UPCOMING EVENT: YETI College Fishing - 2019 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Perseverance pays

With a three-day total weight of 26 pounds, 6 ounces, pro Brett Wilkens won the FLW Walleye Tour qualifier on Lake Winnebago.

OSHKOSH, Wis. - During three days of tournament action, Lake Winnebago produced only four five-walleye limits. Exactly half these limits came from local pro Brett Wilkens. With warm water, plenty of bait in the system and post-front conditions, the bite was stingy to say the least. But that never fazed Wilkens, who employed a run-and-gun strategy on the east side of the lake near his hometown of Kiel.

On day one, Wilkens came in with the day's only limit - a stringer that weighed 11 pounds, 11 ounces. On day two he managed five more that weighed 8-5, but he saw his lead disappear to fellow Wisconsin fisherman Brian Deffner. On day three, Wilkens caught three more keepers and staved off a hard-charging Mark Keenan for the tournament title.

While Deffner and Keenan were trolling crankbaits south of Garlic Island, Wilkens fished specific rock piles in the Brothertown and Quinney areas. Each day he sampled over 30 spots, most of which were in the 6- to 12-foot range.

"Today they all came on crawlers, but earlier in the week I caught fish on both leeches and crawlers," said Wilkens. "I'd anchor about 30 feet away and then pitch to what I call the spot on the spot."

Wilkens' jig of choice was a 1/8-ounce Northland Gum-Ball. When used leeches, he'd opt for lively larges and when he employed crawlers he'd pinch the body in half.

"Normally I work the jig pretty hard but this week I really had to slow down. They just didn't want a lot of action."

Wilkens said the conditions today on the east side were by far the best he experienced all week. Each of the last two days he battled stiff westerly winds that made boat control difficult and turned his water to chocolate milk. Today there was noticeable clearing, but that didn't necessarily translate into better fishing.

"I couldn't catch a fish at any of my first 10 spots," Wilkens said. "Finally at about 11 o'clock I caught the first one. I went to another spot and caught another one and then the last one I had came at 1 o'clock. Coming into the harbor, I didn't think it was enough; I thought I needed to get a limit. "

With the addition of optional pot money the 47-year-old earned $17,973.

"Normally this time of year the rock bite is stronger than the mud bite. I knew that coming in so I just kept working my spots. Now that it's over, I'm going to take a break from fishing, sit back and enjoy the win."

Keenan's comeback falls just short

Second-place pro Mark Keenan holds up an 8-pounder he caught on day three.One day after his brother Tom clinched the points title in the Eastern Division, Mark Keenan nearly completed an improbable come-from-behind victory. After catching one 13-ouncer on day one and four for 7-5 on day two, Keenan caught a limit Saturday that weighed 17 pounds, 11 ounces, the second-heaviest stringer of the tournament. Anchoring that catch was an 8-pounder, unofficially the heaviest walleye of the week.

Keenan had a productive mud pattern going in practice. But once the storm blew through Wednesday night he knew it would disappear. He adjusted by mixing in some jigging and shallow-water trolling, but that only produced modest results. After he made the top-10 cutoff, he decided to swing for the fence and return to the deeper mud.

"Tom, Dean (Arnoldussen) and I always fish to win," said the Appleton, Wis., native.

On Saturday, Keenan worked two schools of fish located one mile south of Garlic Island. He trolled Reef Runner Deep Little Ripper crankbaits (best color was white perch) off planer boards. He let out 80 feet of line and his baits ran 14 feet down in water 17 to 18 feet deep.

Keenan's undoing took place on day one when he weighed only one squeaker. But he also lost a 16-incher that day that broke as his line rubbed against some sharp zebra mussels.

"I didn't even realize the fish was on and by the time I did it was too late. That fish turned out to be the difference."

For a total weight of 25 pounds, 13 ounces, Keenan earned $5,833.
Pro leader Brian Deffner waits to weigh in his fish Friday afternoon.
Deffner third

Like Keenan, Deffner also fished the Garlic Island area, located just north of Pioneer Resort Marina. He did some major damage Friday (19-11), but Saturday was a struggle as he managed only a single keeper weighing 2 pounds, 5 ounces.

"I was trolling perch-pattern Reef Runners (Deep Little Rippers) behind boards," said Deffner. "We were fishing over 17 feet of water and catching them in 8 to 10 feet. The key was trolling fast; we were moving at about 2.5 mph."

The Eland, Wis., native finished with a total weight of 23 pounds, 2 ounces. For third place, he earned $3,245.
"In hindsight, we probably should have changed programs earlier. But that's really tough to do when the day prior you catch a stringer like that."

Gilman fourth

Fifth-place pro Chris Gilman plans to troll Thunderstick Juniors on day three.Reigning Angler of the Year Chris Gilman demonstrated once again why he's the most consistent angler in all of professional walleye fishing. After finishing fifth last year on Winnebago with a weed pattern, Gilman took fourth this year by fishing the mud.

"It's called the Winnebago shuffle," said the Chisago City, Minn., resident. "You have to be ready to do anything."

On Saturday, Gilman trolled Rapala Tail Dancers (No. 9) and Storm Deep Junior Thundersticks in the main lake. But earlier in the week he was trolling No. 5 Shad Raps in Butte Des Mortes.

"That Thunderstick is kind of the lure of choice around here."

On day three, Gilman caught four walleyes weighing 8 pounds, 8 ounces to bring his total to 17-14. Three of those four fish came within the last hour.

"We were the unfortunate witness of Mark catching that 28-incher. After that, we spent another four hours in the area. On a tough bite, patience is usually rewarded, but not today. We should have moved earlier. We just ran out of time."

Gilman earned $6,024 thanks to Ranger and Evinrude contingencies.

After catching four small walleyes Saturday, Isle, Minn., pro Paul Meleen fell from third to fifth.Meleen falls to fifth

Pro Paul Meleen caught four additional walleyes Saturday, but they were all small males. Together they weighed just 4 pounds, 1 ounce and pushed Meleen down two places to fourth. The Isle, Minn., native finished the tournament with a total weight of 17 pounds, 1 ounce, earning $5,579 with contingencies and optional pot money.

Unlike the other top finishers, Meleen spent his time in the Fox and Wolf rivers. On day three, he fished exclusively the Fox - working small bottlenecks and attempting to target walleyes positioned on small ambush points.

Even in heavy current, Meleen used 1/8-ounce jigs and three-way rigs with live bait. He also pitched cranks (Jointed Shad Raps) from time to time.

"I fished my heart out and stuck with my plan. I've always said Winnebago is one of the toughest places to top 10 because the locals are so good. They've got like 30 spots and here I am with two. So I'm pleased with my efforts."

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pro finalists at the FLW Walleye Tour event on Lake Winnebago:

6th: Gregory Dekalb of Franklin, Wis., 12-8 (three-day total), $1,893 + $785 optional pot
7th: Stephen Gaston of Montegut, La., 12-0, $1,623
8th: Steve Lotz of Lena, Ill., 10-1, $1,352 + $1,500 Evinrude bonus
9th: Don Loch of Iron Mountain, Mich., 9-4, $1,082
10th: Ryan Jirik of Rhinelander, Wis., 7-14, $811

FLW Walleye Tour competition resumes July 29-31 on Devils Lake in Devils Lake, N.D.

Tags: brett-carlson  headline-story  2010-07-15-lake-winnebago 

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