UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Dale Hollow Lake

Swanstrom learning to love Erie

Swanstrom learning to love Erie
John Swanstrom holds up a 12-pound Lake Erie walleye he caught Friday.

PORT CLINTON, Ohio - During a four-day slugfest on Lake Erie, nothing is more important than consistency. Reconnecting with nomadic Great Lakes walleyes day after day is a difficult task. But rookie pro John Swanstrom is making it look easy. Step aside bass-rich Falcon Lake, the western basin of Erie is once again the hottest fishery on the planet.

With a five-fish catch weighing 45 pounds, 13 ounces, Swanstrom took control of the leaderboard with one day of Wal-Mart FLW Walleye Tour competition remaining. For the third consecutive day, the weather cooperated. As the fishing continued to improve throughout the week it became clear that Pat Neu's four-day cumulative weight record of 111 pounds, 8 ounces would be crushed. But nobody thought it would be crushed after only the third day. Altogether, over 4,000 pounds of walleyes were brought to the scale Friday. On day one, just over 2,000 pounds were caught.

It is absolutely mind-boggling to think Swanstrom has already accumulated a total of 15 walleyes weighing 122 pounds. That means each of his fish have on average weighed over 8 pounds.

"I'm speechless," said the pro leader. "This is absolutely unbelievable. We caught those big ones in a Pro John Swanstrom and co-angler Larry Behsman hold up their 45-pound, 13-ounce catch.matter of an hour and a half."

Swanstrom grew up in Duluth, Minn., and has been around fishing all his life. But he's never seen anything like this.

"There were a few fish in the morning and then we moved to our secondary spot and the cranks just fired. It was ridiculous."

The biggest fish of the five in his limit weighed 12 pounds.

"We're running a little bit of both (crankbaits and spinners), but we're definitely getting our bigger fish on cranks. We've been real consistent with our trolling speeds but quite frankly I don't think it mattered. It was one of those days where the stars line up and wow, unbelievable."

Swanstrom's co-angler, Larry Behsman, had similar thoughts.

"It was probably the best experience I've had in my life - no doubt," he said. "This was my first trip to Erie but I think I'll be back."

The Superior, Wis., pro said he is fishing halfway between Port Clinton and the Canadian border. He'll start tomorrow's final day of competition with an 18-pound lead.

"Nobody is going to run away with this. This is Lake Erie, its going to be a slugfest again tomorrow."

Smith second

By his standards, pro Larry Stephen Smith had a bad day on Lake Erie. Keep in mind he still caught a five-fish limit weighing 31 pounds, 5 ounces.

Larry Stephen Smith and Keith Strauss hold up their day-three catch."I didn't think we had that kind of weight," said the Green Bay and Winnebago guide. "I'm just shocked. I didn't think I was going to make it. Today was a tough day - we only had six bites."

Smith is catching all his fish on crankbaits trolled at speeds from 1.5 to 1.7 mph.

"It was a totally different bite and I missed the program. The water warmed up and the fish moved up. The first two days I had five in the box by 9:30 a.m. and today we didn't have five in the livewell until 2 p.m."

Despite trailing the leader by 18 pounds, the Berlin, Wis., native doesn't think this tournament is over.

"Tomorrow will definitely be a day for adjusting. I think I got a heck of a shot at winning this. If the weather holds I'm thinking 43 or 44 pounds."

Furseth sacks 43 for third

Erik Furseth, a friend and teammate of Swanstrom, is in third place after catching a three-day total of 102 pounds, 7 ounces. His limit Friday weighed 43 pounds even. Not surprisingly, he is sharing the same water as Swanstrom.

"The bite really turned on for us this morning," said the East Lansing, Mich., pro. "It's really tough when Erik Furseth is in third place with a three-day total weight of 102-7.you're throwing back 6-pounders."

Furseth said he literally trolled 100 yards behind the pro leader. Along with his other teammates, Alan Szoke and Steve Vandemark, the two found these fish on the second day of practice.

"We knew they were there, but we couldn't get them to bite."

The first day they bit in earnest was day one of the tournament. Since then, it has been getting better and better each day.

"I had 40 pounds on my first pass this morning. I lost three fish on day one that would have added another 10 pounds. Believe it or not, those are the only three I have lost."

