Big fish and big winnings are on the line when the Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit visits Detroit next month.
“The river is ice-free and walleyes are already biting there and in Brest Bay,” said Danny Bloxem, president of the host Downriver Walleye Federation. “Conditions are shaping up for another great MWC event.”
Set for April 13-15, the team-format tournament is open to all anglers regardless of club or sponsor affiliation. Two-person teams are allowed to fish Michigan waters of the Detroit River and Lake Erie. With such world-class water available at prime time in the walleye’s annual spawning migration, trophy fish and heavy bags are expected.
The tournament features two days of competition, with Sunday set aside in case either of the first two days are cancelled due to foul weather. Teams are allowed to weigh their best five walleyes each day, and the team with the heaviest two-day total takes top honors and ultimate bragging rights in the Motor City.
Last season, when weather conditions shortened the Circuit’s Detroit River tournament to one day, Greg Bliznik and Keith Greear jigged Berkley Gulp! softbaits to victory with 43.49 pounds. The win earned the Brownstown, Michigan, team $16,350 in cash, 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.
“It was awesome,” Bliznik said. “We’ve had big baskets and cashed checks, but this was our first MWC win.” 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. He and Greear went on to fish the MWC’s Lake Erie and St. Mary’s River tournaments, and qualified for a spot in the no-entry-fee, $100,000 Cabela’s MWC World Walleye Championship.
In all, the top 20 percent of the field shared the $58,240 cash purse, plus thousands more in sponsor contingencies and $4,910 in Big Fish Pot winnings. A full 81 of 112 teams tallied 5-fish MWC limits as 485 walleyes weighing 3,047.69 pounds crossed the scale. Big fish was an 11-pound behemoth brought in by Dave Schmidt and Mark Zillges, both of Oshkosh, Wisconsin—worth $2,560 from the Big-Fish Pot.
Cabela’s MWC payouts are based on the number of teams fishing each event. Overall in 2011, the Circuit paid back more than 120 percent of entry fees in payouts, team of the year awards and winnings in the World Walleye Championship. Plus, sponsor contingencies from Cabela’s, Ranger Boats, Lowrance, Berkley, Okuma, U2/The Oxygenator and the Big Fish Pot add thousands in winnings at each tournament.
As an added bonus at the Detroit River tournament, presenting sponsor MotorGuide will award the winning team a MotorGuide TR82 Digital bowmount electric trolling motor, with built-in Lowrance transducer, valued at $1,150.
Walleyes are winners as well. Since 1992, the MWC Conservation Fund has donated more than $300,000 to fisheries-enhancement projects. At Detroit, a $15-per-boat donation from each team’s entry fee benefits the Downriver Walleye Federation’s efforts to protect local fisheries. Plus, the tournament is catch-and-release. At last year’s event, 91 percent of walleyes weighed in were released back into the river.
Registration for the 2012 event costs $650 per two-person team, and remains open through Sunday, April 8. To register or for details, call (877) 893-7947; visit masterswalleyecircuit.com, or email email@example.com.
The public is invited to weigh-ins, which will be held at Elizabeth Park in Trenton, Michigan, starting at 3 p.m. (EST). The Cabela’s MWC, National Professional Anglers Association, Pure Fishing and Zippo Outdoors will present a Youth & Family Fishing Clinic immediately after the Day One weigh-in. Fifty youths will receive free rod and reel combos, and one lucky family will win a Zippo Outdoor Family Camping Package.
This is the second of nine Cabela’s MWC qualifying tournaments in 2012. Open to diehard anglers regardless of club or sponsor affiliation, the remaining schedule includes 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. Cabela’s, the World’s Foremost Outfitter for hunting, fishing and outdoor gear, is in its 11th season as title sponsor of the MWC. Official sponsors include: Berkley Gulp!, Ranger Boats, Mercury Marine, MotorGuide, Lowrance, Zippo, NBC Sports Television Network and the North American Fishing Club. Associate Sponsors include: Berkley Trilene, Okuma, O2 Marine Technologies, Reflections, The Walleye Federation and RPM Outdoor Sports.