SPRING VALLEY — The fish weren’t cooperating with anglers Saturday as Spring Valley hosted the first tournament of the 2013 Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit. Luckily for winners Clayton Freiberger and Mike Bisdorf of Iowa, Sunday was more in line with the fish’s schedule as they took home a $16,000 grand prize, a $1,375 prize for having the biggest fish and $2,000 in additional awards.
The winning catch included 18.15 pounds of walleye with the big fish weighing in at 3.5 pounds.
Ladd’s Ryan Vecchia and Bill Elliot of Spring Valley finished a close second with a haul of 18.01 pounds. The rest of the top five included father and son team of Mark Hoster and Doug Hoster in third (16.02), Dave Kleszyk and Dave Zurawski placed fourth (14.03), and another father and son team, Thomas Giachetto and Tom Giachetto Jr. of Ladd placed fifth (13.02).
Upon receiving the announcement Frieberg said, “It’s unbelievable. I’m almost speechless.”
“We had the bites yesterday and missed a few. We tried to get on top of the big fish and it didn’t work. So, we ground it out in the clam beds. We did what we needed to do,” Bisdorf said. “The fish weren’t really biting, you didn’t feel the bite, you just felt the weight in the water change. I’ve got to tell you, when we put that fifth one in the boat, the 3.5, I let out a war hoop.”
“We only brought in three fish yesterday. We had three of the right fish. We did better today. It was tough sleeping last night, but we got her done today and I’m feeling pretty good about it. It’s an awesome, awesome experience. Spring Valley, I can’t say enough about it. We’ve been here for years and it’s just been a great place to come and fish.”
The tournament got off to a rocky start with 60 teams turning in empty bags on Saturday. Things turned around quite a bit on Sunday with the fishermen choosing a different strategy.
Winning the tournament means you need big fish, but most of the fishermen gave that up on Sunday opting to use jigs and fish in close proximity when the anglers found a spot on the Illinois River that was relatively lucrative. While smaller targets brought in some light-weight catches, many teams hit their five fish limit on Sunday, and most of the 130-team field caught something.
“Today we had bigger fish and they came a lot faster. We had some fish we were a little worried about, but once we put that fifth one in the boat, we felt like it was ours to lose,” Bisdorf said.
“The weather down here last year was 80 degrees. We come down this year and it was a little chilly. When we heard about the storm I told Clayton that it could go two ways, it could turn [the fish] on, or it could shut them down. Obviously, by the way the fish came in today, it turned them on a little bit. The bigger fish bit … I think the front coming through changed the fish and the bite; it just had to have something to trigger the bite.
“Everybody came in with full baskets, there were 60 zeros yesterday. Today there were a lot less. There were a lot more fish caught. Everybody got on the same program that we did, the jigging program.”
Whether it was the jigs or the snow, or a combination of each, Sunday was a much better day for the MWC’s season opener as the number of empty buckets decreased more than 50 percent. Bisdorf also said something that local fishermen might want to pay attention to, “I think in the next week you’re going to see (the walleye fishing) blow up down here.”