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Corey Bohn

Team Berle wins $21,000 at WB Lake Minnewaska Fall Walleye Classic

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Glenwood, MN---It was the kind of finish that makes walleye tournament fishing extremely exciting, and proves that under tough bite conditions, all teams are still in the running heading into Day 2, regardless of how they fared on Day 1.

Such was the case at this year's 2008 Warrior Boats Lake Minnewaska Fall Walleye Classic (Sept. 6-7), as brothers Mark and Brian Berle, jumped from 18th place on Day 1 (1 walleye=3.66 lbs.) all the way to the top spot on Day 2, with a 6-walleye limit of 13.69-lbs. to win the Fall Walleye Classic title ($21,000) with a total weight of 17.35-lbs. (7 walleyes).

"And a dramatic finish it was," said Fall Walleye Classic tournament director, Corey Bohn. "Not only did the winning team take home the $6,000 guaranteed first place payout, but they also claimed an additional $15,000 in Warrior Boats manufacturer / dealer contingency cash after owning, fishing from, and winning in a 2007 or newer Warrior Boat ($7,500 from Warrior Boats as the original owner, and $7,500 from Minnewaska Marine, Starbuck, MN, since the boat was purchased from that dealer who was the dealer contingency sponsor).

"That's a huge pay day for a $350 entry fee," Bohn added. "And it just goes to show that when the bite is really tough on the first day, it's still anyone and everyone's tournament to win on Day 2."

Just three teams broke eight pounds on Day 1. Larry Hogan and Mathew Yach, posted a 4-walleye weight of 8.69-lbs. to take the Day 1 lead, followed closely by 2005 Fall Walleye Classic Champions, Josh and Tim Schoeck in 2nd place, with a 5-walleye weight of 8.60-lbs. Rod Kral and Greg Sadelmeyer, sat in third place, with a 6-walleye weight of 8.02-lbs., and were the only team in the 75-team field to catch a 6-walleye limit on Day 1. Rounding out the top 5 on Day 1 were Kent and Adam Andersen, 4th, 7.09-lbs., and Troy and Felix Eggert, 5th, with 5-walleyes weighing 6.89-lbs.

Day 2 would see the leaderboard undergo major changes, as only one of the top 5 teams from Day 1 would remain in the top 5 on Day 2. Three teams, meanwhile, would come from 18th, 14th and 20th place respectively, to claim the top 3 spots in this year's Warrior Boats Lake Minnewaska Fall Walleye Classic.

"What a finish," said Bohn. "It just goes to show how important it is to fish hard both days, and to continually keep adjusting according to the conditions and the bite. The teams that made the correct adjustments on Day 2 were the one's who climbed to the top of the leader board under tough-bite conditions."

According to Bohn, wind and sky conditions really drove the bite on Day 2 according to the top teams, who all caught their fish in deeper water, as did most of the Day 1 leaders. The bite, however, changed from a live bait bite on Day 1, to predominantly a deep crankbait bite on Day 2.

For the first place Berle brothers, Saturday's Day 1 bite was slow as they logged one 3.66-lb. walleye to put them into 18th place heading into Day 2. "The wind made a big difference for us on Day 2," said Mark Berle. "We fished the same location on Day 2, but made some changes that paid off big time. On Day 1 we were pulling leadcore with a 15 ft. Fireline leader along the gravel in 22 ft. using an orange #5 Rapala. On Day 2, we changed over to a Rip Shad and caught all our fish on the same spot along an inside turn. It really made a difference whether or not the sun was out, because when it was cloudy the fish were outside of the weeds on the gravel, and when the sun was out, we had to pull right through the weed clusters to get the fish."

For the second place team of Duane Kriese and Kevin Beyer, a move late in the day on Day 1 proved to be a big move. "We didn't find the fish until about 1 p.m. on Saturday afternoon," said Kriese. "We moved to a spot where we had caught some fish prefishing and caught two measure fish there, and had a 4-lb. walleye up to the boat that we lost at the net. On Day 2, we headed to the same spot and spent the entire day working an area west of Priest Pt.

Kriese and Beyer were using bottom bouncers, spinners and crawlers along a 17-20 ft. weedline to catch their fish. "We were marking a lot of fish but they weren't the easiest to catch," added Duane. "Overall, we caught 12 to 14 walleyes per day but most were just under 15-inches. We just had to keep grinding away at them and eventually we got our measure fish. Minnewaska is a great fishery, and from the looks of it, there's some great year classes coming up as well," he added.

