SPRING VALLEY — A new twist awaits the anglers for this weekend’s Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit Spring Valley Tournament on the Illinois River at Spring Valley.
This year’s tournament will be an “artificial-only” event — with extra winnings at stake as anglers put their favorite crankbaits, spinners and other man-made presentations to the test, while traditional live bait such as minnows and nightcrawlers are off limits.
The artificial-only concept emerged thanks to a partnership between Berkley Gulp! and the Cabela’s MWC, with Berkley kicking in an additional $2,500 in prize money for the anglers. The Circuit held a similar event on North Dakota’s Devils Lake in August of 2013.
“These types of artificial-only challenges force anglers to think outside the box, and when they do, they often find unique ways to catch more fish than they would have landed with traditional live bait tactics,” said Cody Roswick, field marketing manager for Berkley and Pure Fishing. “I can’t wait to see what the teams come up with at Spring Valley, and at the MWC’s next artificial-only event on the Mississippi River in May.”
Roswick also noted that artificial-only events level the playing field for all anglers by eliminating the search for hard-to-find types and sizes of live bait. “The same artificial baits are available to everyone,” he said. “As a bonus, anglers don’t have to worry about transporting or caring for expensive live bait.”
Bill Guerrini, president of the Spring Valley Walleye Club, will take a wait and see approach how the artificial-lure only event.
“It all depends on who you talk to,” he said. “Personally, I think live bait and Illinois River spring time fishing go hand and hand. I mean that’s just my personal view. I do use a lot of plastics and artificial baits out there, but always in conjunction with minnows. It’s one of those deals you’re going to make a lot of people angry, you’re going to make a lot of people happy.
“If the plastic fisherman come in with good catches, they’re going to come in and say, ‘See I told you so,” and if they come in with not so good catches, the live fishermen are going to going to say, ‘See, I told you so.’”
Guerrini said the local bait shops, who anticipate a boost in business each spring from the visiting fishermen, are feeling the affect of the new policies for this year’s tournament.
“That’s a big part of our local economy and it took a serious swipe at their economics/ From that standpoint, I’m sorry too see them do that. It is what it is. The big boys make the call, so we have to live with it.”
Last year’s winning team Clayton Freiberger and Mike Bisdorf, Dubuque, Iowa had a winning catch of 18.15 pounds. They also landed the big-fish prize at 3.5.
The tournament marks the circuit’s 28th-consecutive season opener on the Illinois, which offers winter-weary walleye and sauger fans the chance to compete for thousands of dollars in cash and prizes in a professionally run team format.
The public is invited to the weigh-ins, which begin at 4 p.m. daily at Barto Landing in Spring Valley. The Cabela’s MWC, National Professional Anglers Association, Pure Fishing and Zippo Outdoor Brands will present a Youth & Family Fishing Clinic immediately after Saturday’s weigh-in. The first 50 youths will receive rods and reel combos.
Under the umbrella of The Walleye Federation (TWF), the Cabela’s MWC is open to avid walleye anglers from all walks of life. The 2014 trail includes 10 stops spread across seven states in the Walleye Belt.
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