SPRING VALLEYCabelas Masters Walleye Circuit begins March 27-28 with the Lindy Legendary Tackle Team Tournament on the Illinois River at Spring Valley.
This is the 18th consecutive year that the Spring Valley Walleye Club is hosting the event. The 220-team field filled in one day with a sizable waiting list. Teams will be competing for more than $107,000 in cash with over $28,000 going to the winners.
At first glance, newcomers to the Illinois River find it hard to believe the off-colored, barge-filled waterway is considered the finest sauger fishery in North America. It surrenders its share of walleyes as well.
Illinois DNR biologist Mike Cochran oversees the fishery and credits the Clean Water Act of 1973 with improving the water quality on the Illinois. The result, he states, is a river that can support large numbers of forage fish upon which sauger, walleye and other game fish feast. Predators get fat on shad, emerald shiners and other minnows. Four-pound saugers are common to the system.
Thanks to the DNRs annual fish stocking program, which is augmented by the gathering of eggs and sperm from tournament-caught fish and supported by monetary donations from the SVWC as well as the MWC Conservation Fund, the future remains bright for this prolific fish-producing body of water.
Last years event was won by John Broncato of Coal City and Mark Meravy of Shorewood with a nine-fish catch totaling 31.56 pounds. They quick-trolled three-way rigs upriver between 10 and 12 feet of water along the main channel lip, downstream from the clam bed area. Their rigs consisted of minnow-imitating crankbaits on a 40-inch leader. They also used 1 to 1-1/4-ounce jigs tipped with plastic baits on an 8-inch dropper.
Unlike most major rivers such as the Mississippi, the Illinois lacks wing dams, closing dams and riprap shorelines, which serve as fish-holding current breaks. The Starved Rock Dam is the most visible river structure lying within tournament boundaries which end at the Henry Bridge, but angler boat traffic below the dam can be gunnel to gunnel.
The downriver side of bridge abutments, barge-docking facilities, barges tied-off at the bank, or anything that breaks the rivers flow will create a fish-holding eddy.
Besides the dam area, tournament hot spots include the mouth of the Vermilion River, Peru flats, DePue clam beds and the Hennepin flats. Hot lures include Lindy Techni-Glo and Electric Fuzz-E-Grub jigs tipped with minnows and Cotton Cordell Grappler Shad crankbaits.
Daily, Illinois River fishing and water conditions are posted on the SVWC Web site, www.spring-valley-walleye.org. Local tournament director, Mike Hurless, may be reached at (815) 664-5487. Further tournament information can be obtained at www.masterswalleyecircuit.com, or by calling the MWC toll-free at (877) 893-7947.