Day 2 also proved to be a big day for Tony O'Keefe and Steve Paulson, who vaulted from 20th place on Day 1 to third place on Day 2. After weighing two walleyes for 3.07-lbs. on Day 1, the two decided to try something different and landed their first fish a few hundred yards from the blast off site on Sunday morning. "We figured we'd give it a try shallow along the north end right around the corner from the launch site," said O'Keefe. "We took off in the second flight, took a left turn and had a 20 1/4-inch walleye in the boat before the last boats took off in the third flight. We figured we'd give it a try since the wind was blowing in there the day before, and thought maybe we'd get lucky and find a quick fish, and it paid off."

From there, O'Keefe and Paulson headed to a spot where they had caught some big fish the day prior to the tournament while prefishing. "We pulled into a deep water spot and pulled a 25-incher, and an 18 and a 16 while the wind was howling on Friday," said O'Keefe. "We went back to that same spot on Day 1 and couldn't get them to go, so we went back on Sunday after getting our first fish and they were there, and they were hungry."

O'Keefe and Paulson were using leadcore and Long A Bombers in 24 ft. of water and filled their remaining limit with five nice fish, including a 4.11-lb. walleye to secure a third place finish. "The fish were feeding heavily on Day 2," said Paulson. "After catching the fish, they were upchucking some big forage that looked like a four to five inch freshwater drum or something, and that's why they were preferring those big crankbaits."

"We fished the same area on Saturday," Okeefe added, "and caught two smaller weigh fish, but never caught another fish after the wind died down. The wind on Sunday was crucial and it made a big difference in the bite. When the wind roared on Friday we caught some nice fish prefishing, and we know some other teams were pulling some big fish on Friday as well, but when it died on Saturday it shut our bite down, and a lot of other teams as well."

Rounding out the top 23 teams on the LakeMaster leaderboard at this year's Warrior Boats Lake Minnewaska Fall Walleye Classic were: (top 15 teams receive cash payouts, 16th through 23rd receive prize payouts consisting of a Stearns competitor series lifejacket and a Digger Anchor).

1st--($21,000) Berle / Berle 7 walleyes 17.35 lbs.

2nd--($3,000) Kriese / Beyer 8 walleyes 15.40 lbs.

3rd--($2,000) O'Keefe / Paulson 8 walleyes 15.13 lbs.

4th--($1,500) Kral / Sadelmeyer 11 walleyes 15.05 lbs.

5th--($1,350) Vanderweyst /Schoeberl 7 walleyes 13.77 lbs.

6th--($1,200) Yach / Hogan 9 walleyes 12.86 lbs.

7th--($1,000) Eggert / Eggert 9 walleyes 11.94 lbs.

8th--($700) Paumen / Paumen 4 walleyes 10.46 lbs.

9th--($600) Lorentz / Lorentz 8 walleyes 10.31 lbs.

10th-($500) Schoeck / Schoeck 6 walleyes 10.03 lbs.

11th-($350) Johnson / Johnson 6 walleyes 9.82 lbs.

12th-($350) Renner / Renner 3 walleyes 9.70 lbs.

13th-($350) Bjorkman / Bjorkman 7 walleyes 9.39 lbs.

14th-($350) Justi / Justi 5 walleyes 8.45 lbs.

15th-($350) Peters / Peters 5 walleyes 8.31 lbs.

16th-(prize) Hanson / Burgau 3 walleyes 8.09 lbs.

17th-(prize) Gulan / Arnquist 4 walleyes 8.00 lbs.

18th-(prize) Reiland / Tillotson 5 walleyes 7.82 lbs.

19th-(prize) Bigalke / Marohl 6 walleyes 7.76 lbs.

20th-(prize) Svihel / Svihel 3 walleyes 7.49 lbs.

21st-(prize) Carr / Carr 6 walleyes 7.48 lbs.

22nd-(prize) Prischman / Lee 2 walleyes 7.41 lbs.

23rd-(prize) Boraas / Marelic 3 walleyes 7.32 lbs.

