Fishing & Boating News

Bilbrey & Keep Win Mercury Marine`s Summer Challenge

by: Duane Landmeir, PR Mgr,

The Winners
Photo by courtesy PMTT
Big Fish
Photo by courtesy PMTT
(Jun 28, 2017 - Eagle River Chain of Lakes)

The Eagle River Chain of Lakes lived up to its reputation of being a musky fishery known for having large numbers of fish on June 24th & 25th as the Professional Musky Tournament Trail converged on the chain of lake for the Mercury Marine’s Summer Challenge Some of the best anglers in North America took part in the annual tournament hosted by the Eagle River Area Chamber of Commerce.

The musky fishing turned out to be phenomenal with a one day record being set with 59 registered on Saturday and a total of 78 for the tournament. Everything fell into place for the Mercury Marine event as the water temperature was perfect at 68 degrees and overcast skies most the time. With cool air temperatures, it also kept the pleasure boaters off the lakes which somewhat could have also made a factor for better fishing.

Many of the near full field at 125 teams found some great techniques and put together patterns to catch the elusive muskies at Eagle River. The two anglers that found the best one was Troy Bilbrey of Wyoming, Minnesota and Dalton Keep of Scandia, Minnesota. These two anglers trolled bucktails in five to seven feet of water just off the weedline and first breakline. Last year the state of Wisconsin opened trolling up to the lakes, in which Bilbrey and Keep figured they always wanted to try trolling on the Eagle River Chain and it paid off. The two anglers caught muskies that were 37.50, 38.25 and 40 inches which was enough to crown them champions of the Mercury Marine`s Summer Challenge and take home the 1st place hardware and almost $20,000 for their efforts. They also won the coveted Ranger Cup for an additional $1,000 bonus for the top Ranger Boat owner winning the event.

In second place were two local guides Brian Blettner and Tyler Maney of Three Lakes, Wisconsin. The two anglers were on the stage telling their secret to success. They were trolling larger walleye sized Husky Jerk crankbaits with larger hooks that they attached for better hooking percentage. They were moving the boat four miles per hour while working rock and mud flats. These two anglers were generally not trollers since Wisconsin had been a casting state for many years until trolling became legal. They tried their technique on the other lakes they fish and started to catch muskies and they boated three that measured 35, 39.75 and 40.50 inches.

In third place were the father and son team of Jason and Joey Summers of Lino Lakes, Minnesota. Jason a long-time participant of the PMTT has had great success over the years by winning PMTT events and even being on the top gun team of the year. He is passing his knowledge along to his son Joey who is only 12 years of age. Joey reeled in four muskies while he and his dad were trolling that measured 32.50, 33, 35.75 and 36.25 inches and were all caught by 10:00 A.M. on Saturday. It was the young man’s first muskies ever caught and he did it with his dad during a Professional Musky Tournament Trail event.

In Fourth place were Mark Lijewski of Minocqua, Wisconsin and Jeff Piazza of Lake Tomahawk, Wisconsin. These two perennial winning anglers caught some musky casting and some trolling on perch colored crank baits. The big fish of the tournament was a beautiful 45.50-inch Tiger(Hybrid) Musky that was caught by Lijewski and Piazza to go with their two 32 inch fish. Rounding out the top five were Nick Kost of Bemidji, Minnesota and Chris Padrnos of Brainard, Minnesota. These two anglers caught muskies that were 32.50, 37 and 39.25 inches. Kost and Padrnos pattern was slow trolling crank baits off the break lines and in open water.

Tournament Director Tim Widlacki thanked all the PMTT`s fantastic sponsors especially Mercury Marine for sponsoring the tournament and Eagle River Area Chamber of Commerce for hosting the event and the great hospitality they have given us for many years. Also, Ranger Boats, Musky Hunter magazine, Keyes Outdoors, Musky Mayhem Tackle, Chaos Tackle, Muskies Inc., Vitaminerals, all the associate and contributing sponsors. Please let these fine people know that you appreciate their promotional efforts in support of freshwater's most challenging fish and those extreme anglers who chase her on the first, best and only truly national Professional Musky Tournament Trail circuit, the PMTT.

Our next event will be the Musky Hunter Magazine`s Fall Meltdown on Cass Lake August 25-26 in Cass Lake, Minnesota.

To obtain more information on becoming a member of the PMTT, or to view event photo album, please visit them on the web at or call the PMTT office at 815-478-4092.

Top 3 Teams
Photo by courtesy PMTT