UPCOMING EVENT: T-H Marine BFL - 2019 - Lake Okeechobee

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

10 Questions with Joel Willert

Joel Willert

In just his first season as a co-angler on the FLW Tour, Joel Willert of Prior Lake, Minn., has found himself on a roll. He’s cashed checks in five out of the six events so far, won back-to-back tournaments at Lake Cumberland and Smith Lake, and now has his sights set on a strong finish and a chance at claiming the Co-angler of the Year title (he’s currently third in the standings behind Gary Haraguchi and Johnny Douglas).

We wanted to learn a little more about the rookie co-angler who has had a remarkable season thus far, so we fired 10 questions his way.

 

1. This is your first season as a co-angler on the FLW Tour. Before jumping into the national tournament scene, what were you doing?

I was in the military [full time] for three years and did two tours in Iraq. Then, when I got out of active duty, I joined the National Guard and worked for a construction company. I was in the military for nine years total. I’ve been saving up for this moment, and now I’m finally going all-in on tournament fishing.  

 

2. How’d you get started fishing in general?

I grew up in northern Wisconsin, so fishing has always been something I’ve done since I was a young kid. In high school, I had a buddy whose dad was a tournament fisherman, so that’s how I got introduced to the tournament scene. I started fishing local tournaments with my buddy, and we won our first tournament and from there fell in love with it.

I kind of got out of fishing when I joined the military since I didn’t really have time, but once I got out of the military I moved to Madison (Wis.) and started fishing again. I bought a boat and would go watch weigh-ins at local tournaments, and it really got me fired up to get back into tournaments.  

 

3. You’ve been on an absolute roll this year, including winning back-to-back Tour events. Have you treated yourself with your winnings?

I did. I bought a new truck and a new camper for the bed of my truck. I figure that if I qualify to fish the Tour as a pro I’m trying to set myself up to be ready, and trying to set myself up for the future. I already have a boat, so a new truck and camper will make life easier now, and it will be a huge help if I get a chance to fish from the front of the boat next season since I could be paying for most of it out of my own pocket.

 

4. You currently sit third in the Co-angler of the Year race. The final at St. Clair is just a few weeks away. How much have you thought about winning the COY title?

My goal at the beginning of the season was to cash a check in every event. I figured if I did that I could top 10 in COY points to qualify as a pro. I really want to be in the front of the boat. Winning COY would be awesome, but going pro is my ultimate goal. Still, I’d like to have a good, strong finish at St. Clair, and if I won COY, that’d be even sweeter.

 

5. What made 2018 the season to step up and fish the Tour as a co-angler?

Going into this year I had the money saved up to fish, or at least enough to get me through this year. I really needed to cash a check in every tournament in order to keep my hope of fishing from the front alive, and I’m pretty happy with how that has gone.

It seemed like the best time because every lake on the schedule I had never been to before. I have been able to learn so much at each event, whether it’s about the lake or a certain technique. So now if I go back to that lake I have a better idea of what goes on or how the lake sets up.

 

6. There seems to be a growing trend of both pros and cos from the North showing out in major tournaments. What about the North makes it a great place to hone your skills?

Everyone talks about Alabama for diversity of fisheries around it, but up here we have that too. You can catch smallmouths in deep, clear lakes one minute and go to a muddy, shallow lake where you can flip milfoil the next. Our fisheries are so diverse.

Plus, the tactics I use up here I use basically all over the South. The confidence baits up here still catch fish all over the country. So, when I went to Lanier and Smith, nothing surprised me too much, and that’s probably why I did as well as I did.

 

7. What advice would you give to someone who’s thinking about trying out fishing as a co-angler at any level?

I always try to practice because there is a big advantage to being on the water for a few days before the event and getting confidence in whatever bait may be hot on a certain lake. I’d recommend bringing a wide variety of baits, too. I usually don’t ask the pros what we’re going to be doing. I’ll get an idea of what I think we are going to do based on who the pro is or the fishery we are on. From there, pay a lot of attention to the pro and where he’s casting. Throw something different, somewhere different. If the pro is throwing a shaky head, I’m probably not going to throw the same thing. Change it up, and give fish a different look.

Oh, and respect the pro’s water. I know what they have on the line, and I wouldn’t want someone doing that [casting into the pro’s water] to me.

 

8. Has there been a certain day so far this season where you’ve had the most fun on the water?

That’s a tough one because I really have had fun with everyone I’ve been paired with. I’ve also learned a ton every day, and that’s fun. But I guess if I had to pick I’d say day one at the Harris Chain with Bill McDonald was pretty cool. We caught a ton of fish.

 

9. What pro would you love to spend the day with on a lake of your choice?

I’d really like to go out to California with Cody Meyer and try to catch a 10-pound spot. That’s definitely on my bucket list.

 

10. OK, last question. You travel a lot. Do you have a favorite snack on the road?

Casey’s pizza. It’s so good. If there’s a Casey’s gas station nearby and I could use a little gas, I’m stopping.  

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