Illinois River Shows Off Big for the First MWC Event of the Season

Illinois River Shows Off Big for the First MWC Event of the Season

Presented by: Mercury Marine


Spring Valley, Illinois – March 24, 2024 – The first event of the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit (MWC) 2024 season on the Illinois River is all wrapped up and it was an exciting event to kick off the season. Anglers experienced a little wind, a little rain, some sleet, and even some welcome sunshine to finish off the second day of competition on the Illinois River, presented by Mercury Marine.

Up for grabs was a total purse totaling $83,113. At the end day-one, it was a father and son team from Wisconsin, Jason and Ethan Kline, that stood in the lead with a whopping 18-09 lbs. that was caught within sight of several other boats in the event. The next closest team of Jasen Schine and Eddie Michniewicz had 13 lbs.

The weather on the second day was a little more hospitable. With the sun shining and lighter winds, teams were able to make bigger moves and feel more confident with their boat control and presentations. It usually takes five really nice saugers to cash a check on the Illinois River event and this year was no different. Most of the teams that weighed the heaviest sacks over the course of two days were able to key on those larger female saugers. What can really push a bag of fish over the top is a nice walleye or two.

It is usually anyone’s event to win at Spring Valley until the last fish is weighed as weights are tight. So tight this year, that as the final bag was weighed in there was a tie for the largest two-day total.

Jason and Ethan Kline held what appeared to be a very commanding lead after day-one and just needed to hold on and put five more quality fish in the live-well on the second day. The Klines experienced what can happen when conditions change and fish move from your top spots and were only able to bring three fish to the scales that weighed 4-05 lbs., giving them a two-day total of 22-14 lbs. As anyone in tournament fishing knows, when there are multiple days of competition, anything can happen.

Ross and John Hertensteiner, also a father and son team, from River Falls and Webb Lake, WI finished in 10th place with 10-05 lbs. after the first day. The Hertensteiner’s proved the old adage that consistency pays and on day-two brought in a second five fish limit weighing in at 11-15 lbs. Also completing the event with a total of 22-14 lbs.

According to the 2024 Masters Walleye Circuit rules, in the case of a tie, the first tie-breaker goes to the team that weighed the most number of fish over the course of the tournament. The tie breaker positioned the Hertensteiners on top of the final standings and awarded them the win. Their total earnings for this tournament were $12,700 cash, a $1,000 NTC prize package, $8,000 Ranger Cup bonus, and two (2) Okuma reels worth $200 for a grand total of $21,900.

The Illinois River allows anglers from every angling discipline to compete. Many of the teams this year stuck with the tried-and-true methods of trolling small stick baits on 3-way rigs or vertical jigging a variety of plastics and live bait. Ross and John stuck with the tried-and-true 3-way trolling method for both days and edged out the win. “We fished primarily down river from the launch area. We tried vertical jigging a couple small areas but went back to trolling for the remainder of the time. We’ve been coming to the Illinois River for years and usually end up finishing somewhere in the middle of the field every year. It really hasn’t sunk in yet that we won. We’ve always dreamed about it but this year it finally happened. My dad, John, has been fishing tournaments for a very long time and it was special to be able to get this win with him as my partner.” Said Ross Hertensteiner.


Let’s take a look at the rest of the top 5 teams finished in Spring Valley:

2nd Jason and Ethan Kline 22-14 lbs. $6,300 cash plus $5,133 option pot

3rd Jasen Schine and Eddie Michniewicz 22-03 lbs. $4,050 cash plus $3,040 option pot

4th Sam Cappelli and Anthony Naples 21-14 lbs. $3,150 cash plus $2,120 option pot

5th Adam and Steve Sandor 21-08 lbs. $2,250 cash plus $1,680 option pot

There was a total of 190 anglers, representing nine states from across the United States that competed in this event on the Illinois River. The largest sack from the tournament was caught by Jason and Ethan Kline that weighed in at 18-09 lbs. The largest fish caught was a 6-12 lbs. walleye, also caught by Jason and Ethan on day-one of the event. There was a total of 788 fish caught, weighing a total of 1403-08 lbs.

The Illinois Department of Natural Resources was on location to assist with fish handling and care, to examine each fish and to take all of the saugers that were weighed during the tournament. The DNR collects eggs from healthy, female saugers and raises the fry at a hatchery until the saugers are big enough to be released back into the river. The partnership between the Masters Walleye Circuit, The Walleye Federation, and the Illinois DNR has helped bolster the fishery on this stretch of the Illinois River and other waters across the state over the years and ensures that this resource will continue to provide quality angling opportunities for many generations to come.

The Spring Valley Boat club has hosted the MWC for nearly a decade and proves to be a great location to kick off the season. A big thank you goes out to the boat club for hosting the MWC for all of these years.

The next stop for the MWC takes anglers over to the Missouri River in Chamberlain/Oacoma, SD on April 26th and 27th. There is still time to sign up. Registration closes on April 22nd, 2024. Visit for details or to register a team.

Under the umbrella of The Walleye Federation (TWF), the Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit is North America’s longest-running and undisputed leader in team walleye tournaments and as an inductee into the freshwater fishing hall of fame, has set the standard for competitive walleye fishing for the past 40 years. The MWC is open to walleye anglers from all walks of life. The 2024 schedule includes seven qualifiers in six states, plus berths into the 2025 Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s MWC World Walleye Championship. Registration is now open for all events. Visit for full details.

Bass Pro Shops & Cabela’s are in their 23rd season as title sponsor of the Masters Walleye Circuit. Official sponsors include: Lowrance Electronics, Mercury Marine, and Ranger Boats. Associate sponsors include: The Walleye Federation, Church Tackle, FishLab, Okuma, and T-H Marine. For more information, email, or call (580) 765-9031.