NWT insider report Max Wilson leads after Day 1

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category: Competition

19 seconds ago by Keith Worrall

Changed Jun 10, 2022 @ 9:21am

By Brett Carlson

PRAIRIE DU CHIEN, Wisconsin — Young Wisconsin pro Max Wilson considers Green Bay his home stretch of water, and Lake Mille Lacs in central Minnesota is quickly becoming his second home. On the contrary, the Mississippi, with all its dynamic variables, is its nemesis. He’s slowly learning to like the Big Muddy, thanks to divine intervention in the form of a 9-pound over. And for the first time in his career, Wilson is officiating a National Walleye Tour event presented by Bass Pro Shops and Cabela’s.

In the last two years, Wilson has lost two of his best friends – both river rats. Legendary tournament pro Tommy Skarlis tragically died of cancer in September 2000 and Illinois River icon Mike Hanson lost a brave battle to Covid-19 in February.

“I had two guardian angels watching over me today,” said an emotional Wilson. “They taught me everything I know about fishing on this river. I said just a little prayer to them this morning and it was answered.”

Wilson, the 2018 NWT Championship winner, bounced around after the start before finally settling on a productive spot. His first fish was a 15″ squeaker, which he kept, but his second was the game changer.

“This is going to sound crazy, but I caught the same mythical unicorn on Tuesday. I know it’s the same fish because it only has one good eye. I told her to stay. Lo and behold, she did.”

Wilson’s co-angler, Dan Volbert, pulled his bait through some bumpy debris.

“I watched the staff almost get snatched from his hand,” Wilson recalled. “When I saw it coming, I was in total disbelief.”

Wilson and Volbert’s success continued with a 19 3/4, an 18, a 17, and then another 17. At this event, anglers can keep six and weigh their best five. Wilson’s five walleye officially weighed 16.66 pounds.

“We were back at the start at 10 a.m.; It was a special day.”

Wilson thinks his best spot will only get better as the post-spawn walleye leave the swamps and pour into the main river channel. His double whammy involves manipulating willow cats and throwing “something you wouldn’t normally throw”.

Wilson said there was traffic around him at times today. The good news is that he leaves tomorrow as boat #4.

“I’ve circled this one all year and I’m dying to have it. I love and hate this river. This is a place that has frustrated me to no end. I hate not knowing and I hate not understanding. It’s frustrating and exciting for me. I want to become a complete walleye angler and that means understanding where these fish are going with current, temperature and turbidity.”

While Wilson leads, his lead with two other pros also over 16 pounds is slim.

“I feel like I’m in the right place and doing the right thing,” he concluded. “I just have to go out and get it done. Being in this position is great. I’m not too high and I’m not too low. It’s a two-day tournament.”

Van Dyke second

Retired math teacher and basketball coach Wayne Van Dyke may be more comfortable trolling the Great Lakes, but he’s currently in the running on the meandering Mississippi.

“I figured if I could get the spot I wanted, I’d succeed,” said Van Dyke, who weighed 16.33 pounds.

His first fish of the day was a 22″ that fell between the 20″ and 27″ protected slots and had to bounce back. His second was a 19 1/4 and 30 minutes later he hooked his over.

“It was pretty exciting,” Van Dyke recalls. “This fish was so fat around that I was worried it wasn’t actually an over. I think it was all 8 pounds. After that it was a slow grind.”

The Mercury pro from Spruce, Michigan described his pattern as fishing live bait rigs in current seams.

“This spot can only be properly fished from a boat. What worries me is that there are many boats ahead of me tomorrow.”

Hjelm third

The third pro over 16lbs was South Dakota’s Duane Hjelm, winner of the 2017 NWT event at Lake Sakakawea. Hjelm’s Limit weighed 16.03 pounds.

“I feel pretty good about it,” he said. “I have a few different areas and I capture them in a few different ways. But I don’t go through a bunch of fish.”

Hjelm casts live bait and crankbaits at small spots, and he trolls crankbaits and jigs in his larger areas. Overall, he described the bite as typical river fishing.

“Honestly, I don’t worry about boat pressure on any of my spots. My biggest concern is that I’m going to be walking quite a distance and fuel could be an issue.”

Hjelm’s kicker measures 29 inches. With a similar fish tomorrow he would probably be in the winners’ circle again.

“It’s rare to have an opportunity to win, and you don’t win with 15 and 16-inchers. I might fall tomorrow, but I’d rather win.”

Miller fourth, Osthoff fifth

Rounding out the top 5 are pros Harry Miller and Chad Osthoff. Miller, the Bellevue, Iowa angler, caught three walleye weighing 12.29 for fourth place.

Osthoff, the De Soto, Wisconsin native, is fifth at 11.58 pounds.

rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pros after day one on the Mississippi:

6th: Paul DeVoss of Prairie du Chien, Wisconsin, five walleye, 11:34
7th: Curt Hanson of Mayville, ND, three walleye, 11.27
8th: Mike McCormick of La Crosse, Wisconsin, five walleye, 10.98
9th: Dylan Nussbaum of St. Mary’s, Pennsylvania, five walleye, 10.95
10th: Kyle Brantner of Pepin, Wisconsin, five walleye, 10.76

The final day of competition begins today at 7:00 a.m. local time when the entire field takes off from the Prairie du Chien Marina at 374 Saint Feriole Drive. The final weigh-in will also take place at the Prairie du Chien Marina, starting at 3:00 p.m

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