Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit Gears Up For Season Opener On The Illinois River

Jan. 31, 2012—Minnetonka, MN—Walleye and sauger fans across the Midwest are gearing up for an annual rite of spring—the Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit’s season opener on the Illinois River.

Scheduled for March 24-25, this year’s tournament is presented by Lowrance Electronics, and marks the 26th consecutive time the Cabela’s MWC has kicked off the season at friendly Spring Valley, Illinois. Over the years, the combination of a great fishery and world-class support from the Spring Valley Walleye Club have produced many exciting tournaments, and the 2012 event is already shaping up to produce great fishing as two-person teams vie for thousands in cash.

“Tournament anglers are in for a real treat!” said local coordinator Bill Guerrini. “Fall sauger action was great in both size and numbers of fish, and so far the mild winter has kept the river at or below normal pool. The entire Illinois Valley community is buzzing about a big spring bite.”

“The sauger population is healthy, and more walleyes continue to show up at the scales,” added on-site tournament director Dan Palmer, also a veteran guide, tournament angler and river fisherman. “If Mother Nature cooperates, I look for a full field of limits each day, and will again keep an eye out for the next state-record sauger!”

Rightly called the Sauger Capital of the World, the Illinois yielded near-unanimous limits and a total of 1,208 fish during the 2011 Cabela’s MWC tournament. Big fish was a 5.96-pound walleye caught on Day Two by B.J. Liebe and Brian Ernat, of Ladd, Illinois.

Circuit veterans Tom Brunz and Mark Meravy topped the field of 123 teams to win the event with a 10-fish MWC limit weighing 24.05 pounds. The victory was good for a $17,300 first-place check, along with a $500 Berkley Baits Prize Package, $500 Cabela’s gift card, U2 contingency and $750 for second place on Day Two in the Big Fish Pot. The local father-and-son team of Tom and Tom Giachetto of Ladd, Illinois, placed second with 23.51 pounds, worth $7,100. In all, the top 24 teams shared a $64,000 cash purse, plus thousands in sponsor contingencies including Cabela’s Angler Cash, Ranger Cup, Lowrance Electronics and Worldwide Marine Insurance bonuses.

The 2012 event will offer great payouts, based on the number of teams entered in the event. A full field of 200 boats would yield a $30,000 first-place paycheck and more than $100,000 in cash. Overall in 2011, the MWC paid back more than 120 percent of entry fees in payouts, team of the year awards and World Walleye Championship winnings.

Two-person teams have until midnight on Sunday, March 18 to sign up for Spring Valley. Registration is $650 per team. For details, visit, email

The public is invited to the weigh-ins, which begin at 3 p.m. daily at Barto Landing in Spring Valley. The MWC and National Professional Anglers Association will present a Youth & Family Fishing Clinic immediately after Saturday’s weigh-in. The first 50 youths will receive rods and reel combos courtesy of the NPAA.

This is the first of nine Cabela’s MWC qualifying tournaments in 2012. Open to diehard anglers regardless of club or sponsor affiliation, the remaining schedule includes the Detroit River at Trenton, Michigan, April 13-15; Lake Pueblo at Pueblo, Colorado, April 27-29; Lake Erie at Huron, Ohio, May 18-20; Mille Lacs Lake at Isle, Minnesota, May 31-June 1; Lake Winnebago at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, June 29-July 1; Lake Oahe at Pierre, South Dakota, July 28-29; the St. Mary’s River at Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, August 24-26; and Cass Lake, Minnesota, out of Stony Point Resort, Sept. 14-16.

Founded in 1984, the Cabela’s MWC is the oldest team tournament circuit in the walleye world. It has a rich history of intense competition on top destinations, plus youth outreach and a lasting legacy of conservation that includes more than $300,000 in donations to fisheries projects in states where its tournaments are held.

Cabela’s, the World’s Foremost Outfitter for hunting, fishing and outdoor gear, is looking forward to its 11th season as title sponsor of the MWC. Official sponsors include: Berkley Gulp!, Ranger Boats, Mercury Marine, MotorGuide, Lowrance, NBC Sports Television Network and the North American Fishing Club. Associate Sponsors include: Berkley Trilene, Okuma, O2 Marine Technologies, Reflections, Worldwide Marine Insurance, The Walleye Federation and RPM Outdoor Sports.