Illinois River Walleye Classic: A good beginning

SHARE Illinois River Walleye Classic: A good beginning
SHARE Illinois River Walleye Classic: A good beginning

SPRING VALLEY, Ill.–The jigs are up, and coming.

Spring Valley Walleye Club pulled together a 46-team field for the inaugural Illinois River Walleye Classic Saturday and Sunday out of Barto Landing in Spring Valley.

If it showed one thing, it is that sauger and walleye are on the cusp of spawning. Randy Petges, fish tech from the LaSalle Hatchery, said maybe up to 30 percent of the females were spent. The photo above is of a fine load of fish ready to be lifted into the hatchery truck on Sunday.

The river is in good shape and the weather forecast looks like it should stay that way. In other words, if you like fishing sauger, this week and next are probably the time to do it on the Illinois River.

It was predominately a jig and minnow bite, whether fishermen went upriver toward to the Starved Rock Lock and Dam or downriver toward the clam beds and points beyond.

IllinoisRiverWalleyeClassic03_29_15tregoningPerez_600x450.jpg

Joe Perez of Spring Valley and Troy Tregoning of Peru went upstream and won–“Just grinding it out’’–with 28.01 pounds of fish. Anchoring their 5-fish bags each day with 3-pound-plus sauger: a 3.47-pounder on Saturday and a 3.32 on Sunday.

They jigged in 12-15 feet.

“We were in the right spot at the right time,’’ Perez said.

Tournament director Mike Hurless was happy with how things went, including on Sunday when the weather forecast originally looked challenging (but the winds were not as wicked as the 40 mph forecast).

“Eventually, we would like to build it up to a couple hundred [teams] again,’’ he said.

I would love to see a return to those days when the March tournament at Spring Valley drew 225 boats and had a waiting list. It was the biggest fishing event in Illinois in those days, not that long ago.

Hurless said they should raise about $3,000 to help bankroll the sauger stocking program.

Ken Dage and “Jigging Joe’’ Miller were second with 24.86 with nearly identical bags each day and with their own 3-pound-plus sauger as anchors each day (3.07, 3.12).

Miller caught what might have been the Illinois-record sauger in prefishing last year for the Masters Walleye Circuit tournament. He said it is now mounted and on his wall.

Click here for that story from last year.

Day 1 leaders–John Dalzot and his daughter Jena–finished fourth with 23.17 pounds when they only caught three keepers on Sunday. But one of those keepers was third biggest of the day, a 3.67-pound sauger.

They were fishing the clam beds.

“It is hit and miss,’’ John Dalzot said. “You live and die with the clam beds.’’

The Wired4Walleye team from Ottawa of Mike Hanson and J.J. DeBernardi brought in big fish, a beautiful, fat-bellied 6.8-pound walleye, for the tournament on Sunday. They were also fishing upstream.

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More importantly on Day 2, they caught something like 40 keepers, nearly split equally between walleye and sauger.

One of Hanson’s theories is that walleye are learning to feed on the Asian carp young.

Guy Lopez and Paul Dimock brought in big fish, a 4.01-pound walleye, on Saturday.

Hatchery staff–fisheries biologist Ken Clodfelter (rear) and Petges are sorting fish in the photo below–had plenty of good females for eggs and males for milt from this tournament and from the MWC and Illinois Walleye Trail tournaments the previous weekend.

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