For Immediate Release: Spring Valley, Ill. March 30, 2014 Scott Rhodes and Jeff Koester racked up an impressive 26 pounds, 4 ounces to win the Cabela's Masters Walleye Circuit's 2014 season opener on the Illinois River at Spring Valley, Illinois.
"The feeling is surreal, it's going to take awhile to sink in," Koester, of Brookville,Indiana, beamed moments after claiming victory in front of a raucous riveside crowd gathered to watch the festivities at historic Barto Landing.
He and Rhodes collected the $11,100 first-place cash payout, plus $500 in Berkley Artificial-Only Bonus Cash, the $500 Berkley Baits contingency, $200 OptimaTrue Blue award, and $950 from the MWC Big Fish Pot for their Day 1 big fish.They also claimed a $1,000 Cabela's National Team Championship Prize Package including paid NTC entry, travel stipend, team jerseys and plaques.
Held March 29-30, the tournament marked the circuit's 28th- consecutive season opener on the Illinois, and the beginning of its 30thseason of team walleye tournament competition. Two-person teams were allowed to weigh five walleyes, saugers or saugeyes per day. In an exciting twist for 2014, this year's tournament was an "artificial-only"event¿with extra winnings at stake as anglers put their favorite crankbaits,spinners, Berkley Gulp!-type softbaits and other man-made presentations to the test, while live bait such as minnows and night crawlers were off limits.
As it turned out, artificial presentations were hardly asetback. Koester and Rhode's total trumped the Circuit's 2013 Spring Valley winning weight by nearly eight pounds. Last March, Iowans Clayton Freiburger and Mike Bisdorf weighed in 18.15 pounds to win the MWC season opener. The artificial-only format emerged this season thanks to a partnership between Berkley Gulp! and the Cabela's MWC, with Berkley kicking in an additional$2,500 in prize money for the anglers.
Rhodes and Koester came out swinging on Day 1, weighing a hefty 14-pound, 6-ounce limitthat would prove to be big basket of the tournament. They also weighed big fishof the day, a 4-pound, 15-ounce walleye. They closed the deal on Day 2 with an11-pound, 14-ounce limit. Their go-to tactic was hand-lining crankbaits lacedwith walleye-formula Berkley PowerBait Attractant. Koester noted that theirhand-line leads were 25-pound-test Berkley Big Game line.
It wasn't the team's first trip to the winner's circle. They were crowned 2007 Cabela'sMWC World Walleye Champions, and have won a pair of MWC Walleye Madness events."But winning an MWC regular-season qualifier has remained a major goal throughout the years," Koester said. "It's fantastic," added Rhodes, ofInterlochen, Michigan. "Everything went right for two days straight."
Heath Bohman of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, and Gordy Powers of Rockford, Minnesota,finished a close second with 24 pounds, 1 ounce, worth $5,500 plus the $1,000Ranger Cup contingency and $300 Berkley Bonus Cash. In fourth place, the Illinois team of Ryan Feldott, of Spring Valley, and Chris Payne, of Ogles by,claimed the $500 Lowrance HDS Gen2 Touch and Elite 7 contingency. Illinois' Bob Horvath, of Mokena, and Mike Thomas, of Wilton, earned $500 custom Rockstar Hitch-Mounted Mud Flaps for jumping 31 places from 70 th on Day 1 to 39th place on Day 2. In all, the top 16teams shared more than $51,850 in cash and prizes.
Koester and Rhodes Pull down another 6th Place finish at the World Walleye Championship!
Team Erie completed their sweep at the MWC World Walleye Championship. The teams of Scott Rhodes and Jeff Koester (2007 Champions), Greg Yarbourgh and Jeff Manz (2008 Champions), and Matt Davis and Dan Gies (2009 Champions) all work together during the season events and we all fortunate enough to qualify for this years championship. For the third consecutive year the team gathered around the "head table" as they completed their sweep of the three years the championship was held at Lake Erie. Koester and Rhodes attmpted to pull off another victory but fell short. They achieved 6th place in 08 and again in 09. Another successful season. As a group we again all qualified for the 2010 Championship field. That event will move to Prairie Du Chien next year.
