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Former champs claim top prize at Spring Valley

SPRING VALLEY — The 2007 Masters Walleye Circuit champion team of Jeff Koester of Brookville, Ind., and Scott Rhodes of Interlochen, Mich. took control of the Masters Walleye Circuit Spring Valley Tournament on the first day and added to their lead the second day as they went on to win the 28th annual event with a total of 26 lbs 4 oz.

The duo, who has been fishing in the same boat for approximately eight to nine years, outpaced the field by 1 pound, 13 ounces after the first day and added to that total the second day of the tournament distancing themselves from second place finishers Barry O’Flynn of New Lenox and Corey Blair of Prophetstown by 2 pounds, 3 ounces to take home more than $11,000 in prize money.

“It’s huge. It’s huge to have a couple pound weight advantage getting up in the morning and know that the teams that are down are going to have to make up that weight. Our goal was to get 9 or 10 pounds today and we were fortunate enough to get 11,” Rhodes said.

Koester credited his team’s ability to judge the water, weather and light conditions to pick an optimal bait to enhance their chances of attracting a bite.

“A lot of it is just time on the water. Our teammates help us divide up the water a little bit so we certainly utilize tactics with them,” Koester said.

Koester said his team opted to use orange and brightly colored bait the first day as it was over cast and clown color fishing bait the second day. Clown color bait is characterized by having an orange/red head with glitter and sparkles along the body. When hit by the sun the reflection from the glitter and sparkles attracts the fish making it more likely for them to strike the lure.

“It was uniquely different each day and that included practice. Yesterday it was anything orange and today with the bright sunny skies the first bate that went out was clown color. I use that bait anytime the water is a little bit clearer and the sun is high, that color caught every fish today except for one,” Koester said.

Leading up to the tournament ice blockage at the boat ramp almost forced a cancellation of the event but the weather turned just in enough time to clear the river paving the way for a beautiful tournament as highs today reached the low 60’s.

“Our whole week leading up to this event we had major weather event and that meant the river kept going down and it gave us a lot more clarity, nothing is really floating around in the river anymore and seeing how it has warmed up this weekend the weather change has also seemed to help with the bite,” tournament Director Mike Hurless said.

New restrictions were placed upon anglers at this year's tournament as live bait was forbidden from use in favor of any type of man made lure that could be produced.

“For us it didn’t really matter. We are really not live bait fishermen anyway, we typically never really have (fished with live bait) so that had no ramifications on whether we were going to fish this (tournament) or not because we weren’t going to be using live bait anyway,” Rhodes said.

The new rule restrictions were reflected in team turnout as only 84 teams competed in this year’s event by far the lowest turnout in the tournaments 28 years of existence but Hurless is hopeful for the return of more anglers next year.

“A lot of them seem to like it a lot and then some seem to hate it but it evens the playing field for everyone because they have to fish with the artificial (baits) and that’s one of the reason our numbers our down this year but hopefully they’ll be able to see past this new rule, and they’ll be back next year,” Hurless said.

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