Warmer-than-normal water temperatures resulted in a relatively slow musky bite, yet Steve Klesmith of Wisconsin Rapids prevailed with four muskies to win the National Championship Musky Open in Eagle River, Wisconsin, during the weekend of August 17-19.
The NCMO is the largest musky tournament in the country and drew 1,308 anglers this year, down slightly from the record 1,330 who fished it in 2017. Contestants combined to catch 131 muskies this year.
Klesmith, of Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin, caught muskies measuring 44, 39, 38 3/4 and 37 inches. He was the only angler in the field to catch four muskies. Klesmith and his wife, Becky, won the Husband/Wife Trophy with his four fish.
Placing second in the NCMO was Jared Adamovich of Eagle River, Wisconsin, who caught three muskies measuring 42 1/4, 38 1/2 and 35 1/2 inches.
In third was Josh Schulta of Jackson, Wisconsin, who caught three muskies measuring 42 3/4, 37 1/4 and 34 inches.
Mike Flynn of Iron Mountain, Michigan, caught three muskies of 39, 34 and 34 inches to place fourth; Todd Klingaman of Eagle River, Wisconsin, caught muskies of 47 1/2 and 39 inches to place fifth; and sixth place was earned by Scott Vanderventer Sr. of Crestwood, Kentucky, who caught muskies measuring 43 and 41 1/2 inches.
Adamovich’s catch, combined with muskies of 39 1/4 and 36 1/2 inches caught by Jack Schnaubelt of Green Bay, Wisconsin, earned the Guardian/Youth Trophy for the pair. Jack also won the Youth Trophy.
The largest musky of the NCMO was a 49-incher caught by Jerry Driessen of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, from Lac Vieux Desert on a topwater. Jeremy Cibulka of Gillett, Wisconsin, caught a 47 1/2-incher from Kentuck Lake on a jerkbait.
The weekend features drawings for two fully-rigged Ranger boats with Mercury outboards, with one boat given to an angler entered in the tournament and the second to a purchaser of a raffle ticket in advance of the tournament. Philip Ness of Hales Corners, Wisconsin, won the tournament boat, and Mark Lewis of Nekoosa, Wisconsin, won the raffle boat.
The NCMO is the single largest fundraiser for the Musky Clubs Alliance of Wisconsin, which represents about two dozen musky clubs throughout the state. All money raised by the tournament is put back into the state’s musky fishery. The tournament is run jointly by the Alliance and the Eagle River Area Chamber of Commerce.
This year’s tournament drew anglers from 13 states as well as Germany. No prize money is awarded, but trophies are given to the top fishermen.