Last weekend the Central Wisconsin River Series took on the always-challenging Minocqua Chain. Anglers could choose to fish Minocqua Kawaguesaga, Lake Tomahawk, Mid and Mud lakes as well as little Lake Tom. Taking off out of The Beacons, the headquarters of the tournament, made for some tough decisions for anglers as they determined whether to stay in Lake Minocqua and target largemouth, or take the long trip to Lake Tomahawk in search of big smallmouth, which have historically provided the best weights in fall tournaments over the years.
Many anglers felt that, although there are usually several big largemouth brought in from Lake Minocqua, the odds of catching more fish of the quality needed to win tournaments were better targeting brown fish on Lake Tomahawk. As it turned out, however, less than 20 total smallmouth were weighed in of the 244 fish the 29 teams brought to the scales. Only four of those fish were over 15 inches. While there is no state-imposed size limit on bass, the anglers had a 12-inch size limit imposed upon them by tournament officials for this event.
This tournament was the Central Wisconsin River Series Championship, a culmination of a four-tournament season. The qualifier tournaments this year were on Stevens Point Flowage, Willow Flowage, Boom Lake and Lake Mohawksin. Those two-man teams who finished highest in the point standings were invited to the championship. The water was “off limits” to tournament anglers for the week before the championship, starting at 11:59 p.m. on Labor Day. Many anglers took advantage of the long weekend to prefish, or practice, for the tournament, using that time to locate fish and get a better idea of where they might be found on tournament day.
The Minocqua Area Chamber of Commerce was integral in inviting the series back to Minocqua for another year. As a series sponsor, they helped to secure lodging for anglers as well as provided parking in the local boat trailer parking lots. Many teams stayed at The Beacons and were excited to have great accommodations right on the water they would be fishing.
In all, only three teams were unable to bring any fish to the scales during the two-day event. Eighteen teams brought in five fish limits on day one and 21 teams brought full limits to the scales on day two. On day one, 117 fish over 12 inches were brought in and 127 on day two. The day one total weight was 195.33 pounds, and day two saw 197.72 pounds of fish cross the scales. In many instances, day two weights are down as finding fish that have not yet been targeted becomes more difficult. That was not the case last weekend, however.
Anglers reported fishing, overall, was much tougher than usual on the chain. The weather was cold and windy and water temperatures had dropped as much as five degrees in the previous week. Human creature comforts above the water were minimal, and fish in the water were labeled by many as negative, meaning not active or ready to feed.
In most tournaments on the chain in recent years, it has taken a five- or six-pound fish to take big bass. That was not the case with the tough bite last year. Anglers worked for every fish they got, with bigger fish being harder to target. Day one’s big fish was 4.40 pounds, brought in by Rick Writz, who fished day one without his partner Bernie Thompson. Big fish on day two was brought in by Joe and Tyler Hartle and weighed 3.77 pounds. On day one, only five fish over three pounds came to the scales. On day two, only three fish over that mark made the ride in a livewell to weigh in.
The average weight per fish brought in on day one was approximately 1.67 pounds, with day two’s average being a bit lower at 1.56. For the weekend, the 244 fish brought in averages 1.61 pounds. On average, per team, the weight was 13.55 pounds for the tournament, or 6.78 pounds per day per team. However, this does include two teams each day that brought in no fish. Day one and day two, with like weather and conditions, seemed to bring the same results for anglers.
Once all fish were tallied and the dust settled, the team of Dylan and Jake Minch took the win with a five fish limit each day. Their cumulative weight was 21.58 pounds. Taking second place were the day one big bass winners, Rick Writz and Bernie Thompson. The team had 10 fish over the course of two days weighing in at 21 pounds even. Third place was the day two big bass winners of Joe and Tyler Hartle. Their total was 19.32 pounds. Fourth place was the father and son team of Steve and Chris Scofield with 19.23 pounds. Rounding out the top five was the 18.90 two day total of John Bestul and Ryan Langman.
At the championship, the Team of the Year was also crowned. It was a very tight race this year. In many years, anglers in the series have a pretty good idea of how the points landed, and already know the winning team. This year, being as close as it was, made for some better suspense before the tournament. The Team of the Year was Chris Withers and Tom Perkins. They have a free berth into the championship for next year as well as winning top honors for this year.
Next year’s schedule for the series was also announced at the championship. The series next year will move their first tournament to Lake Puckaway. From there they will head north to the Willow Flowage in June, Lake Nokomis in July and the Minocqua Chain in August. The championship next year will be on new water for many of the anglers. It will be in late September on the Manitowish Waters Chain, headquartered out of Rest Lake Park.
Those looking for more information on the series, its anglers and the tournament results can turn to Facebook by searching “The Wisconsin River Series.” Registration for next year for current teams will start Dec. 1. Registration for new teams looking to get into the series will start Jan. 3, 2020.