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Prezekurat vaults to the top of Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Championship

Prezekurat vaults to the top of Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Championship
Jason Przekurat (right) of Stevens Point, Wis., talks fishing strategy with Operation Walleye official Charlie Evans. Prezekurat lead the Pro Division after the second day of competition.

Wisconsin native takes advantage of good fortune, largest catch of the day to salvage tournament

GREEN BAY, Wis. - Jason Prezekurat knew he was in trouble.

With only one day of fishing remaining before the tournament field was set to be whittled down to 12 anglers, Prezekurat found himself languishing in 52nd place - nearly 20 pounds behind the day-one leader. But with a potential first prize of $400,000 out there for the taking in the inaugural Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Championship - the richest walleye tournament in history - Prezekurat decided to go for broke.

Battling high winds, frosty weather and a decidedly overcast day, Prezekurat, a native of Stevens Point, Wis., headed out into the precarious waters of Green Bay. Although he would have rather stayed in the relatively safe confines of the Fox River, he knew that gambling on a turbulent Lake Michigan was a risk he had to take.

"My goal all along was to make the top 12," said Prezekurat, who captured the Masters Walleye Circuit championship in Red Wing, Minn., last May. "And I knew that I needed 20 pounds today no matter what. I didn't want to go out there (onto the open waters of Green Bay) but I had no choice. I took a risk, no doubt."

The risk paid off.

Big time.

Prezekurat and his partner, Julia Davis of New Berlin, Wis., hauled in a five-fish limit weighing a whopping 28 pounds, 2 ounces. The catch single-handedly vaulted Prezekurat into first place overall in the Pro Division. But most importantly, it allowed Prezekurat to fish another day.

"It feels great to be in this position," said Prezekurat, who boasted a two-day catch of 39 pounds, 3 ounces. "Just to be able to fish against these guys is a lot of fun. I grew up watching these guys my whole life. It's just amazing to be in the lead after two days with the level of competition here. It's exciting."

Unfortunately, Davis - Prezekurat's partner - was not as lucky as she finished in 13th place.

"I thought I might be able to hold on," she said. "But it just didn't happen."

Mark Brumbaugh of Arcanum, Ohio, who led after the first day of competition, had a strong enough showing to grab second place overall in the Pro Division with a catch of 6 pounds, 12 ounces.

"It was really rough out there today, but I did what I had to do," said Brumbaugh, who had a two-day total of 37 pounds, 11 ounces. "I knew I only needed a few fish to make the top 12, so I decided to play it safe and fish the Fox River. It was just too rough out there today to risk going out any further."

The other 10 anglers who made Thursday's all-important cut were Scott Glorvigen of Grand Rapids, Minn., (third) with a total catch of 36 pounds, 3 ounces; Scott Duncan of Spring Grove, Ill., (fourth) with a two-day catch of 36 pounds, 1 ounce; Mark Keenan of Appleton, Wis., (fifth) with a catch of 34 pounds, 3 ounces; Dale Hayward of Cochenoor, (sixth) with a catch of 33 pounds, 7 ounces; Mike Gofron of Antioch, Ill., (seventh) with a catch of 32 pounds, 4 ounces; Patrick Byle of Colgate, Wis., (eighth) with a catch of 31 pounds, 12 ounces; John Campbell of West Dundee, Ill., (ninth) with a catch of 31 pounds, 7 ounces; Victor Stolcers of Delavan, Wis., (tenth) with a catch of 31 pounds, 4 ounces; Duane Tencate of Sioux Falls, S.D., (eleventh) with a catch of 31 pounds, 3 ounces; and John Nelson of Wahkon, Minn., (twelfth) with a catch of 31 pounds, 1 ounce.

Co-angler finals set

On the co-angler side, Gary Darling of Fort Collins, Colo., took over first place with a two-day catch of 37 pounds, 8 ounces. Day-one leader Gary Morris of Blaine, Minn., landed in second place with a two-day catch of 35 pounds, 12 ounces. Ironically, Morris will be paired with Brumbaugh, his day-one partner, during the co-angler finals on Friday.

"I was hoping it would work out that way," said Morris. "We have a good feel for how each other likes to fish. And we work really well together. I'm just really happy right now. Finishing second today is okay because what really matters is that you finish first tomorrow."

With bonuses, the top prize in the Co-Angler Division - which will be determined after tomorrow's competition - could be worth as much as $150,000.

Other co-anglers making the top 12 cut were Greg Reimer of Steinbach, Manitoba (third) with a total catch of 35 pounds, 3 ounces; Fritz Peterson of Sturgeon Bay, Wis., (fourth) with a two-day catch of 34 pounds, 7 ounces; Val Labau of Miller, S.D., (fifth) with a total catch of 34 pounds, 6 ounces; Mike Buenting of Minneapolis, Minn., (sixth) with a catch of 33 pounds, 12 ounces; Pat Kotowski of De Pere, Wis., (seventh) with a catch of 31 pounds, 13 ounces; Darrell Charles of Sterling, Colo., (eighth) with a catch of 29 pounds, 12 ounces; Gary Hettenhaus of Fond Du-Lac, Wis., (ninth) with a catch of 29 pounds, 9 ounces; Margaret Watson of Twin Falls, Idaho, (tenth) with a catch of 29 pounds, 3 ounces; John Zirzow of Fort Collins, Colo., (eleventh) with a catch of 28 pounds, 13 ounces; and Jim Milewsky of Des Moines, Iowa, (twelfth) with a catch of 28 pounds, 12 ounces.

As the co-anglers started preparing for tomorrow's championship, the pros were already accessing the ominous weather predictions - which called for colder weather and the possibility of snow - for the remainder of the week.

"I'm planning on making a long run tomorrow if the weather is good," said Brumbaugh, who ran nearly 100 miles on the first day of competition. "But if it's like this or worse, I'm going to have to change my strategy. I guess I'm just going to have to play it by ear."

Prezekurat agreed that tomorrow's weather could be a huge factor.

"I'm not sure what to expect," he said of the weather. "I used artificial bait the first day and I used live bait today. I fished the Fox River on day one and had a little success, and I fished the open waters of Green Bay today with better luck. I know there's fish in both places but tomorrow is going to be a real crap shoot."

Takeoff for all anglers begins at 8 a.m. Weigh-in is scheduled to take place at 5 p.m. in the Wal-Mart parking lot on Mason Street.

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