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Smile Blade Aids Ragotzkie's 3rd Place NWT Finish

Smile Blade Aids Ragotzkie's 3rd Place NWT Finish

By Britton Ransford 

Classic lures, big results – it’s a saying you’ll see hear often in the Mack’s Lure community.

At last weekend’s Bass Pro Shops & Cabela’s National Walleye Tour (NWT) presented by Progressive on Lake Francis Case in Wagner, South Dakota that saying held true as professional angler and Blue Ribbon Outdoors owner Austin Ragotzkie of Edgerton, Wisconsin took home third place and a well-deserved $18,300 check after pulling Mack’s Lure Smile Blade Slow Death rigs.

Austin Ragotzkie Finishes Third on National Walleye Tour Using Smile Blades

Ragotzkie’s total weight was 25.12 pounds for the two-day tournament. Duane Hjelm finished first with 27.10 pounds while Dylan Nussbaum walked away with second place weighing in at 26.09 pounds.

“Our practice was really good,” Ragotzkie, who was fishing the Missouri River system for just the second time, told NWT in a post tournament interview. “I’ve never been to this part of the lake before, but I kind of knew the fish here liked rigging, so I feel like we came prepared and our pre-fish was awesome, catching 40 to 60 fish a day.

“For us, what worked the best was pulling Smile Blades – really tiny Smile Blades (0.8) with just a half of a crawler on a slow death hook with a 1- or 2-ounce bouncer. We tried casting, pitching, trolling cranks, jigging a crawler – and it all worked as we caught fish doing it all – but we found that pulling the Smile Blades was by far the most fish we would handle in a day.”

Ragotzkie, who primarily fished over 20- to 50-feet of water and targeted suspended walleye, says the goal after his practice was to stay consistent with the quality slot fish (18.5-19.5”) and hoped to get two overs (over 20”) both days.

“Day one went almost exactly and according to plan and we came in three ounces shy of my 12 pound goal with four perfect slot fish and two overs, but the overs were skinny,” said Ragotzkie, who entered the final day in 18th place. “Day two started slow, but we made some adjustments and figured out quickly that the fish were very direction-oriented that day on our passes.

“We quickly then put two decent slot fish and one nice 23-incher over in the boat. We then sorted through a bunch of 15- to 17.5-inch fish, but then boxed one more perfect 19.75” slot before the bite pretty much died on us. With an hour left, I made the call to go check some last-minute spots we found in practice that didn’t have a lot of fish, but had nice ones.

“At this point, I was okay with our bag, but I knew we needed at least one more perfect 19.5” or better slot fish to stay in the top 20 and one more over to really have a shot at it. With 15 minutes left before we had to pull lines and run in, we tried one last spot and immediately boxed a 19.5” fish and I couldn’t have been happier.

“Then, after glancing at the clock and realizing we only had five minutes left before check in, we started pulling lines to make the short run in. While grabbing the last rod out of the Fin Gear rod holder, it loaded up in my hands and I knew it was a good one. It turned out to be a solid 25” over and the perfect miracle ending to a great tournament.”

As one Facebook commenter noted, it’s nice to see old school tactics still work.

We wish Austin the best of luck on the NWT the rest of the summer. We’ll be rooting for him.

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