UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Dale Hollow Lake

O Canada

O Canada
Co-angler champion John Kopcok takes a bow for the Port Clinton crowd.

PORT CLINTON, Ohio - John Kopcok said he could sense that he was going to win the season-opening Wal-Mart FLW Walleye Tour event on Lake Erie. All week long the Belle River, Ontario, native fished with a swagger unseen before from a co-angler. Not only did he prove victorious, he also proved Canadians have more fun.

Kopcok took home the title and $10,000 with a four-day total catch of 20 walleyes weighing 145 pounds. He opened the tournament in seventh place Wednesday with five walleyes weighing 37-11 while fishing with pro Nate Provost of Green Bay, Wis. On day two he dropped one spot to eighth with Co-angler John Kopcok holds up his winnera limit weighing 24-6 while fishing with Kevin Larkins of Greenwood, Neb.

On day three he made his move, catching five walleyes that weighed 44 pounds while fishing with Mark Schuitema of Jenison, Mich.

Heading into the final day of competition, Kopcok had a total weight of 106 pounds and was in second place. Paired with Larry Stephen Smith on day four, the 34-year-old plumber caught a limit weighing 38 pounds, 15 ounces - the heaviest stringer of the day. He finished the tournament with a four-day cumulative weight of 145 pounds, a new Walleye Tour record for co-anglers. In fact, his 145 surpassed pro winner John Swanstrom's total weight of 143-7.

"We caught 14 fish on the day but all the big girls came off the Canadian side of the boat," said Kopcok, who naturally termed his side of the boat the Canadian side. "I just had a hunch, a feeling. This is sort of my home lake."

Larry Stephen Smith and John Kopcok hold up their biggest walleye from day four.Revealing a rarely-seen humbler side, Kopcok wanted to thank all his pro partners.

"They were all top notch and they taught me a lot."

Look for Kopcok to make some noise as a co-angler at the $1.5 million Chevy Open this July. Although his passion is walleye fishing, he's quite the smallmouth angler. He took 20th place at the 2007 Chevy Open and will be back for more.

"I've been fishing a lot with my brothers. By the time we were 15 we had our own boat. The Canadians rock man."

Rhodes rises to second

Coming in second for the co-anglers was Ike Rhodes of Harrogate, Tenn. Rhodes started the day in Pro Erik Furseth and co-angler Ike Rhodes hold up their 36-pound, 8-ounce catch. third place and moved up one spot via a 36-pound, 8-ounce catch. He finished the tournament with 139 pounds, 1 ounce earning a purse of $5,000.

This was Rhodes' second trip to the top 10 in four years of fishing the Walleye Tour.

Copeland falls to third

Although Swanstrom held on for the victory in the Pro Division, his co-angler partner, Jason Copeland, fell to third. On day four the two caught five walleyes that weighed 21 pounds, 7 ounces. In total, the day-two and day-three leader caught 15 walleyes that weighed 133 pounds, 2 ounces good for $3,000.

"It was tougher out there today," said the Olathe, Kansas, native who fishes local crappie and bass tournaments. "I didn't get to nap. But seriously, I'm pretty amazed. I came up here hoping for the top 50 and now I'm in the top-10. It's been great."

Lake Erie was Copeland's first FLW Outdoors tournament and first professional walleye tournament of any kind. From here, where 40-pound stringers are common, it's basically all down hill. But we'll let him figure that out.

Behsman had a blast, finishes fourth

Larry Behsman of Elysian, Minn., was fortunate enough to be in the boat with Swanstrom yesterday. The two caught a 45-pound, 13-ounce limit - including a 12-pound fish that was caught on the cheater line and reeled in hand over hand. On day four, he caught 32 pounds, 5 ounces and retained fourth with a total weight of 132 pounds, 10 ounces. Behsman earned $2,500 in his first FLW Outdoors event.

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

Seidl fifth

Fifth place went to Randy Seidl of Appleton, Wis., who boated five walleyes that weighed 35 pounds, 5 ounces. His four-day total weight was 131 pounds, 7 ounces, which earned him a check for $4,250.

Rounding out the top 10 co-angler finalists at the FLW Walleye Tour event on Lake Erie:

6th: Bruce Frevert of Centerville, Iowa, 129-13, $2,000
7th: Kenny Henexson of Thornton, Colo., 129-3, $1,750
8th: Nate Brunz of Madison Lake, Minn., 126-4, $1,500
9th: Jeff Sather of Montevideo, Minn., 123-14, $1,250
10th: Marty Barski of Crystal Lake, Ill., 112-14, $2,000

Stop No. 2 of the 2008 Walleye Tour season takes place May 7-10 on Lake Sharpe in Pierre, S.D.

Tags: brett-carlson  co-angler-headline  2008-04-16-lake-erie 

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