Duo takes World Walleye Champ title

ESCANABA – With only two hours left to fish and one walleye in the bucket, Tony Kobriger and Dan Zwick saw their chances of winning the 2013 World Walleye Championship beginning to fade.

“We’ve fished long enough together when we’re not doing well or there is not much happening there is a lot of silence in the boat,” Zwick said. “The boat gets pretty quiet and then you get a knot in your stomach and you aren’t feeling so good.”

The duo stayed the course on Little Bay de Noc, in hopes that the wind would pick up and draw the fish into the weeded “Black Bottom” area they were fishing. Lucky for Zwick and Kobriger the wind came, and with it the walleye.

“When she all came together at the end it was hard to believe,” Zwick said. “We were high-fiving; from a knot in the stomach to all teeth showing, it was pretty cool.”

The high fives were for good reason, as Zwick and Kobriger landed three more fish in the final two hours to win the 2013 Masters Walleye Circuit World Walleye Championship and the $20,000 cash prize. The Wisconsin duo also won the championship in 2011.

Zwick and Kobriger, never filled the five fish limit but stayed consistent, pulling in four walleye each of the three days for a total weight of 55 pounds, three ounces. They hit a high on Saturday as their catch weighed out at 19 pounds, seven ounces.

They were followed in second place by fellow teammates Kevin Dahl and Steve Stack who finished the tournament with a total weight of 44 pounds, 11 ounces. Kobriger said having other teammates on the water was helpful because bites were at a premium.

“We weren’t getting a lot of bites everyday but the guys that we fish with, they put together a good color pattern and three or four good spots to get over your 23 inch fish and under your 23 inch fish,” Kobriger said. “Bites were important, you only got four, five, six a day and that’s why we didn’t get our limits.”

Kobriger and Zwick weren’t the only team struggling to fill out their daily limits. In the three day tournament, the 46 teams only managed to fill the five fish limit 22 times. Gladstone’s Glenn and Carol Chenier were another team who didn’t fill their limit but did start to pick up their numbers after only catching one fish in the first day of competition.

“We found fish in a lot of different places,” Glenn said. “That’s the thing about this time of year, they’re not bound by any temperature extremes, they can go anywhere they want. There was some patterns that we missed. That’s kind of the curse of your own home water is there’s to much information and you overlook the obvious sometimes.”

The Chenier’s caught three fish in day two, and two more on Saturday to run their total weight to 30 pounds, 14 ounces, good for seventh place. The team was happy but noted they would do it differently if given the chance.

“We wish we could do it all over again because now we know what we won’t do,” Carol said.

Jerry Plourde of Cornell and his teammate Dan Stier finished in 15th place, pulling in a total of seven fish for 21 pounds, nine ounces.

Derek Navis and Korey Sprengel of Wisconsin were named the MWC team of the year for 2013, which will guarantee them a spot in next year’s championship.