How Korey Sprengel Pocketed Big Winnings, by Age 28


Let’s examine the phenomenal rise of a young professional walleye angler with multiple victories totaling over $500,000 in winnings the past few seasons.

That young gun is 28-year-old Korey Sprengel. He lives in Beaver Dam, Wis., and grew up not far from the shores of Fox Lake. His success story is no accident; his work ethic and preparation have provided lessons for even the grizzled pro anglers.

First of all, how did a young guy get time off work to follow his dream?

“Early on, my boss gave me time off for tournaments,” Sprengel says.

Korey Sprengel is a phenom in the tournament walleye world, but as you can see, his touch extends to bass and other species as well.
Korey Sprengel is a phenom in the tournament walleye world, but as you can see, his touch extends to bass and other species as well.

He worked as a mason, doing brick, stone and concrete work in high school until he called fishing his full-time career in 2013. Most pro anglers have interesting stories about their beginnings—his is no different.

He started out with local bar tournaments at age 18, and moved on to the FLW Leagues. He did it in a borrowed boat too.

“My buddy let me use his 18-foot boat, which was really run-down. The trade was that if I took care of it, I could keep using it.”

Sprengel replaced plugs—some weren’t even connected—and he changed gear lube and eventually exchanged the lower unit, rewired the entire boat, detailed every inch and replaced the trailer tires

“My boat is cleaner and runs better than when I got it,” recalls his friend.

Sprengel moved into the professional ranks in 2009 by fishing the MWC with his dad, and has fished the MWC every year since. In 2011, he captured the Cabela’s National Team Championship and the MWC qualifier. In 2012, he won the FLW tournament on Bay de Noc. The pro was also victorious in the inaugural 2013 National Walleye Tour pro event on the Mississippi River, and also won the Surgeon Bay event. He has also tied for NWT “Angler of the Year” and has netted MWC “Team of the Year” honors.

In 2014, the drive for excellence continued as he won the NWT Championship on Lake Winnebago and the World Walleye Championship. More top ten finishes followed in 2015, and he’s totaled seven major tournament wins since 2011.

How he has done it reveals much and serves as lessons to those aspiring for similar success.

“The biggest reason for winning so early in my career is that I really prepare for each tournament,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s different from anybody else, but I devote every waking moment so that everything is ready. I also develop a good game plan.”

Specifically, this is his “preparation” game plan:

  • Rods are rigged
  • Rigs are tied
  • Leaders are ready
  • Bobber rods are set
  • Equipment is perfect
  • Trolling gear is ready to go
  • Doubles and triples of nearly everything are ready
  • Maps, paper, electronics are scoured, marked and filed.

Add to this a game plan that includes every possible fishing report and tournament report, results, where and how it was won, comments, what’s happening now and last year and in the past at the same time and the biology of the lake.

“It always has something to do with baitfish. I try to figure what (it is) and where the walleye’s food is located, if it will be moving or in a certain area—that’s a big part of my preparation,” he says.

Weather plays an important role, and often dictates where the forage might be, how it affects
the baitfish spawn and where it might force bait. The forecasts are also critical.

Combined with all the research is mapping.

“I start out with large NOAA paper maps, examining as much as I can, trying to find key breaks where suspended fish might lurk, vegetation, flats near deep water, rocks, etc. I then turn to the electronic maps. I really like the Navionics maps I can review on my computer and match them with spots I have found on the paper maps, and plug these GPS points into my units. I like an easy reference when I’m on the water.”

With his mind wrapped around a new body of water—most tournament waters are new to him—he says newer waters don’t bother him.

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“I try not to be intimidated. I have everything ready, and for the first few days, fish the way I like and stay in my comfort zone. This way I don’t get overwhelmed.”

He says he continues to examine the situation, but stays within his strengths, which are first and foremost open-water trolling, especially with crawler harnesses. His number two and three strength: fishing weeds and jigging.

At Red Wing in 2013, his preparation was the key.

“I knew big fish responded to jigs and ringworms in April. After determining the stage of the spawn and picking the brain of friend Bill Shimota, I wanted to become good at jig-worm fishing,” Sprengel said.

He spent three days getting comfortable with the tactic—learning to watch his line, the correct jig weight and angle to reduce snags, boat control, wind and current.

“It was hard to get confident when not getting bites, but I stuck with the pattern,” he admitted. During the two-day National Walleye Tour event, he jigged 80 percent of the time and was the only pro to catch limits both days.

“Yes, this was a new pattern for me, but it had accounted for big fish in the past, and to do well I knew I had to stick with it.”

Korey’s attitude can be emulated by more young people and from all walks of life.

“When you put your money into something, you work harder.”

Many of his friends and family members have been confident he’d succeed.

“It made me feel good when they told me they believed in me and told me I had what it takes.”

Today, Sprengel is heavily involved in product development with Berkley. He also guides with the famous Devils Lake Perch Patrol team in winter. But eventually he had many questions about the business-side of fishing along the way. He then joined the National Professional Anglers Association to learn.

“This opened up avenues as I met pros on a level playing field at conferences. As a younger angler, I guarantee my generation of pro anglers can learn the industry and meet the leaders via the NPAA,” he said.

His biggest NPAA conference lesson came when Chase Parsons taught a class on how pros should present seminars.

“I do a full seminar schedule now as part of the promotional game.”

Pros Bill Shimota, Mark Courts, Jason Prezkurat, Gary and Chase Parsons and Tommy Skarlis have been especially helpful to him.

Skarlis, a decorated walleye pro with numerous victories and an in-demand seminar presenter, said, “After watching Korey on stage talk about his father, friends and family, and carry the first place trophies, I felt he was a superstar in the making. I reached out to him and some of my sponsors and offered whatever assistance he required.

“I feel we need as many Korey Sprengel’s competing and showcasing the exciting sport of fishing. He epitomizes the modest, yet energized and amazingly talented young competitive anglers that will positively influence younger anglers.”


Jim Kalkofen has had a long career, including 18 years as executive director of the In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail and serving on the PR and marketing team for Mercury Marine, managing many of their fishing and tournament programs. He has worked for the Mepps company as their advertising/PR director, as editor for a weekly Wisconsin newspaper for four years, winning many state and national awards and is now part of the Target Walleye team. Jim can be reached at 651-356-5676 or at