Meet the 2023 Champions Tour Rookies

With the 2023 Champions Tour season just over three months away, we wanted to introduce you to the crop of 17 rookies the Tour will have this season. 

To see the full field of 65 anglers that will be fishing the Champions Tour this season, visit our angler profiles.

Evan Blakley –
“I’m looking forward to the every fish counts format, fishing with the great guys that I know will further my bass fishing knowledge, and let’s be honest these are the best payouts of any tournament in the state.”

Tyler Darrow –
Besides fishing the Champions Tour, Tyler fishes the Lunkers Squad series, MNBN Team Trail and the MNBN State Tournament.  “Success is never owned. It’s rented and the rent is due every day.”

Jason Dudek –
For several seasons Dudek competed in the Bassmaster Open’s and collected three top-25 finishes in the Northern’s and one top-25 in the Central’s, with his best finish being a 10th place on Lake Oneida in New York.  “I am looking forward to competing against the incredible anglers fishing the Champions Tour.”

Marc Fishburn –
Marc helped established and served as a boat captain for the Owen Valley high school bass team the last seven years.  “I think what I’m looking forward to the most is fishing completely new waters, the keep you on your toes catch, weigh, and release format, and lastly I’m looking forward to meeting new friends and having fun competing.” 

Cory Hasler –
Hasler has competed in the Phoenix Bass Fishing League, was a Regional Qualifier, and has (12) top-ten finishes in Bass World Sports, including two 2nd place finishes, and a top-ten finish at the Bass World Sports Classic.  “I am looking forward to fishing the catch and release style format and fishing against the top anglers in the State.” 

Lyal Held –
Held is recognizable for previously holding the South Dakota smallmouth bass record, when he caught a 7 lb 3 ounce in 2016.  “I am looking forward to fishing against some of the best bass fisherman in the Midwest.”

Matt Holweg –
“I’m looking forward to learning the nuances of a new tournament format, meeting new people, fishing new lakes, traveling, and having the opportunity to fish for what I consider a substantial amount of money and just competing with some of the best anglers in the state.”

Heath Iacarella –
Heath has been out of the fishing tournament game for about 15 years, but now is ready to come back.  Over the years Heath had top-ten finishes in the Silverado Pro-Am’s, KBI and the Fort Francis Bass Championship.  “I’m looking forward to the excitement of competitive fishing and hanging out with old friends and new, all that love this sport of bass fishing.”

Garrett Koster –
“I am looking forward to competing against the best anglers in Minnesota on the biggest tournament stage in Minnesota.”

Walker Krampitz –
When fishing the Student Angler Tournament Trail (SATT), Walker had numerous top five-finishes, and finished 2nd in the high school National Championship in Alabama.  “I’m looking forward to meeting all of the best anglers in Minnesota and being able to fish against them this year.”

Brian Linder –
Brian started the fishing team at Minnesota State Mankato in 2019, and then placed 3rd in the AOY standings in B.A.S.S. College series, was a four-time National Championship qualifier, and was the Champion of the B.A.S.S. College Series Open on Saginaw Bay in 2022.  “I’m excited to take my career to the next level and compete against the best anglers in the state and compete under the catch weigh release format.”  

Jake Panichi –
Jake was 2021 BASS High School State Champion, 2022 BASS All-State Angler, and a 2022 High School BASS and MLF National Qualifier.  “I have many great fishing moments to remember, and I can’t wait to add to them during the 2023 Champions Tour. I’m looking forward to meeting new people and competing with some of the best anglers of the Midwest as I come out of the high school ranks.”

Ayden Portele –
“With the every fish counts format, all of the little fish I normally catch will help me.”

Chad Schwan –
Being a 2022 TBF National Championship qualifier tops Schwan’s fishing resume.  “I’m looking forward to the challenge of the Champions Tour format and hopefully making some new friends.”

Sam ‘Sobi’ Sobieck –
Sam or Sobi to his large YouTube fanbase, was the UW Stevens Point college bass team AOY, was B.A.S.S and FLW College National Championship qualifier, and has competed in the Bassmaster Open’s as a co-angler.  “I’m ready to show Noah Schultz there’s a new Sheriff in Town…All jokes aside, I’m going to be a sponge on and off the water during this Champions Tour season. The opportunity to compete against and learn from this line up of decorated and insanely skilled field of anglers is priceless. Between the format and competition no matter how I finish, I will come out of this season a much more proficient and diverse tournament bass angler. I’m ready to compete, learn all I can and then hopefully share my experience online.”

Joel Willert –
Joel has fished the BASS Opens, NPFL and the former FLW Tour, and while competing he qualified for a Forest Wood Cup, and won three times on the co-angler side, both in the Open’s and FLW Tour.  Locally Joel is a two-time Dick Hiley St. Jude Bass Classic champion.  “I am looking forward to fishing a very competitive circuit with great payouts, against a bunch of local hammers.  For the past three years, I have fished at a national level travelling thousands of miles across the country and gone months at a time.  This opportunity will allow me to be home more and spend more time on Lake Mille Lacs growing my guiding business.” 

Jeff Wiita –
The year of 2021 was a great year for Jeff, as he took 3rd at the MN Bass Nation T.O.C., and then finished 9th at the 2021 MN Bass Nation Northern Regionals, all of which only came after his win at the 2020 MN Bass Nation T.O.C.  “I’m just excited to try this type of tournament format and excited to see how I can do against these top anglers in the state.  I also like the idea of a chance to fish a final tournament for free for a boat!”