Like Swanstrom, Furseth is trolling with mainly crankbaits. Today, Furseth caught 25 keepers while Swanstrom caught roughly a dozen.

"We're on them. The fish are high in the water column. The big fish bite in the morning 6-8 feet from the surface. After that, the 5-6 pounders show up so you've got to be on them early."

South Dakota rookie fourth

Rising to fourth place was rookie G3 pro Chad Schilling of Akaska, S.D. After bringing in only 21 pounds on day two, the 2007 PWT Rookie of the Year was able to manage five walleyes that weighed 41 pounds, 7 ounces on day three. His opening-round total was 101 pounds, 9 ounces.

South Dakota pro Chad Schilling is fourth with 101 pounds, 9 ounces."That was fun out there," he said. "Everybody talks about how great Lake Erie is but wow, talk about chaos. We just had a blast out there."

Schilling is starting each day by trolling an equal amount of crankbaits and spinners.

"I call this POP fishing. That stands for Put them Out and Pray"

The Lake Oahe guide said he's not targeting numbers. He caught a dozen fish on the day but he saw several locals catch smaller walleyes hand over fist.

"At one time I switched up and caught four 4-pounders right away and said, `This is stupid' so I went back to what I was doing. I'm kind of kicking myself for yesterday but you've got to look forward."

Frey up to fifth

Rising two spots to fifth place was local Avon Lake, Ohio, pro David Frey. On day three, he once again put five walleyes into the box that weighed 35 pounds, 7 ounces. His three-day weight is 101-9, the Local pro David Frey is in fifth place with one day of competition remaining.same as Schilling's. Technically, Schilling owns the tiebreaker since he has the heaviest single-day catch.

"We had six hookups today that got off - two for sure that were 8 pounds-plus," Frey said. "They would have helped a lot but I think we're OK. I've been fishing here for 20 years and I've never lost that many fish."

Frey is using all crankbaits. He said the key to his success has been his productive location.

"If I don't lose fish I think I can get 40 pounds tomorrow - but so can the other guys."

Rounding out the top 10 pros who will be fishing on day four on Lake Erie:

Rest of the best

6th: Rick Franklin of Bemidji, Minn., 101-2
7th: Kevin Michnicki of Cleveland, Ohio, 100-0
8th: Robert Henton of Spartansburg, Pa., 99-11
9th: Dan Stier of Clearwater, Minn., 98-4
10th: Pete Harsh of Sauk Centre, Minn., 98-2

Copeland continues to sleep, catch fish

On the co-angler side, Jason Copeland of Wellsville, Kansas, continued to use his odd method of David Kraft and Jason Copeland hold up their day-three catch from Lake Erie.sleeping in the boat Friday. But after leading the tournament for two consecutive days, his technique no longer looks like luck.

"You bet he slept all day," said his pro partner, David Kraft.

In total, Kraft and Copeland caught eight walleyes. Kraft said they used both spinners and plugs as they focused on changing depths as much as possible.

"I figure if you sleep than maybe you can sneak up on them," said Copeland, who has a three-day total weight of 111 pounds, 11 ounces. "When you're catching them it's not boring, but when you're trolling there are lulls."

With more than a 5-pound lead, Copeland has a good chance at winning a not-so-boring $10,000 in his first walleye tournament.

Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers who will fish on day four on Lake Erie:John Kopcok is second in the Co-angler Division with one day remaining.

2nd: John Kopcok of Bellriver, Ontario, 106-1
3rd: Ike Rhodes of Harrogate, Tenn., 102-9
4th: Behsman of Elysian, Minn., 100-5
5th: Kenny Henexson of Thornton, Colo., 99-9
6th: Randy Seidl of Appleton, Minn., 96-2
7th: Jeff Sather of Montevideo, Minn., 94-10
8th: Bruce Frevert of Centerville, Iowa, 92-5
9th: Nate Brunz of Madison Lake, Minn., 90-9
10th: Marty Barski of Crystal Lake, Ill., 89-4

The final day of FLW Walleye Tour competition on Lake Erie begins as the top 10 pro and 10 co-anglers take off from the Nor'Easter Club at 6:30 a.m. Eastern time Saturday. The final weigh-in will take place at 4 p.m. Eastern time from the Wal-Mart store located at 2826 E. Harbor Road in Port Clinton.

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

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