One good muskie does it: Young Chicagoans take Spring Classic at Eagle River

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Joe Perepechko with the winning muskie and Santo Munizzi with the winning smile at the Spring Classic in Eagle River, Wis. |
Provided/Headwaters chapter of Muskies Inc.

EAGLE RIVER, Wis. — Santo Munizziand Joe Perepechko clustered around the screen Sunday, watching the scroll of muskie photos from the Spring Classic.

The two young men from the Midway area of Chicago had just found out they had won the annual tournament held by the Headwaters chapter of Muskies Inc. on the Eagle River chain in northern Wisconsin.

The Spring Classic draws teams (139 this year) from all over, including many from the Chicago area. In most recent springs, I have fished it with Joe McCartin, who uses it as prefishing for the Professional Musky Tournament Trail later in the month. Plus, I enjoy hanging out with McCartin and his wife, Sue, for a few days.

I had planned on writing about how McCartin set up his electronics and trolling motor to hold on a contour line, one of the latest advances in modern fishing, but that will have to wait.

Munizzi and Perepechko won the event. They are a testament to what high school bass fishing in Illinois means.

Both came through the bass-fishing program at St. Laurence High School. Two years ago, I wrote about Munizzi and fishing partner Paul Petan Jr. as a preview for the IHSA state championship for bass fishing.

Munizzi and Perepechko are pretty good at muskies, too. It was a brutally tough bite, with nearly everybody downsizing to bucktails and spinners. One fisherman even said he downsized to bass baits. Only 16 measurable muskies were registered, and no team doubled.

Perepechko, a senior at Benedictine University, and Munizzi, who works for Hardcore Italians, pulled in to work some weeds Saturday morning. And Perepechko hooked and boated a 43-inch muskie on a bucktail.

“It was a little bit of luck,’’ Perepechko said. “We pulled up after two other boats had gone over the same spot. I felt kind of bad for them.”

That was at 9:58 a.m. They had 12 hours of waiting to see what that would mean.

“Oh, man, we were sweating,” Munizzi said.

Oh, they caught a couple of short muskies of 25 and 30 inches.

Here is how scoring works: Each muskie of 34 inches or longer starts with a base of 30 points. A point is added for each quarter-inch longer, so Munizzi and Perepechko scored 66 points. That held up when the next-closest muskie was 42½ inches for 64 points.

They won $13,500, plus $1,240 for the big fish Saturday.

As we finished talking, Munizzi said, “Keep writing about [high school] bass fishing.”


Urban Rivers holds its inaugural kayak race and parade (costumes encouraged) Saturday on the Chicago River. More information is at

Wild things

Driving home from northern Wisconsin, I watched fireflies lighting spots over fields. . . . On Tuesday, I tramped through dark splatters of fallen ripe mulberries on a morning ramble with Lady, our family mutt.

Stray cast

The rebound of the hackneyed “takes the bump” (you mean scheduled to pitch?) among radio and TV sorts is like finding out Eurasian milfoil returned to your favorite lake.

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