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

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Swanstrom seals victory, cumulative weight record

Swanstrom seals victory, cumulative weight record
For winning the 2008 FLW Walleye Tour event on Lake Erie, John Swanstrom earned $100,000.

PORT CLINTON, Ohio - It became obvious on day two of the Wal-Mart FLW Walleye Tour season opener when the weather stabilized and the big females started eating: Pat Neu's cumulative four-day weight record of 111 pounds, 8 ounces would be shattered on Lake Erie's plentiful waters. But no one thought it would be shattered by a rookie.

John Swanstrom may be new to the Walleye Tour, but he isn't new to walleye fishing. Growing up in Duluth, Minn., he's fished the St. Louis River and Lake Superior practically all his life. He's also fished the Masters Walleye Circuit since 1998. But in those 10 years, his biggest payday was $4,000. The $100,000 he won Saturday was quite a step up.

"It hasn't sunk in it," said the pro winner. "It's just awesome to come out and fish a body of water that's Pro John Swanstrom celebrates after finding out he won the season-opening FLW Walleye Tour event on Lake Erie.not your own and put together a winning program. That's the biggest feeling of accomplishment. I'm going to put the money away and go on some more fishing trips."

Although he came into the final day with an 18-pound lead, Swanstrom wanted to make sure there was drama. On day one he caught a five-walleye limit weighing 34 pounds, 14 ounces. On day two he improved to 41-5 and on day three he caught 45-13, which went down as the heaviest limit of the tournament. When it mattered most Saturday, the rookie caught just what he needed - a limit weighing 21 pounds, 7 ounces. He finished the tournament with 143 pounds, 7 ounces and the new Walleye Tour four-day cumulative weight record.

"We lost the first two bites we got, and the third was the smallest walleye I've ever caught on Lake Erie. With an hour left to go, we upgraded our last fish from a 3-pounder to a 5-pounder."

Like most everyone else in the 150-boat field, the Superior, Wis., resident trolled crankbaits and spinners at speeds of .8 to 1 mph. As the tournament progressed and the water continued to warm, the A look at John Swanstromfish gradually migrated toward the top of the water column. By Friday and Saturday he was getting them 6 to 8 feet from the surface in water 34 feet deep. His crankbait of choice was a 700 Series Lights Out Reef Runner. Most of his bigger fish came on crankbaits, but he had to resort to spinners on day four.

"The water was just getting clearer and clearer, and the boat traffic increased. With the warmth and the clarity today, the spinners outperformed the cranks."

Swanstrom fished three different areas located halfway between Port Clinton and the Canadian border. His primary area was located slightly north and one mile west of North Bass Island. With the help of his teammates Erik Furseth, Kurt Turner, Alan Szoke and Steve Vandemark, Swanstrom found his fish on Monday, two days before the tournament commenced.

"They were just stacked up in there. When we found them, they wouldn't bite. The first day they really Pro champion John Swanstrom holds up his two biggest walleyes from Saturdaystarted to bite was Wednesday, and then we were still experimenting with the best way to catch them."

Swanstrom also fished an open basin near Kelleys Island and an area four miles west of Rattlesnake Island.

"There were enough nice fish in spots two and three where I had to check them every day. Today was a scramble. Like Erik (Furseth) said, you've got to get the big ones early or you're not going to get them."

After completing his first Walleye Tour event, the 35-year-old will return to northern Wisconsin with a six-figure check.

Smith settles for second

At the conclusion of day three, Larry Stephen Smith was surprisingly optimistic about his chances for a victory despite trailing the leader by 18 pounds. Realistically, he thought he could catch 43 pounds on day four. As it turned out, he wasn't very far off. With a final-day catch of five walleyes weighing 38 pounds, 15 ounces, Smith finished with a four-day total of 142 pounds, 13 ounces.

Larry Stephen Smith and John Kopcok caught a limit that weighed 38 pounds, 15 ounces Saturday."I thought for sure I had 40 or 41 pounds," said the Green Bay and Winnebago guide. "I guess it's just not meant to be. I really want to win one of these things, but there's nothing wrong with second either. The only thing I messed up was yesterday - I didn't switch to harnesses fast enough. It was definitely a spinner bite yesterday, with the way the water warmed up."

Early in the tournament, Smith used Reef Runners. His best colors were Wonderbread and Pink Squirrel trolled at 1.4 to 1.6 mph. He fished the northeast side of Rattlesnake Island in 38 feet of water.

