UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Lake Norman

Harsh swings and connects

Harsh swings and connects
Pro Pete Harsh and co-angler Jim Fetzik show off their huge day-one catch on Devils Lake. Each angler leads their respective divisions with a five-walleye total of 29 pounds, 5 ounces.

DEVILS LAKE, N.D. - With an uncommonly calm North Dakota breeze, the angling conditions Wednesday at the Wal-Mart FLW Walleye Tour event on Devils Lake were nearly perfect. And when ideal conditions align with a trophy fishery, the results are astounding. Out of 150 pros, 134 of them brought a five-walleye limit to the scale. The heaviest of those was caught by Sauk Centre, Minn., pro Pete Harsh, who bagged 29 pounds, 5 ounces.

As is typically the case, the eater-sized fish were easy to come by while the kickers were slightly pickier.

Pro Pete Harsh speaks with weighmaster Kevin Hunt about his opening day on Devils Lake.Harsh had no problem finding and boating the big fish, but he understandably is wary about his early success. In years past, Harsh has caught several giant limits, but has never put together three consistent days on Devils Lake. After sacking a 29-pound, 13-ounce limit last year on day one, he faltered on day two with only 5 pounds, 12 ounces. Harsh actually fractured his leg early on day two but continued to fish through the pain. He rebounded on day three with 22-6 and finished just ounces out of the top 10.

This time around, Harsh, who is using a live-bait rig, is leading by more than 6 pounds. Harsh is identified as a veteran angler who fishes to win. With that strategy, he has sacrificed a few checks from time to time. But when it works, it works brilliantly.

"We got the right fish in the right order today," Harsh said. "Everything clicked. Our first fish was 4 pounds, and our second fish was 9 pounds. It took 10 minutes to get the big fish in the boat because he got wrapped up in trees several times."

Unlike other anglers who reported catching dozens upon dozens of walleyes, Harsh only caught seven keepers.

"When you fish for the big ones, you don't get 50 fish in a day. Fishing where I am is a patience game, and it's easy to be patient when you have a 4- and 9-pounder in the boat. And I don't have many boats around me. I've got other areas, but I will fish this until it is depleted."

Meleen second

Pro Paul Meleen is all smiles after boating the dayIsle, Minn., pro Paul Meleen had a remarkable performance Wednesday with five walleyes that weighed 23 pounds, 1 ounce. His limit would have been even heavier if not for a livewell malfunction that cost him two fish and a 1-pound penalty.

"I have four good spots, and I only fished one today," Meleen said. "My goal was to fish two spots today and two tomorrow, but I only had to fish one today, so I feel good about that. I'll start on the same spot tomorrow, but I won't hesitate to hit another spot. Two of my spots I know nobody is fishing."

Meleen caught eight keeper-sized fish on a live-bait presentation near shallow-water trees, but said his pattern would have been even better with more wind.

"The wind pulls them off the ledge and up on the flat."

Keenan switches up late, sits in third

Tom Keenan and Jack Ellenbecker show off their day-one catch from Devils Lake.In third place is Hatley, Wis., native Tom Keenan, who caught five walleyes that weighed in at 22 pounds, 9 ounces.

"I've actually ice-fished this lake a lot more than I have fished it in the summer," said Keenan, who pitched crankbaits most of the day. "We've been coming to this lake each winter for the past nine years."

Keenan added, "Late in the day, I decided to go to the trees and try to get a big fish, and we caught a 25-incher in four minutes."

Kehl fourth

Shannon Kehl weighed 22-8 to take fourth place after the opening day on Devils Lake.Finishing the day in fourth place, Shannon Kehl boated five walleyes that weighed 22 pounds, 8 ounces. Kehl started the day on his primary area and caught five nice ones within the first 30 minutes. The Menoken, N.D., pro and his co-angler partner, Joshua Northagen, then left for another area, where they were able to upgrade a few times. The two used both bobbers and crankbaits to catch their fish on a variety of structure including sand, rock and cattails.

"I'm going back to where we started," Kehl said. "Nobody saw us there, and we weren't there very long. I'm pretty confident that we can catch five 20-inchers tomorrow."

Schoenecker fifth

Pro Ken Schoenecker sits in fifth after day one with a limit weighing 22 pounds, 6 ounces.Ken Schoenecker of West Bend, Wis., brought in a five-walleye limit weighing 22 pounds, 6 ounces, which was good for fifth place.

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pros on day one at Devils Lake:

6th: Dan Plautz of Muskego, Wis., five walleyes, 22-5
7th: Tom Brunz of Madison Lake, Minn., five walleyes, 22-3
8th: Terry Wilson of Powell, Wyo., five walleyes, 22-1
9th: Dennis Lantzy of Warren, Mich., five walleyes, 21-14
10th: Jason Przekurat of Stevens Point, Wis., five walleyes, 21-12

Five lunkers for Fetzik

Jim Fetzik leads the Co-angler Division with walleyes that weighed 29 pounds, 5 ounces.On the co-angler side, Pengilly, Minn., native Jim Fetzik proved to be a valuable asset in Harsh's boat. The two worked together and caught five walleyes that weighed 29 pounds, 5 ounces.

"We never missed a fish all day," said Fetzik, the co-angler leader. "I've had Pete as a partner both last year and again this year. He's an amazing teacher. If you listen to Pete, you're going to catch fish. He's so meticulous with what he does."

Harsh echoed Fetzik's kind words.

"You can't have a good catch without a good partner," Harsh said.

High five

Jason Svir of Cando, N.D., placed second for the co-anglers with five walleyes weighing 23 pounds, 1 ounce.

Pierre, S.D., resident Jack Ellenbecker took third in the Co-angler Division with 22 pounds, 9 ounces.

Fishing in his first FLW Outdoors tournament, Joshua Northagen of Grand Forks, N.D., sits in fourth with 22-8, and James Murphy of Fayetteville, Ark., caught a limit weighing 22 pounds, 6 ounces, for fifth.

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers on day one on Devils Lake:

6th: Rick Sutherland of Mead, Wash., five walleyes, 22-5
7th: Dale Todd of Anderson, Ind., five walleyes, 22-3
8th: Steven Maksymyk of Komarno, Manitoba, five walleyes, 22-1
9th: Larry Oleson of Wisconsin Rapids, Wis., five walleyes, 21-14
10th: Bruce Wingen of Thorton, Colo., five walleyes, 21-12

Day two of FLW Walleye Tour competition on Devils Lake begins as the field of 150 boats takes off from Grahams Island State Park in Devils Lake at 7 a.m. Central time Thursday for the second day of the opening round.

Tags: brett-carlson  headline-story  2006-06-07-devils-lake 

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