FLIPPIN, Ark. (May 7, 2019) - Falling water and fluctuating conditions told Zach Axtman that he'd need to soak his bait with a slip bobber rig to keep action coming at the opening event of the 2019 National Walleye Tour presented by Cabela's and Bass Pro Shops on Lake Winnebago.
Ranger pro Zach Axtman (left) displays his first place trophy at the Cabela's National Walleye Tour event at Oshkosh, Wisconsin, on May 3.
Dissatisfied with the results produced from trolling, Axtman settled down on a piece of promising cover and plied the area with a slip bobber rig. A fish caught in practice clued him into what he'd need to be soaking; leeches.
"When I realized that, the light bulb went off," said Axtman. "They were stopping there and feeding on leeches after dumping out of the river. The spot just reloaded. The next school would just come in. It was a matter of waiting for the right-sized school to come through. The key was having enough confidence in the spot to sit there and go through the fish."
His patience and confidence paid off to the tune of a two-day total of 10 fish weighing 27.40 pounds, earning him a $84,614 purse that included a Ranger 620FS, an upgraded boat-and-motor package via the Ranger Cup Program, $15,000 cash and another $3,719 in Anglers Advantage Cash.
His special spot was a rockpile that topped out a 5 ½ feet that dropped off into 7 to 10 feet of water on each side. He credits his North Dakota-style of fishing with his win on the premier Wisconsin fishery, citing the slip bobber rig as a go-to when conditions change or are unfavorable.
"I'm from North Dakota," Axtman said. "[Slip bobbering] is just what we do when the bite gets tough. When the water starts to drop, that's the first bite that gets going. I wanted to make sure I had the bait in front of them for the longest period of time possible."
Axtman said the reality of his win hasn't struck home yet, and was made all the more special by the fact that the 165-boat field was the largest ever in an NWT event.
"To be honest with you, it hasn't sunk in it; I can't believe it happened," Axtman said. "My dad basically stopped being my partner in the MWC as a way to make me do this. To win the biggest tournament in NWT history, and beat out 165 anglers of this caliber, it's a great feeling."
About Ranger Boats
Headquartered in Flippin, Ark., Ranger Boats is the nation's premier manufacturer of legendary fiberglass and aluminum fishing boats, with acclaimed models and series in the bass, multi-species, fish 'n play, saltwater, waterfowl utility and pontoon boat segments. Founded in 1968 by Forrest L. Wood, Ranger Boats continues its commitment to building the highest-quality, strongest-performing boats on the water. For more information, go to