Kansas teams take first and second under tough conditions

One of the most challenging tournaments in the 25-year history Cabela's Masters Walleye Circuit (MWC) was held on Lake Oahe in South Dakota May 2-3. High muddy water, a late spring that delayed spawn, and a smelt run all contributed to conditions that challenged the 61-team field. But two rookie Kansas anglers persevered and won the event with a winning weight of 15.72 pounds for three fish. For Kansans Jim Perry, McLouth, and Aaron Wagner, Oskaloosa, their first Cabela’s MWC tournament was especially rewarding. The MWC victory netted the team $13,188 in prize money plus a $200 Oxygenator and $100 from the National Professional Anglers Association (NPAA).

“It’s unbelievable,” said Jim Perry. “It still hasn’t sunk in.”

Perry is married to Wagner’s cousin and introduced Perry to fishing at the age of eight. Wagner is now 39, so as a team of anglers, they are seasoned despite their new arrival on the walleye tour. In addition to winning the tournament, they caught the event's biggest fish, weighing 8.52 pounds, for a $488 bonus.

“We got our first fish about 1 p.m., and then the 8 ½-pounder about an hour later,” Perry said. “That’s the biggest walleye I’ve ever caught in my life. It was a thrill.” With the South Dakota regulation of two fish over 20 inches allowed per team, they had to return their third fish, caught about 2:30, to the water. This was a heartbreaker, but they went back on Sunday in hopes of finding it again.

Their strategy was to troll as shallow as they could get. Perry and Wagner credited Kansas friends and fellow tournament competitors Guy Ryan and Troy Ethridge, both of Salina, for finding a spot early in the week. “We just stayed off it and hoped it was still going to hold fish come the weekend,” Perry explained. “It made us sweat, though, because we didn’t get our fish either day until after 1 p.m.”

The winners only boated one small fish on Sunday for 1.8 pounds, but it gave them a total weight 1.4 pounds heavier than that of their friends Ryan and Ethridge. The Salina team boated three fish for 12.72 pounds on day one and one fish for 1.6 pounds on day two -- a total of 14.32 pounds. Second placed netted a $5,700 prize and a $1,000 Ranger Cup bonus for a total of $6,700.

The conditions may have been rough, but it was a good weekend for Kansas anglers.