UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - Sam Rayburn Reservoir

2002 RCL Championship Notes: Mississippi River, Day Three

2002 RCL Championship Notes: Mississippi River, Day Three
Co-angler Tim Lessila of Newberlin, Wis., proudly displays his first-place check after winning the 2002 RCL Championship.

Rookie royalty ... Fishing in only the second tournament of his career, Tim Lessila turned the co-angler fishing world on its head after pulling off one of the biggest upsets of the year. As unlikely as it sounds, the 58-year-old rookie angler walked away with the 2002 RCL Championship and a fat check for $75,000 after registering a whopping 16-pound catch with his pro partner, Richard Franklin. Not surprisingly, Lessila was nearly speechless upon receiving his award. "I can't believe it. This is my first season and only my second RCL tournament," he said. "I guess I got kind of lucky. This is just unreal." Ironically, Lessila was debating whether or not to enter the championship in the first place. "I got a call and they told me I had qualified for the championship," he said. "But the entry fee was $750, and I really didn't know if I could afford to pay it. Luckily for me, I got a few extra jobs and was able to earn enough money to come to the championship. I'm glad I did." A retired member of the Brookfield Police Department in Wisconsin, Lessila said that now that he has found success, he just might entertain a more rigorous fishing schedule next season. "I don't know if I could handle turning pro because those guys really work hard," he said. "But I'd definitely like to enter a few more co-angler tournaments in the future." Sound like a good plan.

Bittersweet outcome more sweet than bitter ... For Steven Maksymyk of Komarno, Manitoba, the 2002 RCL Championship could have been summed up with two words: "what if?" After standing on stage with a 12-pound, 3-ounce stringer already in the books, Maksymyk watched patiently as the parade of co-anglers failed to come up with enough fish to knock him out of first place. In fact, Maksymyk was still in the lead with only one angler to go. Unfortunately for him, that angler turned out to be Tim Lessila and his 16-pound stringer. In the end, Maksymyk had to settle for second place and a check for $40,000. However, Maksymyk was far from disappointed with the outcome. "It's not bittersweet at all," he said. "I had a fantastic experience, three great partners, made a lot of new friends and I'm taking home a big check. What else can you ask for?" Other than more vowels in his last name, not a whole lot.

Franklin still on a roll ... Pro Richard Franklin must surely subscribe to the theory, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it." For the third day in a row, Franklin landed four keepers (one short of the limit) using the exact same strategy - running and gunning and spending no more than 45 minutes in one location. And once again, he found himself in first place. Go figure. "I don't know why I can't seem to find that fifth fish," he said. "But so far it really hasn't hurt me." Franklin, a rookie on the RCL Walleye Circuit, said he is still amazed by his string of good fortune. "It's very hard to do this well two days in a row, let alone three days in a row," he said. "Doing it four days in a row, well, that's nearly impossible." However, despite his success, Franklin said he is going to throw his strategy completely out of the window during tomorrow's competition. "It's risky, but the water has really changed," he said. "The fish are really beat up right now, so I'm going to change it up and do some jigging tomorrow." Specifically, Franklin said he is going to concentrate on using helicopter jigs in about 4 to 12 feet of water. However, no matter what happens tomorrow, Franklin said that he already considers this tournament a success. "It's an honor to be leading the tournament in and of itself," he said. "I've been waiting for this all of my life. It's like a dream come true."

By the numbers:

2,964-11: Weight, in pounds and ounces, of total fish caught through the first three days of tournament action.

1,090: Total number of fish caught after three days of competition.

462: Number of anglers already eliminated from the 2002 RCL Championship.

75-12: Weight, in pounds and ounces, of fish caught during the third day of RCL competition.

6-0: Weight, in pounds and ounces, of top-six cut.

6: Number of pros remaining in tournament.

0: Total number of five-fish limits caught during Friday's competition.

Sound bites:

"We saw logs, we saw a bucket and we even saw a sandal float on by. At that point, we realized the water was pretty stirred up and that we'd better take any fish we could get."
- Pro Mike Gofron on the turbulent water conditions and fickle bite on the Mississippi River during the third day of competition.

"It looked like a navy battle out there."
- Pro Jeff Taege, echoing Gofron's sentiments concerning the unsettling conditions on the Mississippi River.

"We're competing against 233 of the finest anglers in the country, and it was a joy just to be here."
- Pro Richard Lacourse describing why he wasn't disappointed in the slightest with his 11th-place finish.

"I had a game plan. The first day it worked, but it went downhill from there."
- Pro Mark Brumbaugh on his disappointing 10th-place finish.

"I'd like to thank Treasure Island for hosting this tournament. The people there are really nice and so are their slot machines."
- Co-angler Tim Williams on the hospitality and extracurricular opportunities available at the casino hotel.

"I couldn't be more happy. I was staying in a pop-up camper the first three nights with a couple of friends, but maybe tonight I'll be sleeping at the hotel."
- Co-angler Hans Halvorson on the immediate financial benefits of winning a third-place check totaling $10,000.

"I don't get to fish that much, but I should probably start doing it a lot more."
- Co-angler Tim Lessila, immediately after winning first place at the 2002 RCL Championship.

"I only slept about two hours last night, so hopefully I'll be tired enough to get a good night's sleep tonight."
- Pro Richard Franklin on the anxiety of fishing in tomorrow's finals.


Related links:
Photos
Results
Day-three pairings
Press releases
Franklin's four lead the way at Red Wing

Tags: gary-mortenson  quick-bites  2002-10-02-mississippi-river-red-wing 

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