UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Dale Hollow Lake

Kuzdzal catches 41-8 for Erie lead

Kuzdzal catches 41-8 for Erie lead
Pro Mike Kuzdzal and co-angler Philip Verdura hold up their five biggest walleyes from day one on Lake Erie.

PORT CLINTON, Ohio - A warm southerly breeze and bright sunshine revived a stagnant, yet world-class Lake Erie on Wednesday. Although the western basin isn't quite living up to its legendary potential, plenty of big fish crossed the scale on day one of the Wal-Mart FLW Walleye Tour season opener.

By most any measure, the fishing on day one was excellent. But this is Lake Erie and its plentiful waters are about to explode. Simply put, the fishing is improving, and the next three days should be nothing short of fantastic.

The total catch Wednesday was 479 fish that weighed 2,658 pounds. The overall fish number isn't impressive, but the total poundage is. Only 52 five-walleye limits were brought to the scale, but three surpassed the 40-pound mark and 23 were heavier than 30 pounds.

Kuzdzal catches 15 keepers

The heaviest limit of the day came from Mike Kuzdzal. After putting his incredible sack of fish on the Using crankbaits and spinners, Mike Kuzdzal caught 41-8 on day one of the Walleye Tour event on Lake Erie. scale, the pro leader exhaled.

"We had periods of sheer boredom followed by extreme chaos," he said. "We were culling 7-pounders at noon."

Fishing with co-angler Philip Verdura, Kuzdzal caught 15 keepers by trolling both crankbaits and crawler harnesses. The biggest fish weighed 10 pounds and was followed by two 9-pounders and two that nearly went 8 pounds.

"Every time I thought the cranks were the key to the big fish, we caught a big one on a spinner."

The Cincinnati native said his fish bit nearly everywhere in the water column. In practice, he was catching similar-sized fish, but the numbers weren't there.

"We never caught a fish under 5 pounds today. On one pass we caught six fish."

With a tremendous catch in the livewell early, Kuzdzal decided to slowly troll back to the marina. Incredibly, he picked up three upgrades on the way back. It was that kind of a day for the third-year pro - seemingly nothing went wrong.

Frey second

In second place is Avon Lake, Ohio, pro David Frey. The local angler was one of the first to weigh in Pro David Frey and co-angler Field Olson caught a five-walleye limit Wednesday weighing 41 pounds, 2 ounces.and set the bar for much of the afternoon. His best five Lake Erie walleyes weighed 41 pounds, 2 ounces.

"The fish did snap pretty good today, so that helped," Frey said. "We caught most of our better fish early. We were culling by 9:30 a.m."

Frey said he is employing only one pattern on only one location. There are nearly a dozen tournament boats in his one-mile area, but he thinks most are trolling spinners while he uses crankbaits.

"I've been fishing this lake for over 20 years. If the wind stays out of the southwest, it will get even better."

Late entry third

In third place is Cleveland pro Kevin Michnicki, who caught five walleyes on day one that Pro Kevin Michnicki is in third place after catching 40 pounds, 4 ounces on day one.weighed 40 pounds, 4 ounces. As of Tuesday morning, Michnicki wasn't even entered in the tournament. He was called later that afternoon when another competitor had a broken motor and couldn't receive the proper parts in time.

With no prefishing, the Walleye Tour rookie went "flying blind." The strategy worked to the tune of five keepers, the biggest weighing 10 pounds, 12 ounces.

"It was a perfect day," said the local, who fished the recent Walleye League event and spends roughly 70 days a year on the water. "I just told myself I was going to go out and do what I do."

Michnicki, a regular on the Lake Erie Walleye Trail, admitted he was trolling, but wouldn't reveal if he was using crankbaits or spinners.

"I'm confident in my program. I think my fish are going to be there tomorrow."

Schilling fourth

Capitalizing on a strong late-afternoon bite, Chad Schilling of Akaska, S.D., came in during the last flight of the day with 39 pounds, 2 ounces, which was good enough for fourth place. This is Schilling's first FLW Outdoors tournament of any kind.

Stier fifth

Dan Stier - a longtime Pierre, S.D., resident, who recently moved to Clearwater, Minn., after getting Dan Stier and James Woods are fifth in their respective divisions after catching 38-5.married - caught a five-walleye limit weighing 38-5 for fifth place.

"You're going to see some banner weights the next few days," said Stier. "It's going to be a great tournament."

Half of Stier's fish came from jigging and half came from trolling. He started the day jigging and had a limit by 9:30 this morning. From there he bounced around between trolling spots and upgraded all but two of his jig fish.

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pros on day one on Lake Erie:

6th: Robert Henton of Spartansburg, Pa., five walleyes, 38-0
7th: Nate Provost of Green Bay, Wis., five walleyes, 37-11
8th: Pete Harsh of Sauk Centre, Minn., five walleyes, 37-5
9th: Tom Brunz of Madison Lake, Minn., five walleyes, 35-15
10th: Jason Kerr of Holly, Mich., five walleyes, 35-9

Verdura grabs co-angler lead

Fishing with Kuzdzal, the pro leader, Verdura got a firsthand lesson Wednesday on how to catch Lake Erie walleyes.

"It was awesome out there," said Verdura, who is fishing in only his second Walleye Tour tournament. "We did things out there I thought we would never do."

The end result was 41 pounds, 8 ounces and the Co-angler Division lead.

"It was all about working as a team today. Mike was great about that. When things were really getting busy, he was calling out everything. We really had to count on each other because the wind was blowing so hard.

"I look forward to fishing with a new partner tomorrow," the West Bloomfield, Mich., native added. "Hopefully, we will be on the same size fish as I was with Mike today."

Rounding out the top five co-anglers on day one on Lake Erie:

2nd: Field Olson of Minnetonka, Minn., five walleyes, 41-2
3rd: Bjorn Horgen of Deer River, Minn., five walleyes, 40-4
4th: Jason Copeland of Wellsville, Kan., five walleyes, 39-2
5th: James Woods of Sheffield Lake, Ohio, five walleyes, 38-5

Day two of FLW Walleye Tour competition on Lake Erie begins 7 a.m. Eastern time Thursday as the field of 150 boats takes off from the Nor'Easter Club in Port Clinton.

Tags: brett-carlson  headline-story  2008-04-16-lake-erie 

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