Winning the Father/Son/Daughter Division and a check for $450 were Troy and Felix Eggert, who also placed 7th overall ($1,000), with a two-day, 9-walleye weight of 11.94-lbs. Rick and Resa Jenneke, took top honors in the Husband/Wife or Boyfried/Girlfriend Division ($450), with a two-day 3-walleye weight of 6.68-lbs. Divisional teams are automatically placed in the divisions at no additional cost, and are eligible to win the overall cash and prizes. Divisional teams fish only against teams within their division to win the added $450. (17) Father/Son teams and (6) Husband/Wife teams were entered this year. Three Father/Son teams finished in the top 10 overall (Team Eggert, Team Lorentz, Team Schoeck).

222 walleyes were caught during this year's Warrior Boats Lake Minnewaska Fall Walleye Classic and all but 23 were successfully released for a live release rate of 90%. Average fish walleye weight was 1.76-lbs. Day 1 biggest walleye was 5.40-lbs. ($650) and was caught by Burgau / Hanson, with the Day 2 biggest walleye weighing 7.04-lbs. ($650), caught by Team Renner. Of the 75 teams (boats) in this year's Fall Walleye Classic, 11 were eligible to win $7,500 in Warrior Boats manufacturer contingecy cash (original owner of a 2007 or newer Warrior Boat), and 2 of those 11 were eligible to win an addition $7,500 from Minnewaska Marine (dealer contingency cash), if purchasing and winning (original owner) in a 2007 or newer Warrior purchased from that dealership. Team Berle qualfied for both contingencies, to take home $21,000 as the 2008 Fall Walleye Classic Champions.

As stated by Bohn, Minnewaska's walleye population is currently the highest in nearly 20 years, while the lake harbors some impressive year classes of walleyes. "When you look at the DNR data on Lake Minnewaska, the average walleye count (gill net) is 3.3 to 8.8 and Minnewaska is currently listed at 9.0 by 2006 surveys, while spring counts were reported to be 11.0 That's above average, and the size structure of the fish is rather impressive. Average weight of the fish surveyed was 2.09-lbs., while 63% fo the fish sampled were between 15 and 24-inches, with 42% of the fish in the 20-inch to 24-inch size range, with fish to 29-inches reported."

Bohn notes that since 1998, the Minnewaska Lake Association (MLA) has privately stocked in excess of 600,000 six to 12-inch walleye fingerlings in Lake Minnewaska, while the DNR has stocked in excess of 30 million walleye fry since 2002. "Combined, those efforts equate to some tremendous walleye fishing opportunites on Lake Minnewaska," said Bohn. "When you look at the multi-specie component that the lake offers, Minnewaska may be one of the top 3 multi-specie lakes overall in Minnesota. "Not only is the lake loaded with walleyes, but it's also loaded with some quality sunfish and some really nice crappies. When you look at the bass population, and particularly those 4-lb. plus smallmouth that are fairly common throughout the lake, it truly is a remarkable fishey, right now."

In closing, Bohn congratulated Mark and Brian Berle on their huge $21,000 at Lake Minnewaska. "This was an extremely competitive field again this year, and Mark and Brian deserve a lot of credit, because on this weekend on Lake Minnewaska, they were indeed the best of the best."

"This is something that will remain with me forever," Mark Berle said following the big win. Thanks to Warrior for building a great boat, and thanks to the many teams that participated in this tournament, as well as the tourney organizers and the sponsors. What a weekend."

"I'm a little stunned right now," added Brian Berle. "To win this tournament with my brother, Mark, was pretty cool. It's something we will always share together. It really doesn't get any better than that. Thanks to Corey, Warrior, all the sponsors, and everyone for a terrific and well-run tournament."

Dates for the 2009 Fall Walleye Classic have been set for Sept. 12-13, 2009. The Walleye Classic tournament venue will be expanded in 2009 to include a Spring Walleye Classic on the Alexandria, MN, Chain of Lakes on June 6-7, 2009 (permit pending). The first 40 teams registered for either tournament (75-team field) is eligible to be in the Shoot-Outs which are 4 groups of 10 teams. Teams with the Day 1 heaviest weight in each Shoot-Out is the winner. Each winning team member in this year's Fall Walleye Classic Shoot-Outs were presented a $100 gift certificate from LakeMaster. The Shoot-Outs are merely a mini-tournament within the overall tournament that rewards teams for early entry.

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