UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - Old Hickory Lake

Mr. April accumulates 17-pound, 7-ounce lead

Mr. April accumulates 17-pound, 7-ounce lead
Pro leader Tommy Skarlis and co-angler Dennis Gullickson show off their two biggest walleyes from day two on the Mississippi River.

RED WING, Minn. - Veteran pro Tommy Skarlis has done just about everything in 16 years of competitive walleye fishing, but he's never won a tour-level event on his home waters of the Mississippi River. With a massive 17-pound, 7-ounce lead, that looks like it's about to change, although Skarlis insists he still has work to do.

After catching his massive 36-pound, 12-ounce stringer yesterday, Skarlis managed a steady 20 pounds, 13 ounces Friday to lead the National Guard FLW Walleye Tour event with an opening-round weight of 57 pounds, 9 ounces.

"Red Wing is like a second home to me," said Skarlis, a native of Waukon, Iowa. "I grew up fishing all along the Mississippi and I am really enjoying this homecoming.

"I am fishing the way I like to fish," continued Skarlis. "I am fishing rocky areas in the river and as long as I can get to my key spots I am confident that I will be able to catch another good sack tomorrow. I am not camping out in one area but instead running to a lot of different spots giving the key areas time to reload."

Skarlis caught two big fish right off the bat and described the rest of the day as a grind. After leaving his primary area, several of his other areas already had boats on them. At one point, Skarlis encountered a local fisherman sampling one of his spots who told Skarlis that he was his favorite angler. Skarlis quickly quipped back, "Then you better pull up that anchor."

The pro leader said he's employing a unique style he learned from river anglers Jeff Lahr and Marty Berns. He's mainly using homemade jigs with 4-inch Gulp Ripple Shads but he also experimented some with stickbaits.

"I'm using a lot of homemade tackle that I created with Do-it Molds. I have custom painted them so they are exactly the way I want. Do-it is located near Davenport, Iowa, close to where I grew up."

Even with a substantial lead, Skarlis doesn't want to fish conservatively on the final day. However, he's smart enough to adjust as necessary if his big-fish spots don't produce. It's a balancing act that he plans to instinctively sort out. Either way, he's eager to erase the memory of several blown leads in 2011.

"My style is either go big or go home; fishing conservatively sucks. But I'm going to make sure I come in with five fish tomorrow."

Bruegger secondPro Robert Bruegger and co-angler Darrell Martin caught three walleyes Friday weighing 12 pounds, 3 ounces.

Local Wabasha, Minn., angler Robert Bruegger caught only three walleyes Friday, but they weighed 12 pounds, 3 ounces - giving him a two-day total of 40 pounds, 2 ounces.

"I had eight bites yesterday and got only five bites today, two of which we lost," said Bruegger. "We caught two of those fish pretty early."

Bruegger said he is strictly live-bait rigging. During a slow bite such as this, he rigs with one rod in hand and dead sticks the other, as does his co-angler partner. He presents this live bait in current breaks, eddies and seams and has no plans to change.

"I've got faith in my system. I know they're there; they've just got to bite."

Brunz third

Third-place pro Tom Brunz caught a 13-pound, 5-ounce limit Friday to bring his total weight to 37-15.In third place is Madison Lake, Minn., pro Tom Brunz, who managed a limit Friday that weighed 13 pounds, 5 ounces and pushed his cumulative weight to 37 pounds, 15 ounces.

"At about 11 a.m. the flow really seemed to increase and the fishing got tough," said the veteran pro known on tour as Big-Fish Brunz. "Yesterday I caught four right off the bat and then I tried for big fish and got an 8, a 6 and a 9 1/2 and then I was done. So this morning I went to my big fish first and then went to small fish."

Brunz's program consists of trolling with leadcore. Yesterday he moved at approximately 2.5 to 2.7 mph but today the current was so strong he could only go about 1 mph. Brunz said he's catching fish in all three phases - prespawn, spawn and postspawn.

