Master angler interviews

CWS Sports Desk


Stevens Point— In 2017 the Wisconsin Interscholastic Fishing Association launched a Master’s Anglers program.  Initiated to recognize student anglers that catch quality fish throughout the year.

WIFA set minimum size requirements for almost every species of fish in Wisconsin.  Anglers can catch any particular species if it meets the length requirements by submitting a photo of them with the fish and a picture of the fish on a bump board.

Over the past two years three high school anglers have set themselves apart from the group catching  over 60 quality species of fish combined.  Logan Spice a senior from D.C.Everest has a combined 30 species caught.  In 2018 he placed third with 14 species making the Master Angler Hall of Fame.  In 2019 he won the master angler with 16 species for combined total of 30 species.  Spice was not responsive for comment on this story.

The 2018 winner was Austin Stankowski, a senior from Stevens Point with 18 species caught.  This past year he caught 14 species for a combined total of 32 quality species.

The third angler is Trevor Engel a junior of Campbellsport.  He has a combined total of 31 species with 14 this past season and 17 in 2018.  Engel stands to break the all-time number for species caught by an individual through this next season.

CWS caught up with Stankowski and Engel to find out what it takes to put consistently big fish above the water.

Both Stankowski and Engel spend countless hours looking at bodies of water and their contour maps.  Catching fish is one thing catching quality fish is another.

Early after the conclusion of the 2018 master angler series, Engel reached out to his fellow master anglers.  Stankowski was the only one to respond and the two have had a mutual respect ever since.  They talk about fishing and football and have plans to fish together.

Not talking about specific locations but talking about fishing in general has helped both become better anglers.   They both agree that catching big fish just does not happen without working for it, but it can be fairly easy once you figure out a pattern.

Stankowski noted “Catching bigger fish often times means thinking outside of the box and paying particular attention to details.  I have learned to use science as my aide.”  He pays particular attention to moon phases and barometric pressure and likes to fish on those days.  Sometimes however you do not get to choose your days and you have to go in less than ideal conditions.

Stankowski attempted throughout the year to get on Lake Michigan to fish and the weather never worked out with his schedule.  The bluegill was also a fish he struggled with this past year.  Being a senior and playing both baseball in the early part and then football in the later part of the summer handcuffed him.

“My dad and brother went out on some lakes looking for big gills and they would catch some big ones then the day I could go a cold front or something would come through and the  big ones would not bite.”

Trevor Engel also struggled with the trout species, particularly the inland trout species.  A 20” inland trout species is a daunting catch and Engel spent many hours on the water searching for one that big.  The crappie on the other hand was something that was easy for him to get on the board.  In the cover photo Engel is holding two master angler crappies he recently caught on his late Great Uncle’s fishing rod.  Engel noted how important family was to him and catching fish.

“The whole process of going for master angler has taught me to be patient and enjoy every fish I catch.  I had a great time this past year with my family going after fish.”

Stankowski shared a similar sentiment in what being a master angler has taught him.  Stankowski has traveled all over the state with his dad and brother in search of fish.   Stankowski’s younger brother Cade who is a freshman has made his mark by catching 12 fish of his own for the master angler series falling two fish short of master angler.

On one particular trip the boys went with their father, Scott to Clement’s fishing barge.  Once on the barge, they were catching some fish but not what they needed.  Austin as he always does relied on talking with fellow anglers nearby.  He found out the key was a unique style of jig.  He tied one up that was available from the gentleman he was talking to and within minutes hooked into a big perch.  He followed that up with another one.  Instead of continuing to catch on his own he took the time to go and buy a jig in the store on the barge and tied it up for Cade.  Ten minutes later Cade was hoisting in the biggest perch of his life and one destined for the wall.

“I work hard on catching fish, but I also enjoy talking with others where I am at.  Sometimes it is a new technique or particular bait that works.  At the state ice fishing tournament I got stuck on the ice with my truck the day before the tournament.  A gentleman on the ice helped me get unstuck and he gave me a tip on where to fish and what to use.  It made a huge difference for me on tournament day.”

Sometimes it’s  neither skill nor talking with fellow fisherman, it’s a matter of pure luck.  Both Stankowski and Engel have gotten bullheads with luck.  Last year Stankowski was fishing for bullheads off a dock in the evening with his brother and had some unruly pontoon boaters get too close and cut all his lines.  The next morning he was casting and hooked into one of the lines which had a 14” bullhead on the end.

This past year Engel was on Winnebago perch fishing.  He was having a great day and caught a limit of perch.   He was waiting for his parents to get their limit and noticed his dead stick pole was about to go into the water.  He grabbed it and it felt hefty.  He reeled it in surprised to find a 14” bullhead on the other end.  Had he waited a second longer he would have missed grabbing the rod.

It is obvious that being in the outdoors and taking on the reigns of becoming a master angler has brought on confidence and responsibility. Hopefully that will carry on into adulthood as they become leaders in their communities for the betterment of all anglers.


Until next time, shoot straight.

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