Walleye Team Completes Stunning Comeback

walleye fishing tournament
Brett Cournoyer and Robert Peters pose with their winnings.

First-time Cabela's Masters Walleye Circuit anglers Brett Cournoyer and Robert Peters etched their names in tournament history with a come-from-behind victory at the MWC's Mississippi River Central Division Qualifier on Pools 3 and 4 out of Lake City, Minnesota.

Their monstrous 57.98-pound, 10-fish MWC limit earned a $12,180 first-place check, along with a $1,000 Cabela's gift card through the Cabela's Angler Cash program, $500 Berkley Baits Prize Package, $500 Lowrance Electronics HDS/Elite DSI and third-place Big Fish Pot bonuses, plus a brand-new wireless trolling motor from presenting sponsor MotorGuide.

"It's unbelievable, and a great honor to fish with these MWC pros," said Cournoyer, of Oakdale, Minnesota, moments after the team vaulted from 12th place on Day One to the winner's circle in a dramatic finish on the MWC stage in front of a roaring Lake City crowd gathered on the banks of Lake Pepin at scenic McCahill Memorial Park.

Last to weigh in, he and Peters, of White Bear Lake, edged fellow Minnesotans James Preissner, of Hastings, and Mike Olson, of Andover, from atop the leaderboard in a stunning finale to the two-day event. Preissner and Olson placed second with 50.27 pounds, good for $5,660 in cash plus $1,000 Ranger Cup, Oxygenator/U2 and $500 first-place Cabela's MWC Premier Team bonuses.

"This feels great," added Peters. "I've wanted to fish against these great competitors in a tournament my whole life." The pair pulled three-way rigs tipped with a deadly mix of Berkley Gulp! Leeches, Gulp! Crawlers and livebait on size 6 hooks. They ran 2-foot droppers with 2- to 3-ounce bell sinkers, and 40-inch green 10-pound Berkley Trilene XL snells. Both mainline and the dropper were 14/6 Berkley FireLine.

They trolled .6 to .7 mph with their bowmount, watching their Lowrance HDS-7 sonar/GPS chartplotter to follow key channel-edge contours in the 8- to 15-foot range. "We targeted late spawners at the head of Lake Pepin," said Cournoyer, adding, "The Lowrance StructureScan really let us see the baitfish and big walleyes."

In all, the top 14 teams shared a $46,800 payout plus Big Fish Pot and sponsor contingencies. Sixth-place finishers Robert Apple, of Chadwick, Illinois, and Brad Linton, of Rock Falls, Illinois, nabbed the $300 Worldwide Marine Insurance bonus for being the highest-placing team signed up for a free quote from Worldwide.

The mighty Mississippi yielded 488 walleyes weighing a total of 1,494.7 pounds. The event was a harvest tournament by Minnesota Department of Natural Resources regulations, and the walleyes were donated to the Frontenac Sportsman's Club, which cleaned the fish and in turn donated the catch to the local food shelf. The Frontenac club hosted the event and supplied much-needed volunteers. In other charitable news, the MWC Conservation Fund donated $15 per boat for a total of $1,080 to benefit the club's conservation projects. To date, the MWC has donated more than $275,000 to fisheries conservation in states where its tournaments are held.

Following Friday's weigh-in, the MWC and National Professional Anglers Association presented a Youth & Family Fishing Clinic, giving away great gifts including 50 free rods and reels, along with tackle packages courtesy of Northland Fishing Tackle, a bike donated by Ike's Bait and Tackle of Red Wing, and two tackle packages from Four Seasons Sports in Red Wing.

This is the second stop for the MWC Central Division. The remaining tournament will be held on Bays de Noc at Escanaba, Michigan, August 5-7, in conjunction with the Cabela's National Team Championship. The MWC's 2011 trail is open to all anglers, and is comprised of nine qualifiers in three divisions. Anglers fishing at least three events (from any division) accumulate points toward a berth in the no-entry-fee, $100,000 Cabela's MWC World Walleye Championship; teams fishing four events are in the running for overall MWC Team of the Year honors and a $13,000 cash prize.

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