Koester and Rhodes Capture 2nd Consecutive Walleye Madness Tournament...
Jeff Koester of Brookville, IN and Scott Rhodes of Traverse City, MI repeated the title of Cabela's MWC Walleye Madness Champions cashing in a $10,000 bonus out of a total Madness purse of $29,100. Koester and Rhodes have won three out of the last four tournaments held on Lake Erie for the MWC. Last year's Madness, last year's World Walleye Championship and now the 2008 Walleye Madness again. They certainly have the program dialed in. The bracketed tournament format isn't quite the same as a regular tournament. Simply besting the team in your bracket is all that is required. Koester and Rhodes had 31.43 pounds on Friday to knock out Jeff Lash of North Lawrence, OH & Alan Baumgardner of Essex, MD who had 11.83 pounds. Then, 29.83 pounds against Larry Rhoads II of Oregonia, OH & Larry Rhoads, Sr. of Burlington, KY who brought in 14.13 pounds. The final day required a modified program for the Final Four ¿ allowing only 4 fish per team rather than the previous days' five. That's because the winners of the first round would fish again and need to stay within state regulations for daily possession limits. The four teams remaining fished from 8 am to 1 pm. Steve Skupien of Frankfort, IL and Dave Kleszyk of Oakbrook Terrace, IL had 10.09 pounds to Jay Walsh of Chicago, IL and Dave Gossar of Wedron, IL who unfortunately zeroed. That meant Skupien and Kleszyk were going up against the winner in the other bracket. It was Koester and Rhodes that brought in 18.96 pounds as Donald Olson of Andover, MN and Randy Carroll of Oswego, IL had 15.32 pounds. You don't have to have an amazing basket to win ¿ you just have to have enough at the right times to advance forward. It all came together once again for these two ¿ often within the last moments. Skupien/Kleszyk were able to pull 17.14 pounds (3 fish) for the final round and Koester/Rhodes weighed in at 20.56 pounds (four fish). Just like the earlier round on Sunday ¿ their fish came through in just the nick of time. "All week we were hitting fish just fine in the afternoons, but our morning bite was slow," shared Scott Rhodes. "We were a little nervous about the 8 to 1 time-frame because we'd have to make it come together in order to stay in it for the afternoon round." And with 30 seconds to spare their last fish hit. "We got that fish in the live-well and threw everything on the bottom of the floor and just booked it. I'm surprised we had all our rods when we got in ¿ it was pandemonium getting in on time." But they needed that last fish to best Olson & Carroll. "If we wouldn't have gotten that fourth fish we wouldn't have been able to advance ¿ they would have beaten us with their three ¿ for sure," added Jeff Koester. And the afternoon wasn't much different. "We were sweating it out with only 2 fish, and FINALLY between 4:30 and 5:30 we were able to get our limit and, once again, throw everything down and head for Port Clinton." They made it with a few minutes to spare ¿ a tribute to their Mercury Motor that got them in on time.
"This is a great format for fishing ¿ I love it," shared Koester. "It's much more of a mental game than any other format or style," added Rhodes. "You really have a LOT of stress on the final day. It's like winning two tournaments within the same day and that's just crazy stressful." "But we love it!" exclaimed Koester. Sounding a bit like a broken record, you can read about their strategy at the Northeast corner of Kelly's Island from either last year's event in Port Clinton or the Championship out of Dundee, Michigan. It wasn't much different than this one: inline spinners with crawler harnesses, white beads, #5 chartreuse bait fish blades, .8 mph, 51' back. But there was a little "tweak" that got those fish to bite when they were in a panic that something had to change and they had to get more fish. They stalled the boards. Sharp turns that essentially stopped the baits are what triggered the bites that they needed."Stalling the boards was the key, definitely," added Koester. "This is a really different tournament style," shared Kristine Houtman, Director of the MWC. "It's intense and really made for TV coverage. We are able to get the cameras in the boats with the anglers as they advanced ¿ which means we are going to get a good show ¿ with hopefully good drama ¿ and great fishing." The Walleye Madness tournament was filmed for Versus (Vs.) television network and will air on Monday, May 19th at 10 am and Wednesday, May 21st at 9:30 am. All times Eastern.