"We tore them up today. The bulk of our fish came from trolling in 10 to 14 feet of water. I actually hate trolling. I'm not a troller. I'm a jigger and a rigger. In my business people want to feel the fish."

For taking second, the Berlin, Wis., native earned a $27,500 check.

Furseth finishes third

Furseth had another banner day Saturday on Lake Erie - catching a five-walleye limit weighing 36 pounds, 8 ounces. Amazingly, he simply maintained his third-place position in the standings.

"We whacked them today," said the East Lansing, Mich., native. "My first pass I had two 8-pounders, a 5-pounder and a 4-pounder. On my second pass I had another 8 and a 7. If you don't get your big ones Pro Erik Furseth and co-angler Ike Rhodes hold up their 36-pound, 8-ounce catch. by 9 a.m., you're done."

Furseth fished the exact same water as the pro winner. On day four, he fared much better than his teammate, but it still wasn't enough to complete the improbable comeback. Unlike Swanstrom, Furseth used spinners almost exclusively.

"I'm not a cranker. I'm a meat guy. I got two fish on cranks all week. I mainly used glow-back blades by Fishlander in White Perch and Fire Tiger. When the sun was bright, I used copper blades."

The third-place finisher presented his baits 8 to 10 feet beneath the surface in water 34 feet deep.

"Once you find the marks, you've got to fish them. I don't care if you're in 25 feet of water or 50 feet of water."

With a total weight of 138 pounds, 15 ounces, Furseth took a check worth $25,000.

"Between us five teammates, I bet we caught 40 to 50 walleyes that were 8 pounds or more from that spot. Believe it or not, we weren't really that confident coming into the tournament. On Wednesday we were basically prefishing it, and we had it dialed in on Thursday."

Henton rises to fourth

Spartansburg, Pa., pro Bob Henton earned $15,000 and finished in fourth place with a four-day total weight of 137 pounds, 3 ounces. On Saturday, the Walleye Tour rookie managed a limit that weighed 37 pounds, 8 ounces - which moved him up from eighth to fourth. He credited his success to making a Pro Robert Henton took fourth and earned $15,000.smart adjustment halfway through the tournament.

"I had to make a change Thursday," Henton said. "I was pulling Husky Jerks the first two days, and then I started mixing the Husky Jerks with crawler harnesses. When I pulled the cranks and spinners together, the spinners outperformed the cranks so I went all spinners the rest of the tournament."

Henton plans to take tomorrow off before starting his preparation for the MWC event (April 25-27) on Lake Erie.

"My first FLW tournament was wonderful; it couldn't have been any better. I can't really believe I made it this far."

Franklin fifth

Finishing in fifth place was Bemidji, Minn., pro Rick Franklin. Over roughly the last two years, Franklin has elevated his game and has clearly established himself as one of walleye fishing's best anglers.

He caught five walleyes Saturday weighing 35-5, bringing his four-day total to 136 pounds, 7 ounces. His downfall was day one when he only brought only three walleyes to the scale that weighed 21 Pro Rick Franklin took fourth at the season-opening FLW Walleye Tour event on Lake Erie.pounds. Throughout the tournament, he targeted fish by trolling at speeds of .8 to 1.2 mph. On day two he used Reef Runners in Pink Lemonade and Wonderbread colors. On day three he used blue and orange Rattlin' Rogues, and on day four he used spinners. He fished an abyss between North Bass Island, Middle Island and the Canadian border.

"Today, we went to our first spot and didn't get anything, so we moved," said Franklin, a likely favorite for the tour's third stop of the year on Cass Lake. "We went back and it was on fire. All but one of our fish came from our original spot, and we only fished it for an hour.

"The schools were really small. There was no rhyme or reason to where they were at. When you found them, you had to keep spinning around and go back over them. They were not big schools like we're used to on Erie."

Without contingencies, the pro's fifth-place finish earned him $8,000.

"On Monday I'm buying a Ranger-Yamaha."

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pro finalists at the FLW Walleye Tour event on Lake Erie:

6th: Dan Stier of Clearwater, Minn., four-day total of 133-15, $10,000
7th: Chad Schilling of Akaska, S.D., 133-14, $9, 000
8th: David Frey of Avon Lake, Ohio, 131-3, $5,000
9th: Kevin Michnicki of Cleveland, Ohio, 129-4, $5,500
10th: Pete Harsh of Sauk Centre, Minn., 121-12, $5,000

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

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

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