In a year when the National Championship Musky Open set a record for number of entrants, the buzz following the tournament was instead about what happened when the drawing was held for a free Ranger boat with a Mercury outboard at the conclusion of the awards ceremony.
All anglers entered in the tournament are eligible for the boat drawing, but rules state the winner must be in attendance. When nobody stepped forward to claim the prize after Mercury rep Debbie Priepke drew and announced the winner’s name, it quickly became obvious the angler was not present.
In what was a first in the 34th year of the tournament, a second name was drawn for the boat and Curt Cornelius of Green Bay, Wisconsin, wore a huge smile on his face as he walked toward the stage. It was the first time Cornelius had ever fished the NCMO.
The tournament, held August 16-18 in Eagle River, Wisconsin, was fished by 1,366 anglers, a total which blew away the previous record of 1,330 set in 2017. Anglers this year combined to catch 171 muskies from area waters.
Placing first and declared national champion was Clayton Spiess of Eagle River, who caught four muskies up to 45 3⁄4 inches. He was fishing with soft plastic baits.
In second place was Mike Rozgony of Naperville, Illinois, who caught three muskies of 38, 36 and 35 1⁄2 inches. Third place was earned by Rob Jorenby of Ridgeway, Wisconsin, with muskies of 46 and 44 1⁄2 inches; fourth place went to Sayer Larson of McFarland, Wisconsin, with two muskies of 47 1⁄2 and 37 1⁄2 inches; in fifth place was Jeremy Barber of Eagle River with muskies measuring 46 1⁄2 and 38 1⁄2 inches; and in sixth place was Travis Mikula of Three Lakes, Wisconsin, with muskies measuring 44 3⁄4 and 37 inches.
The largest musky of the tournament was a 49 1⁄2-incher by Mike Driessen of Kaukauna, Wisconsin, from Lac Vieux Desert. Amazingly, his father caught the largest in the 2018 tournament, a 49-incher from the same lake.
Bob Sonier of Jackson, Wisconsin, caught a 49-incher from Kentuck Lake during the 2019 tournament.
Mikula and his wife, Liz, combined to win the husband/wife trophy. Barber and his eight-year-old son, Trevor, earned the guardian/youth trophy. Alyssa Becker of Elgin, Illinois, caught the largest musky by a youth with a 42-incher.
The tournament is the largest fundraiser of the year for the Musky Clubs Alliance of Wisconsin, which represents about 25 musky clubs from throughout the state. The event is jointly sponsored by the Eagle River Area Chamber of Commerce.
The 35th anniversary NCMO will be August 20-22, 2020, again in Eagle River. For more information, visit www.eagleriver.org/featured/musky-open/