Koester and Rhodes Crowned World Walleye Champions!
Dundee, MI ¿ Jeff Koester of Brookville , Indiana and Scott Rhodes of Traverse City, Michigan were crowned Cabela's Masters Walleye Circuit World Walleye Champions on Saturday, October 6th in Dundee, Michigan, cashing $25,000 for the honor. The duo bested a field of 59 teams on a very cooperative Lake Erie that provided three days of calm conditions.
Koester and Rhodes trolled the Canadian waters near Pelee Island with spinners. Their three-day fifteen fish winning weight topped the roster at 88.68 pounds, a 5.9 pound average. This was the team's second circuit victory as they won the Walleye Madness Championship bracketed tournament in May of 2007, held in Port Clinton, Ohio. "Good thing we had that first day basket over 37 pounds," shared Rhodes after the honor was bestowed on the stage, just outside the Cabela's store in Dundee, Michigan. "We ended up needing that extra room." The new Champs managed to retain the lead eachday of the tournament, bringing in 22.43 pounds on day two and 28.60 pounds on daythree. Their day one weight 37.65 pounds was the largest basket of the tournament,although fifteen other 30-plus pound baskets were brought in over the three days. Their lead on day one was 7.83 pounds. After the second day, however, the race tightened up and it was still open for anyone to pull ahead, especially with the quality and proliferation of the walleyes on Lake Erie.The biggest fish of the tournament was a tie between the leaders and Tim Waltz of Williamsport, Pennsylvania and George Barach of Barryton, Michigan. Each brought in10.39 pound walleyes to earn big fish of the day with Koester and Rhodes big fish coming on Thursday and Waltz and Barach besting the field on Saturday. Friday's big fish award went to Burt Willes and Troy Saunders of Menasha, Wisconsin for their 9.60 pound walleye. Each team received a $500 gift card from Cabela's for the honor. Over $100,000 was paid out to the entire field. The Cabela's MWC World Walleye Championship has no entry fee. Teams earn their way by invitation only into the event through fishing the Cabela's MWC season or the Cabela's National Team Championship.
The anglers gathered on Saturday evening for a Champions banquet and the sentiment flowed that this was an excellent site for the tournament. The staff at the Dundee Cabela's did a wonderful job with the logistics, and many expressed their sincere appreciation for their warm hospitality. "I can't tell you how much this means to Scott and I," shared Jeff Koester at the Champions banquet later that evening. All the teams had taken their turn at congratulating Jeff and Scott, with the Championship trophies poised and custom MWC rings nearby. "We couldn't have done it without the hard work of our entire team ¿ the guys we fish with like Manz, Yarbrough, Davis, Gies, Robinson, Seyka, Seiferlein, Johnson and Defibaugh," continued Koester. "And I give huge kudos to the MWC field, because on the final day there were only the teams on our spot that were there on Thursday. Everyone gave all of us in the lead a chance to fish our own fish, and that speaks to the quality of professionalism of the anglers in the MWC."
Koester & Rhodes Walleye Madness Champions
New Bracketed Tournament Championship on Lake Erie
Port Clinton, OH -- When the new Walleye Madness bracket was
finalized, the teams of Jeff Koester and Scott Rhodes and Jeff Manz and
Greg Yarbrough speculated about "what if" we end up in the Championship
round against each other? Being good friends and teammates added a whole
new dimension of anticipation for the bracketed finals. "Way back in
February we thought it would be great to advance to the last round to
compete against each other," shared Jeff Koester, of Brookville,
Indiana. "It's amazing it worked out that way ¿ and it was awesome to be
'ounces' ahead of Manz and Yarbrough for once in the finish, rather
than the other way around." Manz and Yarbrough are the reigning MWC Team
of the Year. They were seeded #1 in the bracketed competition; Koester
and Rhodes were seeded #11.
