MARINETTE — For the first time this season, the 2018 and 2019 Masters Walleye Circuit Team of the Year reclaimed their spot on top of the leaderboard at the end of the final day of an MWC event held on the Bay of Green Bay at the Menekaunee Harbor Park & Boat Launch in Marinette on Friday and Sunday.
The duo of Cambellsport, Wis.’s Max Wilson and Richfield’s Isaac Lakich were on a mission on waters that are very familiar to the two of them as they make their way to the area upwards of 40 times a year to find every nook and cranny they can for moments just like this.
After the first day, they found themselves in second place with a total weight of 37 pounds, 13 ounces to put them 14 ounces behind the leaders, Fond du Lac’s Michael McCardle and Manitowoc’s Scott Valleskey.
Rain in the morning on Saturday forced a delay in the event until Sunday, and when a storm like that passes over it is always a toss-up on if the fish will bite or not, but Wilson and Lakich understood that and pushed on until they found their spot.
“The weather obviously changes a lot of things. It dropped the water temperature 10 degrees and most times when the water drops like that those fish generally shut down, but today they didn’t,” Wilson said. “They still stayed there, thankfully. We used our electronics to drop down and see what we were looking at, but you had to drop it right on top of them and we just had to trust the fact they were down there and eventually they would eat. We had to slow our presentation down a little and change up a few things, but they were still there and we were able to get the right bites at the right time.”
A couple hours and five fish later, the duo was ready to head in two hours ahead of the set weigh-in time and knew they needed a big day in order to stay at the top of the leaderboard, unlike previous events when they would be up at the top after Day 1 and falter on the second day to fall down the board.
“Being in second-place after Day 1 has been kind of a curse for us. This is the fifth or sixth time we have been in second place after the first day and this is the first time we were able to climb out of the second-place spot and put the win together. Feels a lot better to move up than down,” Lakich laughed.
Their Day 2 total nearly matched Friday’s outing, but their five fish added up to 36 pounds, 3 ounces for a total of 74-pounds to really put the pressure on the other teams if they wanted a chance at the No. 1 spot, and all that was left for them to do was wait.
They waited hours for everyone else to come in, sitting at picnic tables by the Menekaunee Harbor and watching every team come in and showcase their catch for the day.
With nearly every team in and weighed up, there was just one team left — the team of McCardle and Valleskey who were in the top spot after Friday’s round and were the biggest threat to knocking off Wilson and Lakich.
Coming in with only three out of the possible five fish, McCardle and Valleskey weighed in at 25-06 for Day 2, putting their two-day total at 64-01, bumping them down to fourth place and allowing Lakich and Wilson to walk away champions.
“It never gets easy being in the hot seat,” Wilson said. “We have been there a few times and it is always nerve wrecking because you see people with big bags and you try not to get your hopes up. But after the week that I personally had and with everything going on in the world right now, it was just unbelievable for it all to come together for us for these two days.”
“It’s super fun,” Lakich said. “Just being able to come out with someone who is as passionate about it as me and has a drive level the same as mine if not higher. You do not find a lot of partnerships where guys are willing to push themselves beyond limits that should be pushed. I have always said it does not matter the equipment you have or anything else — heart is everything. However much effort you put in that’s the reward you’ll see, and we put in a lot of effort and it’s awesome we were able to come home with the trophy. It feels good to be on top again.”