the first stop on the MWC East Division’s 2011 season. The remaining Eastern schedule includes Lake Erie at Sandusky, Ohio, May 20-22, and the St. Mary’s River at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, August 26-28. The MWC’s 2011 trail is comprised of nine qualifiers in three divisions. Anglers fishing at least three events (from any division) accumulate points toward a berth in the no-entry-fee, $100,000 Cabela’s MWC World Walleye Championship; teams fishing four events are in the running for overall MWC Team of the Year honors and a $13,000 cash prize.
Cabela’s, the World’s Foremost Outfitter for hunting, fishing and outdoor gear, is entering its tenth season as title sponsor of the MWC. Official sponsors include: Berkley Gulp!, Ranger Boats, Mercury, MotorGuide, Lowrance, Fishouflage, Versus (Vs.) Television Network and North American Fishing Club. Associate Sponsors include: Berkley Trilene, Energizer, O2 Marine Technologies, Northland Fishing Tackle, Ryjus, Reflections, Worldwide Marine Insurance, The Walleye Federation, Sea Grant and Wildlife Forever. Now heading into its 27th season, the Cabela’s MWC is the oldest team circuit in walleye fishing.