Koester and Rhodes brought in a five-fish basket for the second half of day three competition, weighing in at 19.85 lbs. Manz and Yarbrough weighed in 19.11 lbs. The new Walleye Madness Champions took home $11,800 for the win, and the runners-up cashed $1,800.
"We really liked this format ¿ the competition was amazingly intense every single day!" stated Port Clinton resident, Greg Yarbrough. Jeff Manz was quick to add "Only one of these per year, please! I don't think I could handle any more ¿ this was intense." The anglers all shared their keen interest in this new style of competition. Facing one another head-to-head was really the key in this tournament format. You either weighed enough to advance and move on ¿ or go home. Talk about pressure! "You really couldn't leave anything out there ¿ every round you had to give it all you had," shared Scott Rhodes of Traverse City, Michigan. Even a nice basket ¿ a GREAT basket for that matter ¿ might not be enough as was displayed throughout the tournament, when a particularly tough bracket held high weights for both teams. It's just part of the format in Walleye Madness. Teams don't compete against an entire field ¿ but rather one team at a time. "Thursday and Friday everyone was talking about how stressed and gut-wrenching this competition was, but I was feeling pretty relaxed¿..until Friday night and we made the final four that is," shared Rhodes while onstage for the weigh-in in downtown Port Clinton. "Then it really kicked in and I was a nervous wreck and couldn't sleep. I tossed and turned all night and my stomach was in a knot all day."
Most all of the teams in the Sweet Sixteen tournament were trolling inline spinners. The winners were using 2 to 3 ounce inline weights with perch patterned blades and beads. Trolling speed was slow, .8 to 1.1 mph ¿ but a faster speed and moving their baits higher in the water column produced better for the duo late in the day on Saturday to help the winners upgrade their fish. "We made a lot of good decisions for strategy and adjustments that worked for us every day," shared Rhodes. Thursday and Friday the new Champions' big baskets were produced from the Northeast side of Kelley's Island, but the challenging conditions on Saturday forced the team into an inlet between South Bass and Middle Bass Island. The fish there weren't as big as the "A" spot had produced. The new Walleye Madness Champions weighed 30.36 lbs. on Thursday and 38.19 lbs. on Friday. But with the challenging wave conditions on Saturday ¿ they brought in 20.37 in the morning and then another 19.85 lbs. in the afternoon, getting the job done with ¾ of a pound to spare.
MWC Spring Valley: March 27 & 28, 2010 28th Place
MWC Detroit River: April 17 & 18, 2010 x28thPlace
MWC Sandusky Bay Lake Erie: June 18-20, 2010 36th Place
MWC Saginaw Bay AuGres: August 6-8, 2010 xx place
Richard T. Gaston Memorial: Brookville res. September 2010 xx Place
MWC Championship Praire De Chen: October 13-16, 2010 xx Place
MWC Spring Valley: 17th Place
MWC Detroit River: 10th Place
MWC Sandusky Bay Lake Erie: 8th Place
MWC Menomonee/Marientte: 53rd Place
MWC Lake Erie Dunkirk: 35th place
Richard T. Gaston Memorial: Brookville res. 4th Place
MWC Championship Lake Erie Dundee Michigan: 6th Place
MWC Spring Valley: 82nd Place
MWC Walleye Madness: 1st Place
MWC Lake Erie Port Clinton: 39th Place
MWC Saginaw Bay: 4th Place
MWC Lake Erie Dunkirk New York: 34th Place
Richard T. Gaston Memorial: Brookville res. 10th Place
MWC Championship Lake Erie Dundee Michigan 6th Place
MWC Spring Valley 5th Place
MWC Detroit River 41st Place
MWC Walleye Madness Lake Erie 1st Place
MWC Henderson Harbor New York Lake Ontario June 07 19th Place
MWC Niagara New York Lake Ontario July 07 13th Place
Richard T. Gaston Memorial: Brookville Res. September 22, 2007 10th Place
MWC Championship Lake Erie October 2007 1st Place