Brunz is concerned that the increased flow will make the smaller side chutes and backwater areas more productive.

"I'd much rather have the bite tough. I don't think my fish have moved, but I'm afraid the rising water is making it tougher for me, not them."

Bjorkman fourth

Fourth-place pro Brian Bjorkman holds up a chunky Mississippi River walleye.At the 2009 qualifier held out of Red Wing, Fargo, N.D., pro Brian Bjorkman fished a well-known postspawn locale in Pool 4 known as Katrina. Bjorkman is once again fishing Katrina and it once again is producing. Although his day-two limit weighed only 9 pounds, 7 ounces, his total weight of 34-15 puts him in fourth place.

"Katrina wasn't really going this spring, it wasn't getting the attention," said Bjorkman, who took fifth in 2009. "But it turned on the last day of practice and I caught four big ones there yesterday. Today someone was already there by the time I got there. I came back later, but the bite was over by then. So I went to some other areas and scrounged up a limit."

If possible, Bjorkman plans a return trip tomorrow.

Whitten up to fifth

Joe Whitten has been the most consistent angler of the week thus far, catching limits of 17-9 and 17-6 for a total weight of 34-15. Since Bjorkaman had the heavier single-day stringer, he officially owns the Fifth-place pro Joe Whitten holds up his biggest walleye from day two on the Mississippi River.tiebreaker. But the Toledo, Ohio, pro is happy to be back in the top 10 on one of his favorite fisheries.

"I just love it here; I always seem to do pretty well," he said. "We had a really good prefish and I was expecting to catch about 20 pounds a day."

Whitten said the bite has slowed considerably since practice, but each day he's received a 10-minute flurry. Today it occurred at roughly 11 a.m.

"I can't figure out what makes them go. But I keep working the same shallow 80-yard stretch over and over again. Yesterday I used leadcore, live bait and handlines. Today I used just leadcore."

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pros on day two on the Mississippi River:

6th: Rich Mealey of Westerville, Ohio, 33-7
7th: Brent Henriksen of Tea, S.D., 32-15
8th: Brett King of Claremont, Minn., 32-5
9th: Chad Schilling of Akaska, S.D., 32-1
10th: Nick Schertz of Tomahawk, Wis., 31-15

Lessila assumes co-angler lead

Co-angler Tim Lessila and pro Dusty Minke hold up two nice walleyes and a sauger.Tim Lessila took over the lead in the Co-angler Division after catching a five-fish limit Friday weighing 12 pounds, 5 ounces. His stringer, caught with pro Dusty Minke, consisted of a mix of saugers and walleyes.

On day one, Lessila caught a 27-pound, 15-ounce stringer with Bruegger. He starts the final day of competition with a combined weight of 40 pounds, 4 ounces and a slim 9-ounce lead.

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers on day two on the Mississippi River:

2nd: Jimmy Cox of Bono, Ark., 39-11
3rd: Jim Milewsky of Bondurant, Iowa, 39-9
4th: Keith Keivens of Toledo, Ohio, 39-8
5th: John Mickish of White Bear Lake, Minn., 39-1
6th: Keith Hahn of McHenry, Ill., 35-5
7th: Brett Lilienthal of Brooklyn Park, Minn., 34-3
8th: Jesse Proffitt of Eau Claire, Wis., 34-2
9th: David Klamfoth of Waverly, Iowa, 33-9
10th: C.J. Johnson of Monticello, Iowa, 33-3

The final day of FLW Walleye Tour competition on the Mississippi River begins as the top 10 pros and top 10 co-anglers take off from Ole' Miss Marina at Bay Point Park located at 1429 Levee Road in Red Wing at 6:30 a.m. Central time Saturday. The final weigh-in will be held at the Walmart located at 295 Tyler Road S. in Red Wing beginning at 4 p.m.

Tags: brett-carlson  headline-story  2012-04-19-mississippi-river-red-wing 

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