Diegel, Steffen Win Cass Lake MWC Event
Travor Diegel and Paul Steffen celebrate their victory.MWC
South Dakotans Travor Diegel and Paul Steffen trolled Northland Fishing Tackle spinners and Berkley Gulp! Leeches to victory over more than 120 anglers from eight states at the Cabela's Masters Walleye Circuit's West Division season finale out of Stony Point Resort on Minnesota's mighty Cass Lake Sept. 16-17.
"It's a great feeling," said Diegel, explaining how the team relied on their Lowrance HDS electronics to guide them to the 28.64-pound winning weight. "StructureScan was crucial to the win," he continued, noting how Lowrance's breakthrough sonar imaging system allowed them to pinpoint walleyes and baitfish cruising steep breaks 25 to 45 feet deep in Pike Bay.
"We ripped spinners and leeches behind bottom bouncers at 1 to 1.3 mph," said Steffen, adding that Northland's Live-Forage Golden Shiner blades (size 3 with 2-ounce bouncers, size 4 with 4 ounces of weight) were key. Jumbo leeches-both live and 5- inch Berkely Gulp! Alive! Jumbo Leeches-were also a critical component of their program. "We got our biggest walleye of Day Two on a Gulp! leech," said Steffen. "It was a 24-incher that put us on top." He also credited fellow MWCer Dave Harmon, of Omaha, Nebraska, for turning them on to the spinner bite during prefishing.
Besides providing a critical fishing tip, Harmon and partner Scott Busteed, of Windsor, Colorado, also shared one of their Ranger boats when Deigel and Steffen's rig was sidelined for competition. "That Ranger is undefeated this season in the Western Division," on-site tournament director Dan Palmer told the weigh-in crowd as the dust settled on Day Two. "Busteed and Harmon won with it on Lake Oahe and Devils Lake."
Both of Pierre, Diegel and Steffen headed into the event the reigning Cabela's MWC West Division Team of the Year. They collected $11,100 for first place at Cass, plus $1,500 in Cabela's gift cards through the Cabela's Angler Cash and MWC Premier Team programs, $500 Lowrance Electronics HDS/Elite DSI contingency, $500 Berkley Baits Prize Package and U2/The Oxygenator contingency valued at $160.
In all, the top teams shared more than $40,000 in payout, contingencies and Big Fish Pot winnings. The Circuit also crowned its West Division Team of the Year. Harmon and Busteed brought home the title, worth a $2,262 cash award. Ron and Spencer Deutz, of Fargo North Dakota, won the Father and Son Team of the Year title.
Minnesotans Jim Preissner, of Hastings, and Mike Olson, of Andover, won the Cabela's MWC Overall Team of the Year award with 400.39 points, having finished just ahead of Harmon and Busteed, who tallied 395.70 points. Worth $13,000 in cash plus a pair of 14 k gold rings, the title is awarded to the team with the most points in their top four tournament finishes.
Since this was the Circuit's last 2011 qualifier, coveted invitations to the no-entry fee, $100,000 2012 Cabela's MWC World Walleye Championship were also at stake. The MWC invites the top 45 point-accumulating teams that fished at least three tournaments (including 25 spots reserved for "Premier" teams that registered prior to the earlybird deadline last winter). Cabela's National Team Championship winners, reigning Cabela's MWC World Walleye Champions, and MWC qualifier winners who fished at least three events are also invited, provided they did not qualify through the points race. The list of qualifiers is posted here.
Held at scenic Stony Point Resort, the weigh-ins drew large crowds and press coverage including television, print and digital media. Capping off the Day One festivities, the Cabela's MWC and National Professional Anglers Association presented a Youth & Family Fishing Clinic. Young walleye fans received rods and reels donated by the NPAA, along with NPAA/MWC Future Pro shirts, and tackle packages courtesy of Northland Fishing Tackle.
Walleyes were winners as well. The Cabela's MWC donated $15 per boat to the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources for fishery-enhancement projects. Since 1984, the MWC Conservation Fund has donated more than $300,000 toward walleye conservation in states where its tournaments are held. The event was a catch-and-release tournament with weight deductions for non-releasable walleyes. Any walleyes not able to be returned to Cass Lake were donated to the Pike for Vets program, to benefit U.S Armed Forces veterans in the VA hospital near Fort Snelling.