Matt Raley of Arbor Vitae holds his team’s 44 3/4-inch muskie that helped his team win first place in the Spring Classic.
Matt Raley of Arbor Vitae holds his team’s 44 3/4-inch muskie that helped his team win first place in the Spring Classic.
For the first time in more than a decade, the 39th annual Spring Classic of Champions Muskie Tournament on the Eagle River Chain of Lakes had a full field last weekend.

The team of Nate Osfar of Marathon, and Matt Raley of Arbor Vitae, caught two fish to win the $15,000 first-place prize.

The tournament is sponsored by the Headwaters Chapter of Muskies Inc., and was headquartered at Shotskis. 

“The Headwaters Chapter was very excited about having a full field of over 150 boats. This was the first time in over a decade. This great turnout is important because the Classic is a nonprofit event,” said tournament director Scott Samuels for the chapter.

“While most of the money we take in gets paid out to the teams, the balance is invested in the community repairing or replacing the docks, piers and ramps at the public landings throughout Vilas and Oneida counties,” said Samuels. “This full field will allow us to work on more projects this year, and we really appreciate the support.”

Osfar and Raley caught two fish measuring 443⁄4 and 37 inches. Only one other team doubled. Tom Mathu of Casco, and Tim Mathu of Luxemburg, caught two fish measuring 34 and 40 inches, good for second place and $3,800.

“Fishing was tough with only two teams doubling,” said Samuels. “Saturday was clear blue skies with little wind. Sunday the weather was a little better with cloud cover and showers moving in.”

The 151 teams caught 16 fish on Saturday and seven fish on Sunday. Because all fish were caught, measured and released right at the boat, a 34-inch size limit was allowed in the tournament.

“The two largest fish of the tournament were caught at exactly the same time, 2:55 on Saturday,” said Samuels. “One team called Judge 1, while the other team simultaneously called Judge 2. Both fish were initially judged to be the same size at 44 3⁄4 inches. After looking at additional photos, it was determined that one fish was actually 45 inches. What an amazing sequence of events.”

The father and daughter team of Tim and Brook Czekala of Sugar Grove, Ill., 

caught the largest fish of the tournament, the 45-incher, and took third place and $3,100. 

“We were excited to see that this year’s Spring Classic had more women participants than we can ever remember,” said Samuels. “Twelve ladies were part of the 151 teams. We saw many husband and wife teams, as well as some father and daughter teams.” 

Fourth place and $2,000 went to Mark Van Rossum of De Pere and Clay Schmocker of Conover. Fifth place and $1,000 went to Evan and Roman Derluth, both of Tomahawk, with a 43 1⁄4-inch fish. Sixth place and $800 went to Mark Gillich of Arbor Vitae and Joey Rozanki of Milwaukee, with a 42 1⁄2-inch fish.

Seventh place and $750 went to Scott Panko of Wisconsin Rapids, and Ryan Konopacky of Stevens Point, with a 39 3⁄4-inch fish. Eighth place and $700 went to Randy Fisher of Mosinee, and Matti Okkonen of Weston, with a 38 3⁄4-inch fish. Ninth place and $650 went to Jesse Bergner of Prior Lake, Minn., and Kyle Bergner of Mukwonago with a 38-inch fish. Tenth place and $600 went to Peter Blicharz of Three Lakes, and Ryan Wallis of Eagle River, with a 37 1⁄2-inch fish.

The entry fee was $340 per team.