Walley Central – Twenty Questions

by Julia (Juls) Davis

Twenty Questions with the 2010 MWC Team of the Year Mike Knippenberg and Ryan Buddie

Last year while I traveled the Midwest covering the MWC for Walleye Central’s Live Leader Board, I was fortunate to interview this team quite a bit since they were always near the top of the leader board in the events they fished. A feat that landed this pair in the top spot as the 2011Masters Walleye Circuit Team of the Year. Mike, who captain’s a beautiful blue/white/silver Ranger is soft spoken, humble, and is a fountain of knowledge when it comes to catching Walleye, while Ryan, who is also very knowledgeable, is more outgoing and loves to laugh. Read below for a little more insight into what makes these guys such a great team.

To get to know these guys even better, please join us Wednesday night in the Walleye Central Chat Room on March 16th, at 7PM Central Time, where we will continue our chat with MWC Team Mike and Ryan. Registration is not necessary to join the chat.

Hope to see you all there!


Juls: Who are Mike Knippenberg and Ryan Buddie?

Mike: I am a 31 year old kid that lives to fish. I was raised with a hard work ethic and to be the best you can be in what ever you do.  I have a wonderful wife Jen and two chocolate labs that are our kids. Jen and I fish together most of the time she is a great fisherman herself and I love her company

Ryan:  I am an 27 year old Cleveland native tries to find a reason to smile whenever I can.  I grew up fishing walleye, perch, and steelhead on Lake Erie and its tributaries.  I went off to college at Ohio University after high school and got a job summer job guiding salmon in Alaska.   After college, I have really got back into walleye fishing while part time steelhead and salmon guiding, and currently fish both the MWC and LEWT circuits.

Juls: How old were you when you went fishing for the first time? And, who was it with?

Ryan:  Wow, as long as I can remember, so it was probably shortly after I was walking.  It was definitely with my Dad and Grandpa.  My Grandpa always had a boat on Lake Erie and I remember going to his cottage and catching rock bass, bluegill and catfish in the harbor.  I would spend endless hours fishing back there and be happy as can be without even leaving the dock.

Mike: My Dad took me river fishing when I was six years old with my brother, I have had a passion for it ever since.

Juls: When did you start fishing tournaments?

Mike: Only about four years ago, I bought my first boat when I was 18 and have been at it pretty hard since.

Ryan:   I fished my first tournament out of a local club in 07’.   I remember as soon as our boat number got called and we were racing out to our spot, I thought, “This is for me, this is what I was want to do with my life”.  I had always liked competition, but it was at that moment that I knew I had found the perfect competition for me.  It was ‘game on’ from that point.

Juls: What is your most memorable experience while fishing? (Either tournament or fun fishing…doesn’t matter)

Ryan:  That’s a tough one…  I am going to have to say the first steelhead I ever caught.  I was a little 10 year old snot nosed kid walking around the Rocky River with my Dad’s oversized leaky concrete boots and I caught this giant steelhead.  There were 15 other guys around and I was the only one who caught anything that day.  I took that fish home grinning ear to ear and showed it off to all the neighbors.  I was hooked on fishing.   The other one would have to be clinching the Team of the Year title in the MWC this year in Escanaba,  but that was so recent, I don’t really consider that a memory yet.

Mike: The few times I was able to fish with my grandfather “pop” stick in my head My grandfather was a great fisherman and I loved to be with him.

Juls: What event are you looking forward to most this season?

Mike: There all going to be great but, if I had to pick one it would be Sandusky Masters Walleye Circuit, I love the open water trolling bite that Erie offers.

Ryan:  I am really looking forward to fishing new bodies of water in Sault Ste Marie and Prairie du Chien.  There is nothing more exciting that going to a new body of water and have success on it.

Juls: Who are your sponsors?

Ryan:  Offshore Tackle, Silver Streak, Reef Runner, Erie Outfitters, Ohio Steelhead Drifters, Simms

Mike: Ranger Boats, Mercury Marine, Vic’s sport center, Erie Outfitters, Wolverine tackle silver streak, Offshore Tackle, Cisco fishing systems, Reef runner, The Boat Doc.

Juls: How did you two first start fishing together as a team? Where did you meet?

Mike: A mutual friend Gary Zart, and Scott Geitgey suggested we team up for the MWC this past year.

Ryan:  We met through local fishing tournaments and a good friend of ours, Gary Zart, suggested we team up for the MWC.  Mike and I are both “all or nothing kinda guys” so it just made sense.

Juls: What do you do for a living when you’re not fishing tournaments?

Ryan:  I am pilot for ExpressJet Airlines out of Cleveland.  We fly Embrear-145 regional jets all over North America under the flags Continental and United Express.  I am also a steelhead guide for Ohio Steelhead Drifters and part time salmon guide for Togiak River Fishing Adventures in Alaska.

Mike: I work for Great Lakes Cheese as a maintenance electrician.

Juls: Now that it’s the “off season” what do you do?

Mike: Boat shows, Seminars, preparing for the upcoming season.

Ryan:   It sure doesn’t feel like an “off season”!  Haha…  I am a river rat here chasing steelhead.  One of my other passions is skiing, so I try to get at least a few good ski trips in every year.  And of course, I am always rigging gear, tying spinners, and sharpening hooks to get ready for this tourney season.

Juls: What sportshows/outdoor shows can people see you at this spring? Do you have anything left?

