–Presented by Ranger Boats
March 27, 2011—Spring Valley, IL—In an epic tournament marked by world-class fishing, countless lead changes and near-unanimous limits, Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit veterans Tom Brunz and Mark Meravy rode a pair of solid baskets to victory in the MWC’s Spring Valley Central Division season opener on the Illinois River.
“It’s wonderful,” Meravy, of Shorewood, Illinois, said of topping the field of 123 two-person teams. It wasn’t Meravy’s first trip to Spring Valley or the winners’ circle. He first fished the MWC Spring Valley tournament in 1990 and won the event in 2003 with a different partner, John Broncato.
“We primarily trolled crankbaits,” he said of the 2011 victory. In a true display of MWC teamwork, he and Brunz countered strong winds by dividing the duties of fishing and boat control. While Brunz tended the team’s four rods at the stern—and their kicker outboard pushed them along at 1 mph—Meravy steered their bow-mount electric, using his Lowrance X-15 to follow a key hard-bottom breakline dropping from 14 to 17 feet.
The team spread their lines with 12-foot rods on the outside and 7-footers on the inside. The long rods were spooled with Berkley 100 Percent Fluorocarbon, while the short rods held 10/4 Berkley FireLine. They used three-way rigs with 4-ounce weights to pull shallow-running, pink-and-white crankbaits doused with Berkley Gulp! Alive! Spray.
“To win this one is really special,” said Brunz, of Madison Lake, Minnesota. He noted that the event marked the 25th anniversary of the MWC visiting Spring Valley—a milestone celebrated with the return of longtime Circuit director Bob “Kaz” Kaczkowski to the MWC stage. “My whole fishing career culminated right here,” he added.
The team also found success jigging 3/8-ounce, orange jigheads tipped with Berkley Berkley PowerBait Ripple Shads on high-vis green 6-pound FireLine. Together, the presentations produced a 10-fish MWC limit weighing 24.05 pounds—good for a $17,300 first-place check, along with a $500 Berkley Baits Prize Package, $500 Cabela’s gift card for being the highest-finishing MWC Premier Team, U2 contingency and $750 for second place on Day Two in the Big Fish Pot.
After leading on Day One, the local father-and-son team of Tom and Tom Giachetto of Ladd, Illinois, placed second with 23.51 pounds, worth $7,100. “We fished the clambeds both days, but just couldn’t find the big fish today,” said Tom Sr. The team jigged 5/16- and 3/8-ounce leadheads tipped with minnows in 15 to 17 feet of water.
Ronald Levin and Nick Ingoglia, of Beach Park, Illinois, placed third with 23.24 pounds, worth $4,800 in cash plus a $1,000 Cabela’s gift card through the Cabela’s Angler Cash program, $500 in cash thanks to the Worldwide Marine Insurance contingency, and $300 Cabela’s gift card for being the second-highest placing MWC Premier Team.
In all, the top 24 teams shared a $64,000 cash purse, plus thousands in contingencies and Big Fish Pot winnings. Kevin Oyen and Steve Kopp of Dubuque, Iowa, earned the $1,000 Ranger Cup, $500 Lowrance HDS/Elite DSI, and Oxygenator contingencies, while Bob Apple of Chadwick, Illinois, and Brad Linton of Rock Falls, Illinois, won $200 Cabela’s gift cards for being the third-highest MWC Premier Team.
Rightly called the Sauger Capital of the World, the Illinois River yielded a total of 1,208 fish—mostly saugers but with a few walleyes in the mix—weighing 2,273.01 pounds. Big fish of the tournament was a 5.96-pound walleye caught on Day Two by B.J. Liebe and Brian Ernat, of Ladd, Illinois.
As it has for the past quarter-century, the Spring Valley Walleye Club provided an army of volunteers to host the tournament operations. Site coordinator Mike Hurless was pleased with the day, and the great fishing. “This is as good as I’ve ever seen it,” he said after Day One produced 120 limit catches.
Following Saturday’s weigh-in, the MWC and National Professional Anglers Association presented a Youth & Family Fishing Clinic, giving away free rods and reels, along with tackle packages courtesy of Northland Fishing Tackle and a mountain bike donated by Spring Valley City Bank.
This is the first stop on the MWC Central Division’s 2011 season. The remaining Central schedule includes the St. Croix River and Pools 3 & 4 of the Mississippi River at Red Wing, Minnesota, June 3-5, and Bays de Noc, Michigan, August 5-7. Next up for the MWC, however, is the Detroit River April 16 and 17—which promises to be a high-stakes, big-fish shootout in the shadows of the Motor City.
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.