UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Dale Hollow Lake

Keep on Keenan on

Keep on Keenan on
Capturing the eighth-place pro qualifying spot was Paul ?One-Day Wonder? Meleen of Onamia, Minn., who made a near-miraculous comeback from zero-fish performance Wednesday to make the semifinals.

Mark Keenan tops 50 pounds, takes over pro lead for brother Tom at Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Championship

GREEN BAY, Wis. - The pressure of the situation clearly showed on Chris Bahl's face when he stepped up to the podium late in day two's weigh-in. "I'm about to lose it right now," said the pro angler from Omaha, Neb., his voice trembling.

To be sure, Bahl was in a tight spot at that particular moment. Having placed 13th on day one of the Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Championship with a weight of 15 pounds, 4 ounces, he needed another solid 14 or 15 pounds to ensure he made the top-12 cut into Friday's semifinals. Today he and co-angler Michael Crews of Englewood, Ohio, brought just four middling walleyes to the scale - a point that tore at Bahl.

"I lost one 4-pounder that I think I needed," he said, hands on his head and making no attempt to hide his anguish.

The scale settled on a weight of 14 pounds, 2 ounces, pushing Bahl's two-day, opening-round weight to 29-6. He raised his arms in triumph and relief as he realized he captured 10th place and would continue fishing in the $1.4 million tournament.

"With everything that has been going on in this country in recent weeks, and now this, I've put in a lot of calls to God lately," he said.

The Keenan saga continues

Whereas Bahl, understandably, was a bundle of nerves today, no pro was a cooler customer than Mark Keenan. Yesterday the Appleton, Wis., native nabbed second place with one of the day's only two stringers weighing over 30 pounds, and was bested only by his younger brother Tom who took first with the other 30-plus-pound stringer.

Today Mark Keenan and co-angler partner Gary Speicher of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, came across the stage with another five walleyes weighing 23 pounds, 4 ounces. The weight launched Mark past Tom - who weighed in just two fish at 12-12 on day two - into first place. Mark Keenan's opening-round combined weight over two tough days of fishing was an astonishing 53 pounds, 15 ounces.

"We fished a couple at our spot, then we went somewhere else and caught a couple more," Mark said. "To tell the truth, my co-angler just caught them too fast."

In fact, the top four spots in the Pro Division were dominated by one fishing team - all Wisconsinites who regularly compete in tournaments together, sharing fishing locations and information. Dean Arnoldussen of Kaukauna placed second with a two-day weight of 48 pounds 11 ounces. Tom Keenan, who hails from Hatley, placed third with 44-11. And Patrick Neu of Forestville placed fourth with 42-12. The same four anglers held the top four spots after yesterday's competition as well.

"We fished well yesterday," said Mark Keenan. "We had the fish all to ourselves and made hay on a tough bite. We're all friends. We all know what we're fishing and where we're all fishing."

Where they're all fishing is a spot roughly 50 miles up on Green Bay. While they might have had the location to themselves on day one, they found they had company today.

"There were only about six boats out there yesterday," said Keenan. "Today there were about 40."

The traffic will inevitably lighten for the top-four crew on Friday as the 192-boat tournament field was cut to 12 boats following today's action. That bodes well for Mark Keenan, but he's still has his younger brother to contend with.

"Sure, we have a brother competition," he said. "He's always mentioning that he's done better in the PWTs (Professional Walleye Trail), but I've done better in the RCLs. I think that's what makes it fun, competitive and keeps you focused."

Said Tom, "My brother's beaten me in the last two RCLs, but I'm taller."

Also qualifying for Friday's semifinals following the top four in the Pro Division were Larry Wisniewski (5th place) of Milwaukee with a two-day weight of 38 pounds, 2 ounces; Green Bay's own Tom Zollar (6th) with a two-day weight of 37-7; and Carl Grunwaldt, also of Green Bay, (7th) with a two-day weight of 37-7.

Capturing the eighth-place pro qualifying spot was Paul "One-Day Wonder" Meleen of Onamia, Minn., who made a near-miraculous comeback from zero-fish performance Wednesday to make the semifinals. He weighed in five walleyes worth 30 pounds, 13 ounces on day two. Meleen probably best encapsulated the allure of this week's huge-money event when he addressed the issue of answering his cellular phone during competition: "I hope it doesn't ring tomorrow. My wife is seven days past due. If I make it, I'm going to turn it off."

Rounding out the rest of the pro qualifiers were Dave Anderson (9th place) of Apple Valley, Minn., with a two-day weight of 29 pounds, 9 ounces; Bahl (10th), who caught his quarry despite having to manually push his boat over a sandbar to reach his fish; Gregory Yarbrough (11th) with a two-day weight of 27-2; and Jack Neuman (12th) of Naperville, Ill., with a two-day weight of 27-2.

The day-two pro Big Walleye award and $1,200 went to Dennis Robinson of Tomahawk, Wis., for a 9-pound, 13-ounce behemoth.

Co-angler leader in it for the long haul

Leo Schlauch didn't expect to find himself in the position he was in following the opening round. The 60-years-young semi-trailer dealer from Suamico, Wis., captured the top qualifying spot for Friday's Co-angler Division finals after weighing in 48 pounds, 6 ounces of walleyes over the first two days.

"Ah, it's been great," he said. "I've been very, very lucky."

Lucky indeed. Schlauch qualified for the championship despite not having fished in a single RCL event all season. The first day has fished with pro Patrick Neu and shared his 26-pound, 2-ounce stringer. Today he and pro Kevin Dahl of Muskego, Wis., boated three massive walleyes weighing a collective 22 pounds, 4 ounces.

Tomorrow, sitting in the number-one slot, Schlauch will fish with Neu's buddy Mark Keenan. They will likely return to the fruitful Green Bay fishing location that treated them both so well on day one.

"I don't have a problem with that," Schlauch said. "It's probably a hundred-mile run (round trip), but I'm in for another hundred miles. To be honest, I never expected to be sitting here to begin with."

Rounding out the top five co-anglers were Gordie Yewman Jr. (2nd place) of Green Bay with eight walleyes weighing 38 pounds, 11 ounces; Gerald Valleskey (3rd) of Collins, Wis., with eight walleyes weighing 36 pounds, 12 ounces; and Brian Garrity (4th) of Wausau, Wis., with five walleyes weighing 33 pounds, 15 ounces; and Trish Gauthier (5th) of Isle, Minn., with 33 pounds, 13 ounces. Gauthier is the only female walleye angler to make it past the opening round.

The co-angler Big Walleye award and $600 went to Lenny Vabalaitis, who shared pro Dennis Anderson's 9-pound, 13-ounce fish.

After Friday, the field will be cut again to the top six pros for Saturday's finale. Anglers in both divisions will start the semifinal and final rounds from zero and fish for the heaviest one-day catch. Co-angler competition will be decided by the heaviest semifinal-round catch tomorrow.

Competition resumes at 7 a.m. Friday at Metro Park Boat Launch on Bay Beach Road followed by a 5 p.m. weigh-in at the Wal-Mart Supercenter located at 2440 West Mason Street. Saturday's final round starts at 7 a.m. at Metro Park and ends with a 3 p.m. weigh-in at Wal-Mart. A Family Fun Zone complete with children's games, interactive product displays and giveaways will be set up at Wal-Mart starting at 4 p.m. Friday and noon Saturday.

Day-two related links:

Photos
Results
Tomorrow's pairings
Press release

Tags: jeff-schroeder  headline-story  2001-10-02-green-bay-lake-michigan 

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