Walleye anglers from all corners of Wisconsin competed June 8-9th on the Lake Winnebago system in the 41st annual Mercury National Walleye Tournament. The 302 two-man teams competed for a title in this fully booked event.
Taking top honors in the walleye tournament were Kurt and Mathew Stobbe of Berlin, Wisconsin, with 36 pounds, 8 ounces, but finishing a close second were Jon Janiak and Jim Demboski of Fond du Lac with 35 pounds, 9 ounces. Third place went to Korey and Karl Sprengel of Beaver Dam with 33 pounds, 09 ounces.
Stobbe and Stobbe (father and son) took home a Tracker Targa V-18 boat powered by a Mercury 150 FourStroke, in addition to a $4,000 check.
The “Merc National” is one of the largest walleye competitions in the country and is held in conjunction with the Walleye Weekend festival at Lakeside Park in Fond du Lac. The festival annually draws as many as 70,000 people and features hundreds of product booths, live music and entertainment, baseball, a five-mile race, family fishing, volleyball, and many more family-friendly competitions. Admission to the festival is free.
“This is a very special event to Mercury Marine and all of Wisconsin," Michelle Dauchy, chief marketing officer of Mercury Marine, told the large crowd at the tournament’s awards ceremony. "Mercury is proud to sponsor this annual event for all the anglers and their families.”
The total value of the winners’ prize package was greater than $40,000. Second place paid out $10,000, and third paid $7,500. The Mercury Marine National Walleye Tournament boasts a payback of more than 100% of entry fees, allowing more than a quarter of the 302-team field to take home cash or valuable prizes. The prize for the largest walleye each day is a Mercury 9.9hp kicker engine valued at $3,000.
Results for Top Walleye Teams
Day One: Anglers were greeted with sunny skies and clear water on Lake Winnebago. Water temperatures rose to 70 degrees, which made for decent fishing conditions overall but a slow bite in the morning. The heaviest catch, a 7.5-pounder, was brought in by Fond du Lac’s Jon Janiak and Jim Demboski. The team was fishing the north end of the lake. Tom Pocian and Rick Rode of Team Mercury, who also fished the north end, had their first bite at 10 a.m. with their heaviest catch weighing 5.5 pounds, good for eighth place.
Day Two: Anglers had to switch their strategy due to the change in weather. The wind changed direction, skies were partly cloudy, and an incoming front dropped the air temperature. Several teams switched to trolling. Stobbe and Stobbe moved up the Mercury National live leader board all the way to first place on Day Two and the win. Two consistent big weights were the key to the win:18 pounds, 6 ounces on Day One and 18 pounds, 2 ounces on Day Two for a total of 36 pounds, 8 ounces. The team was trolling but was not on the same pattern as much of the field out on the deep-water mud. Two rock reefs in shallower water held the winning fish and were the only spots the team fished the entire two-day tournament. The team said the changing weather didn’t have much of an effect on the fish on those reefs, and the bite remained consistent throughout the tournament. Pulling live bait harnesses was the key presentation. Mathew Stobbe and his father, Kurt, have fished together in the Mercury National for many years. Kurt has 30 years of tournaments under his belt, and Mathew said he has 12 to 15 years.
Janiak and Demboski dropped to second place with a two-day total of 35 pounds, 9 ounces, as the mud trolling bite toughened up on Day Two for the first-day leaders. Kurt Sprengel and his father, Karl Sprengel, moved up the ladder for a strong third-place finish with 33 pounds, 9 ounces pitching Berkley crankbaits and jigs at shallow structure – a radically different pattern than what most of the teams were fishing. Fritz Peterson and Ron Heim Jr. finished fourth with 33 pounds, 5 ounces and were also honored at the awards ceremony with the Dan Schaad - Perseverance Award. Peterson and Heim received this award by achieving a rise from 209th to 4th place during a single day of the tournament. Justin and Terry Holz of Fond du Lac, WI wrangled in the heaviest fish on day 2 with a 7.7 pounder. The final scoring for the entire field can be found at https://mercurynational.com/results/
Top Five Team Standings
First Place – KURT & MATHEW STOBBE – Total 36 pounds, 8 ounces
Second Place – JON JANIAK & JIM DEMBOSKI – Total 35 pounds, 9 ounces
Third Place – KOREY & KARL SPRENGEL – Total 33 pounds, 9 ounces
Fourth Place – FRITZ PETERSON & RON HEIM JR. – Total 33 pounds, 5 ounces
Fifth Place – MIKE BORKOWSKI & ANDY BARTHELS – Total 32 pounds, 7 ounces
All boats in the tournament were powered by Mercury or Mariner outboards – two per boat, in most cases, since walleye boats typically are rigged with a large outboard for running and an 8-15 hp "kicker" outboard for slow trolling. Many also were equipped with MotorGuide electric trolling motors. Mariner and MotorGuide are both sub-brands of Mercury Marine.
About Mercury Marine
Headquartered in Fond du Lac, Wis., Mercury Marine is a world-leading manufacturer of marine propulsion systems. A $3 billion division of Brunswick Corporation (NYSE: BC), Mercury designs, manufactures and distributes engines, services and parts for recreational, commercial and government marine applications, empowering boaters with products that are easy to use, extremely reliable and backed by the most dedicated customer support in the world with 10,000 service points globally. Mercury’s industry-leading brand portfolio includes Mercury outboard engines; Mercury MerCruiser sterndrive and inboard packages; Mercury global parts and accessories including propellers, and SmartCraft electronics; Power Products Integrated Solutions; MotorGuide trolling motors; Attwood, Garelick and Whale marine parts; Land’N’ Sea, BLA, Payne’s Marine, Kellogg Marine & Lankhorst Taselaar marine parts distribution; and Mercury and Quicksilver parts and oils. More information is available at mercurymarine.com