Brett Carlson

NWT Full Scoop: Schommer secures old-school river win

Mike Schommer Jr. wins Mississippi River NWT (May 23-24, 2024)

By Brett Carlson

If the recent trends in professional walleye fishing are any indication, casting and utilizing forward-facing sonar are here to stay. But every once in a while, the tried-and-true techniques still shine. During the second National Walleye Tour event of the 2024 season, old school proved it isn’t obsolete as Mississippi River rat Mike Schommer Jr. bested a field of the top local sticks and touring pros on pools 3 and 4.

For the better part of three decades, the 50-yr-old Schommer has been fishing tournaments on the Big Muddy. He and his father have experienced considerable success, but the NWT, and its unique rules, brought additional pressure. In this event, anglers were permitted to keep only 4 walleyes each day, and only 1 of the 4 could be over 20″ long. Moreover, culling was not permitted, which meant decision making was nearly as important as actually catching fish.

> “I had the whole week prior to the tournament off from work,” said Schommer, an electrical lineman by trade. “Dad went down to Pool 4 on Sunday to check a few big-fish spots. We both went back Monday to our best spot and caught a 28- and a 29-incher. With this tournament’s weird setup, I knew I needed a big fish – a really big fish.”

While the plan was to head south each morning, the Prescott, Wis., native considers Pool 3 to be more of his home water. After coaxing a kicker, the strategy was to return to 3 and fish rock piles and wing dams for his unders.

> “The first day we got to the big-fish spot in Pool 4 right away after locking,” recalled Schommer. “This was a drop off in the Wisconsin Channel where it would go from 13’ or 14’ and drop into 17’. The fish would just come up right to the ledge where the current was picking up. They’d just lazily sit there waiting, and I would just barely reel the bait through the area.”

It wasn’t a smooth start as Schommer lost a big fish at 9 a.m. and another one at 9:30. At 10:15, his fortunes turned as a 29-incher bit his Dork Rigged-sucker minnow.

> “We fished two other spots in Pool 4 for unders. The first had a boat on it, and the second one produced nothing. We made one short trolling trolling pass and got an under. Then we locked up to 3 to get the other unders. It wasn’t easy though. With 10 minutes before check-in time, I was putting away rods, and I told my co-angler, William Bolden, to keep casting at the wing dam. Lo and behold, he caught our fourth and final fish, a 17-incher, with minutes left.”

On day 2, Schommer started with the same intentions. Knowing the lock schedule, he had time to fish a nearby rock pile. It was a productive decision, as Schommer coaxed a near-perfect under on a jig and plastic.

> “We went to our big-fish spot down on Pool 4 and there was already a boat on it,” he explained. “So then we went down towards the head of the lake. We sat down for an hour or so and hoped the boat would be gone. It was, but a second boat showed up. We stuck around for about an hour, but they never left. At 11 a.m., we decided to head back up with only one fish in the livewell.”

Back in the mid section of Pool 3, Schommer returned to the wing dams – mainly casting crankbaits.

> “My co-angler caught an 18.5”, and then I caught a 19.5”. We had our unders, but I wasn’t confident in getting my over. When I came back up to 3, I was thinking my best chance for an over was gone. I really didn’t have the confidence to get a big one in 3.”

Relying on big-fish history, Schommer set up on the inside of a new wing dam. He threw out the Dork Rig again, this time with a creek chub.

> “I don’t think the sinker hit bottom; it hit that hard. For a 27″ walleye, it was a cow. That was at 1:30 p.m., and there was some major high-fiving at that point. I wasn’t sure I had won, but I knew I’d be right there.”

For the Dork Rig, Schommer said he used 1.5-oz weights and 18” leaders. Most of the unders were tricked by casting crankbaits, either #7 Rapala RS Shad Raps (top) or DT10s and DT8s (bottom). Occasionally, he would mix in a jig with a BFishN Moxi or a paddletail called the Pulse-R.

> “The best crankbait colors in the sun were either firetiger or white with a chartreuse stomach. When it was cloudy, the more natural colors were better. Shad colors and black and silvers were best the second day with the clouds.”

Of the 8 fish Schommer weighed, 1 came on a sucker, 1 came on a creek chub, 4 came on crankbaits and 2 came on jigs and plastics.

> “We were fishing the front of the wing dams in 12’ to 14’. The cranks would run about halfway down, and that’s when they would eat it. They were active; if you were going to get one, you were going to get it within the first 10 minutes. It’s a lot of running and gunning. We fished a half dozen wing dams in Pool 3.”

Schommer would run either 10- or 15-lb PowerPro braid on his spinning reels with a 10-lb Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon leader.

> “That big fish on the first day carried me. We knew that spot just spits out massive fish. They’re all big, and they’re all heavy.”

With the big kicker, Schommer’s day 1 weight was 14-3. On day 2, with better unders, he weighed 14-5, giving him a cumulative total of 28-8.

> “We’ve won a few MTTs (Minnesota Tournament Trail) over the years, but this one’s the biggest one that comes around. I feel proud, and I feel great. You’re fishing against the best anglers around – both the locals and the top tour guys. My dad told me beforehand that I might have the smallest motor in the tournament, and I might be the only guy without LiveScope.”

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