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Clayton Freiburger and Mike Bisdorf are used to jigging back home in Dubuque on the Mississippi River.
The duo put that jigging experience to work over the wintry weekend as they hauled in eight fish weighing a total of 18 pounds, 15 ounces to edge past Illinois Valley anglers Ryan Vecchia and Bill Elliott (18 pounds, 1 ounce) and claim first place Sunday at the Spring Valley Cabela’s Masters Walleye Circuit event at Bartos Landing on the waters of the Illinois River.
“We were just vertical jigging — vertical jigging with just a bare hook, bare jig and a minnow. We like jigging. We’re river fishermen from the Mississippi River so we’re used to it. We do a lot of jigging up there — a lot of it,” said Freiburger, who added the art of jigging — which was nearly necessitated over the weekend due to the 40 degree water temperatures and wintry weather — required “ a lot slower presentation.”
The victory and $16,000 first-place check came in only the third year competing in the Spring Valley event for Bisdorf and Freidburger, who were in third place after Saturday before adding five fish totaling a little more than 11 pounds by focusing on the clambeds.
The duo ended up hauling in $20,575 in awards and sponsorship bonuses, which were presented in a steady snowfall and strong winds that accompanied the weigh-ins — a scene more suited for ice fishing than river fishing.
Bisdorf joked that he had promised his wife Teri, who celebrated a birthday over the weekend, some prize money from the tournament.
“Happy birthday baby!,” Bisdorf exclaimed, adding the duo had “an awesome support system” back home.
Bisdorf’s said his strong support system extended out onto the water with Freiburger.
“We work well (together) on the boat. We never have a cross word between us. I tell you what, it’s the partner that makes this deal,” Bisdorf said. “If you’ve got a good partner, you’ve got it made — win, lose, or draw.”
Elliott, of Spring Valley, said Mother Nature didn’t give too many favors to anglers pre-fishing early in the week or during the tournament, which made jigging the way to go.
“It was a tough weekend,” Elliott said with a chuckle. “Wednesday was bad, but you know what? Saturday and Sunday were pretty decent. Pre-fishing we didn’t catch any fish. We just got on them (Saturday) and stayed there and we died there.”
Coming just short of first place didn’t faze Elliott and Vechhia, of Ladd, who maxed out their five-fish limit both days and finished with $8,000 in prize winnings.
“It means a lot. This is what we go after. We were a little short, but we’re still happy. We’ve been partners for a long time and we’re like brothers,” Elliott said of teaming up with Vecchia, a Spring Valley native.
Elliott and Vecchia’s best previous finish was sixth in 2011.
The duo of Mark and Doug Hoster finished third (16 pounds, two-hundredths of an ounce), Dave Kleszyk and Dave Zurawski were fourth (14 pounds, three-hundredths of an ounce) and the Ladd team of Tom Giachetto Sr. and Tom Giachetto Jr. — who were in second place after Saturday’s fishing — came in fifth (13 pounds, 2 ounces).
Fishermen caught 374 fish — mostly saugers — that weighed a total of 667 pounds, seven ounces, and will be kept alive to be used by the Illinois Department of Natural Resources to help provide future spawns on the Illinois River.
Only 25 teams maxed out their 10-fish two-day limit.
Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995, or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsChris.
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