October 5, 2002 by Dave Landahl
Minnesota pro earns $300,000 check
RED WING, Minn. - Crestliner pro Bruce "Doc" Samson fulfilled a yearlong journey to compete in and win the Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Circuit Championship. After months of preparation and plenty of on-the-water practice, Samson weighed in a 15-pound-5-ounce limit to best runner-up Lund pro Mike Gofron of Antioch, Ill., who weighed in a limit of walleyes registering 12 pounds and 15 ounces.
Samson of Minnetrista, Minn., earned a check worth $300,000 for his diligent preparation and nearly flawless execution on the Mississippi River.
"It was certainly a long journey to get here," said Samson. "It is not often that all of your planning and strategy works out at a tournament. It worked here; it feels absolutely wonderful."
Samson won the championship after his first season fishing the RCL.
"I had fished one RCL Championship before, but this was my first year fishing the RCL qualifiers," said Samson. "This is definitely the biggest circuit going right now."
Samson never agonized over the no-cull rule.
"I planned on keeping every keeper I caught today," said Samson. "When it came time to catch my last keeper, I ended up catching two at once. I had to use my trolling motor to pull the fish forward to try and feel which fish was heavier. That is how I decided what fish to reel in. It worked."
Samson stuck with a very basic presentation throughout the tournament.
"I essentially used an almost stationary approach," said Samson. "I would vertically fish Roach rigs, which are a live bait rig. I started the tournament using larger minnows, and then today I caught four out of five fish using smaller minnows.
"I would use my Minn Kota trolling motor and slowly work up current, moving the boat back and forth to get better position for a hook set," he said. "This kind of presentation allows me to catch fish directly under the boat. You can be more precise using this method in a river."
Samson fished Pool 3 today in an area called Miley's Slough. Samson's plans for the future are open.
"I will go and work as an urgent care physician this winter," said Samson. "As far as tournament fishing, I will go where life takes me."
In the runner-up spot was Gofron. For his efforts, Gofron received a check for $65,000. Gofron was done fishing today by 10 a.m.
"We had the takeoff at 7 a.m., and I had my first keeper walleye by 7:15 a.m.," said Gofron. "With the tough bite I had yesterday, I knew I had to keep the right fish today. I would not have changed anything I did today."
Gofron was fishing in Pool 3 in an area called Buffalo Slough. Gofron was vertically fishing live bait. Gofron said he feels the RCL will take the world of competitive walleye fishing to a knew level.
"It is just amazing what competitive walleye fishing is becoming," said Gofron. "With the RCL, Wal-Mart and the other sponsors, the sport is really going to get bigger over the next few years. It was incredible just to be here in the final; it was a great experience."
Finishing third and taking home a check worth $32,500 was Crestliner pro Rick Franklin of Louisburg, Kan. Luck started the day on the side of Franklin.
"I had one of my fish wrapped around my antenna and somehow still got it in," said Franklin. "Then I had another fish break the line. As I was retrieving the line, the fish was still there; I got it in the net.
"I caught the three fish I weighed in within the first 30 to 45 minutes," he said. "My day started out great, things went good early and then the bite turned off."
Franklin weighed in three fish that registered 11 pounds and 11 ounces. Franklin's primary technique throughout the tournament was to fish in Pool 3, slowly trolling bait rigs with a variety of live bait. He also trolled crankbaits.
Fourth place went to Ranger pro Joe Wilson of Rolling Stone, Minn. Wilson weighed in two walleyes today that registered 6 pounds and 11 ounces. That was enough to earn him a check for $25,000.
"I had a very good tournament and am very happy to have made the finals at this huge event," said Wilson. "The combination of muddy water and faster flow hurt me today. I just could not put together much of anything today."
Taking the fifth spot was Ranger pro Richard Nascak of Winona, Minn. Nascak weighed in two fish today that tipped the scales at 4 pounds and 8 ounces, enough to earn him a check for $20,000.
"I was targeting wing dams in Pool 4 throughout the tournament," said Nascak. "I just didn't get the bites today. I am just very happy to have made it this far. This is by far the biggest walleye tournament out there.
"I really think it is great have such sponsors as Evinrude give so much support to the anglers," he said.
Receiving a check for $12,000 and finishing in 6th place was Ranger pro Brad Knoll of Menasha, Wis. Knoll was in the bleachers dreaming of fishing the RCL Championship only two years ago.
"I remember sitting in the stands, watching the weigh-in at the first RCL Championships, saying to myself, `I am going to be there someday,'" said Knoll. "I feel very blessed to have made it this far on first year fishing the RCL circuit."
2002 RCL Championship Notes: Mississippi River, Day Four