The Masters Walleye Circuit (MWC) recently changed the criteria for qualifying for their yearly championship. To the MWC's credit they listened to their anglers who felt the system was unfair. For those who are unfamiliar with the MWC there are three divisions. The prior rules stated that you had to fish all three tournaments in your division with each team getting points based on their performance. Each division was allotted a certain amount of teams, based on points (think Nascar), who would qualify for the championship.
Without getting two specific there were two major issues. One was how points were calculated which came about after a tournament on the IL River where only four fish were caught by 200 teams (400 anglers). The other, many felt the Central Division, which had more anglers, received an unfair amount of "championship berths".
The MWC changed how they calculate points and also allowed anglers to fish any three tournaments to qualify for the championship, not just the ones in a specific division. You can find out more by reading their press release http://masterswalleyecircuit.com/Headlines/tabid/161/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/29/Cabelas-MWC-Revises-World-Championship-Qualifications.aspx.
I am not a big fan of politics and since I listen to WIFM (What's In it For Me) I wanted to see how the rule change affects me and my fishing partner 'Ol Shooter. One of the biggest changes is going to happen to the only tournament 'Ol Shooter and I will fish, the Central Division Opener on the Illinois River. Prior to the changes teams also could qualify by fishing all three tournaments in their division along with the Challenge tournament which was always the IL River. This brought in additional anglers from the East Division and more recently the new West division. This helped make it one of the most attended tournaments on the circuit. This rule change looks like it will reduce the field as some will choose another "challenge" tournament while others might skip it all together and fish a tournament closer to home in another division. The question is does a smaller field increase our chances?
Shooter and I have fished the last four MWC tournaments on the IL River. The first year we had to enter a lottery just to be one of the 220 teams. The numbers dwindled down to 100 in 2009 and rebounded to 160 last year. I think this year the MWC will be lucky to get 100 anglers. If that is the case, just by the numbers, our chances are better. However, regardless of the number of anglers we are going to have to catch big saugers to win. I expect the winning weight to be similar to the last couple of years. The weight is always going to be dependent on the river conditions. However, with fewer fisherman the fish will be less pressured which could lead to bigger weights for the teams that find the big, female, saugers. Regardless of numbers, this tournament will be loaded with good fisherman including local legends.
I would love to see 220 teams again but that does not look like reality. If the number of teams are down we think we can find a few spots that nobody else is fishing and make a milk run of those spots along with the "community" spots. This is a tournament that we have had a chance to win in the past and one that we think we can win. If the number is 2 or 220 we are going to fish to win! I can't wait!