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Illinois hunting and fishing

Father-son team win MWC

March 30, 2009 at 06:44 AM

SPRING VALLEY – The father and son team of Steve “Pinky” and Adam Sandor of Tonica and Ottawa won the first tournament of the 2009 Cabela’s MWC season by just over two pounds netting a cool $17,510. This is the 25th anniversary of the MWC and the 23rd consecutive year that the Illinois River has hosted the first tournament of the season for the circuit, and Pinky Sanders has fished every single one of them.

This year was different, though, with a first place finish and victory within reach.

“I’ve cashed a lot of checks over the twenty-three years, some as high as second place,” shared Pinky after the win. “Kaz used to tease me with ‘always the bridesmaid’ but we beat that this time.” Pinky fished in the early years with a good friend that has since passed away. When Adam turned 15 he started fishing the MWC with his Dad – and the duo has made a strong family team for the last 16 consecutive years. They attribute their success for this tournament to good decision-making which brought in 12.05 lbs. on day one and just the right adjustments on day two to bag 15.55 lbs. for a total of 27.60 lbs.

“There are a lot of good sticks but success in tournaments comes with making the right decisions, and Dad and I have gotten steadily better at that the last few years. You can tell by how we’ve continued to move up in the checks that we’ve cashed,” shared Adam. Both contribute to the process in the boat and work through the options.

“On Saturday we were pulling three-way live-bait rigs with 6’ to 8’ leaders in 18’ to 21’ depth on the bottom side of Plum Island,” shared Adam. The team was sitting in second place after day one and after about two hours on Sunday without things popping – they knew they needed to adjust. The weather had changed, the water temperature dropped 6 degrees overnight and the clarity went from a foot to just 6 to 8 inches. “We switched to pulling orange and chartreuse #9 floating cranks at 10’ to 11’ depth and that really made a difference.  It turned into a fire-drill and we had our five fish spot on – three almost simultaneously. We only upgraded one fish the rest of the day – those first fish that we got were the fish we needed.” They had found the fish and the spot during their pre-fishing on Wednesday, but they hadn’t pulled cranks for several days. It was a gamble that paid off.

The team cashed $16,550 for their first place finish and netted an additional $960 for the biggest fish for day two at 4.76 lbs. totaling $17,510.

Mother Nature challenged the field from the start. Exceptionally high water on the Illinois River 10-14 days ahead of the tournament kept some people thinking the tournament might have to be cancelled. But the locals in the Spring Valley Walleye Club knew the conditions would steadily improve as the water levels came down, and it did, just in time for the 4 to 5 days of pre-fishing before the tournament. The clarity was reasonably good and the anglers were optimistic heading into the tournament.

But Saturday dawned cold at 34 degrees and windy, and the afternoon opened up with 2 to 3 inches of rain to add insult to injury. That evening the temperatures dropped even further and the precipitation turned to snow. Plows were needed to move the slushy wet accumulation of 4 to 5 inches out of Barto Landing before the boats could launch – and it was still coming down as they took off, with plenty of wind in the mix. But the majority of the hearty anglers were ready for the challenging conditions and just got to work on the water. At noon the snow stopped and then the sun came out. Spring in Illinois.  “We don’t mind the cold weather at all,” shared Pinky. “We hunt and fish in this kind of stuff all the time – it didn’t bother us a bit.”

Second place honors went to Illinoisans Steve “Skoop” Skupien (Frankfort) and Dave Kleszyk (Oakbrook Terrace).  They brought in 11.48 lbs. on day one and 14.06 lbs. on day two for a total of 25.54 lbs. for $6,600 plus $1,000 in Ranger Cup and $100 from the National Professional Anglers Association (NPAA) for a total of $7,700.

Third place finish was the Wisconsin team of Roy Vivian (Madison) and Scott Pirnstill (LaCrosse) with 9.3 lbs. on day one and 14.21 lbs. on day two for a total of 23.51 lbs. for $4,600.

Fourth place was awarded to veteran river anglers Maury Schmerbach and Marty Berns of Dubuque, Iowa with their 22.4 lbs. bringing home $4,000.

The top five was rounded out by Barry O’Flynn of New Lenox, Illinois and Frank “the Tank” Zator of Manhattan, Illinois with 7.38 lbs. on day one and the second largest basket of the tournament at 14.99 lbs. on day two for a total of 22.37 lbs. cashing $3,800.

In all, $62,080 was paid out to the top 19 places of the 97 boat field; $3,880 was paid out in big fish cash for the top three fish each day; and $2,400 was paid out in sponsor contingency bonuses for a grand total of $68,360.  In addition, the Spring Valley Walleye Club (SVWC) – hosting organization for this tournament for the last 23 years – received the MWC conservation fund of $1,455 to be used for fisheries improvements on the Illinois River.  The collaborative effort of the SVWC, the MWC, and the Illinois DNR has made a huge impact on this stretch of the river – gaining the town the well-earned reputation as the sauger capital of the world. In all, 549 fish were caught in the two days totaling 1030.26 lbs.

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