Ryan:  Most of the shows I did are already over, I am speaking at the Grady White boat club in Lorain this Saturday the 12th at 12:30.

Mike: I will be at Vic’s Sport Center for their open house and giving a seminar Saturday and Sunday.

Juls: What do you think it is that makes you two such a good team?

Mike: Well I think we both have different views on things and we both have a hard work ethic.

Ryan:  We are both very hard workers and completely committed to tournament fishing.  I doubt there are many boats that put longer days in on the water than we do leading up to a tournament.  When it comes to tournament day, everything in the boat is absolutely ready to rock so we can maximize fishing time.

Juls: What was the most enjoyable event for you that the MWC held this past season?

Ryan:  The Sandusky and Saginaw events were great this past year because the weather and fishing were phenomenal!  I guess it also helped that we got a 2nd and 3rd at those events, funny how that helps make an enjoyable event…

Mike: Sandusky day one was just one of those days we boated a lot of fish and the grade was great we where culling 27 ½ inch to 28 inch fish and we culled a lot of fish!

Juls: What are 5 items you never leave the dock without (I don’t mean fishing rods, reels, tackle, etc….that’s a given)

Mike: Sunglasses, drinks, Advil, sun block, truck keys

Ryan:  A Monster energy drink, lots of food, my mullet wig, a camera, and for tournaments only…  Lucky Charms in my belly.

Juls: Of all the waters you have fished in your lifetime, what are your top five favorites, and why?

1. Lake Erie – My home waters, it’s a no brainer.
2. Togiak River, Bristol Bay, Alaska – Got to be the best fishery in the world.
3. Bay de Noc/Green Bay – Beautiful country and great structure fishing opportunities.
4. Detroit River – Jigging for monster walleye!
5. Northeast Ohio’s tributaries – A chance at 50+ fish steelhead days, on a fly.

1. Lake Erie…how could you not love love a lake that is full of big walleyes?
2. Detroit River…tons of fish and love vertical jig fishing for big fish.
3. Mosquito lake…grew up fishing there. You can catch them rigging, jigging, or trolling.
4. Saginaw bay…lots of structure and fish!
5. Cuyahoga river…A great pike and small mouth fishery with low pressure.

Juls: Who are some of your fishing idols? Who did you look up to when you first got into tournament fishing?

Mike: Al Linder, Gary roach are a few idols.  There are a lot of guys like Tommy Skarlis, Gary Parsons, John Gilman, and Keith Kavajecz.

Ryan:  Larry Dahlberg and Flip Pallot.  I loved the versatility and true passion for fishing that those guys have.  When it comes to fishing, those guys just have “it”.  I remember as a kid waking up early Saturday morning so excited to watch those guys on TV.
As for when I first got involved in fishing tournaments, I looked up to guys like Gary Zart, Jason Kopf, Scott Gietgy, and Mike.  They were the ones that showed me the ropes and helped get me where I am today.

Juls: Do you do any kids events?

Ryan:  I haven’t really been involved anything formal yet, but that is definitely an area I want to get more involved in.  I have 2 young nephews that my brother and I have been spreading the fishing disease too.  They love it and it’s really great to see.  There is nothing better for our sport than to get kids involved in fishing.

Mike: Not yet. I love to take kids fishing it is some of my favorite times on the water.  There is nothing like getting kids out on the water and catching walleye!

Juls: What is your favorite presentation to use? What is the most fun for you?
Mike: I love all styles of walleye fishing but open water trolling is my favorite!

Ryan:  My favorite presentation is trolling spinners because it is so effective and that’s what we are best at.  As for the most fun, jigging because it is so hands on.

Juls: How do you break down a body of water you’ve never fished before? How do you approach your prefishing?
Ryan:  Wow, I feel like one could write a book on that one, hmmm… there’s an idea.  Here’s a short summar… Look at the forage and water temperature, both of those things will help you decide what to fish with and how to present it.  Make friends and check out local forums.  Your cell phone and computer are your most valuable fishing tools on a new body of water.  When prefishing, focus on the types of spots that lead to success: depth, structure, current, temperature, water color, etc., not necessarily waypoints.  If you go “waypoint” fishing on tourney day, more often than not, you will end up disappointed.

Mike: A lot of reading, figuring out the migration pattern for the body of water and what there relating too at the time of year. Then break it up with key areas that need a look during prefishing.

Juls: What are you most proud of in your life?

Mike: My Wife she is the greatest women I have ever met and proud to be married to her. I am also very proud of the family that I come from!  I also have some great friends.

Ryan:   I am the most proud of my family, friends, and girlfriend that support me in all my fishing escapades.  Getting to spend time with these people and having the times of my life on the water with them is something I really cherish.  I love teaching people to love the sport that I love so much.

Juls: If you could only give ONE piece of advice to a new angler who wanted to start fishing tournaments professionally, what would that be?
Ryan:   Try to figure out the “why” of everything you do fishing.  If I find something that seems to be working and I have no idea why it’s working, I don’t put a whole lot of stock into it.  More often than not, this will burn you on tournament day.  Think as logically as you can.  If you are just told “this is how it is” and don’t know why, you won’t be as effective using it.   There are a lot of guys out there, even pros that will give you an answer to anything.  No one really has all the answers, be careful of this and find your own ways.

Mike: Don’t be intimidated!  Set goals, don’t give up and with some hard work and determination you can do it!