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

FISHING LEAGUE WORLDWIDE

Not your typical Lake Erie tournament day

Not your typical Lake Erie tournament day
Steve Vandemark of Linwood, Mich. and his co-angler, Marty Barski of Crystal Lake, Ill., trolled their way to a leading weight of 36 pounds, 6 ounces on Day 1 of the 2009 Walmart FLW Walleye Tour season opener on Lake Erie.

PORT CLINTON, Ohio - Pro anglers who don't do well during practice often go home without a check. But a good game plan meant nothing on the first day of actual competition of the 2009 Walmart FLW Walleye Tour season opener on Lake Erie.

Who needs a good game plan when nobody has one? Today was like the first day of practice for 124 pros and their co-angler partners. The weather Thursday - cloudless skies and temperatures in the low 60s - hasn't been seen here in weeks. Better yet, the bite the anglers found hasn't been seen here all year, and, best of all, it will only get better as the forecast calls for even warmer days ahead.

Atop the leader board after day one (the planned first day of competition Wednesday was canceled due to inclement weather) is Steve Vandemark of Linwood, Mich., with 36 pounds, 6 ounces, which he pulled while trolling on structure. While less than 5 pounds separate second through 10th places, Vandemark has an almost 6-pound lead over his roommate and second-place pro Alan Szoke of Grosse Isle, Mich.

"Now I'm praying for a blow day," Vandemark joked as he walked offstage after weighing in his catch.

Not surprisingly, most of the day's better weights were caught by anglers in the final flight, indicating that ever-warming water is triggering a better bite.

Vandemark said he left the only spot where he had had luck during practice to Szoke. But he found another spot where luck played a role in his leading catch.

"At 10:15 we were ready to leave when the big one hit," Vandemark said. "We stayed there the rest of the day and kept grinding and grinding. In the last 45 minutes we caught three of our weigh fish."

Despite his relatively impressive weight, Vandemark said he took nothing for granted as he motored to shore.

"This is Lake Erie, so I figured we might make the top 10," he said. "In years past, 40 pounds has been the benchmark. But with the way that northeast wind has been blowing the last few days, I just didn't know."

The widespread quality of angling talent in the walleye fishing world is shown by the top 10, who hail from six different states: Michigan, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio and Wisconsin.

Three anglers among the top 10 weighed just four of a possible five-fish limit. Twenty of the 103 pros who brought fish to the scales had a five-fish limit. Twenty-one got skunked.

Brian Keller of Winneconne, Wis., in in 19th place after weighing just three fish, while Scott Fairbairn of Hager City, Wis., Tom Kemos of Oconomowoc, Wis., and Joe Okada of Fitchburg, Wis., all cracked the top 25 with just three fish.

Last year's winner, John Swanstrom of Superior, Wis., is in 56th place with 11 pounds, 2 ounces, which he got with two fish.

Szoke in second and loving itAlan Szoke of Grosse Isle, Mich. is in second place with 30 pounds, 9 ounces.
Alan Szoke hung all day on a spot he found with Vandemark during practice and pulled 30 pounds, 9 ounces.

"This is new to me, and it feels great," said Szolke, who's in his third year on the tour. "I've been here for three weeks getting beat up. So today I said, `I'm going to go out there and just enjoy fishing.'"

Szoke said he ran about 40 miles before he started fishing. His first fish came at 11 a.m. and the last one just minutes before quitting time.

Rick Franklinof Bemidji, Minn., is in thid place with 29 pounds, 13 ounces.Franklin just fine with third place

Rick Franklin said he's noticed a trend in his tournament fishing career. When he starts high, he finishes low, and when he starts low, he finishes high. That should make him nervous about his current third-place standing, but he said he'll take Thursday's weight and build on it.

"I didn't want to be in first, but I wanted to be in the top 10," said Franklin, who weighed 29 pounds, 13 ounces. "Right now I'm right where I want to be."

Franklin said he went to the spot where he had the best luck during practice and found nothing. He cruised around until he found 42-degree water, which was key.

"When the water warms up 1 more degree, this lake will be on fire," Franklin said. "You'll see some really big fish caught tomorrow."

His prediction for his Friday weight?

"Thirty-six pounds," Franklin said.

Out of the woodwork from MontanaScott Woodward of Glendive, Mont. is in fourth place with 29 pounds, 13 ounces.

Fishing in his first FLW Walleye Tour event, Scott Woodward of Glendive, Mont., is in fourth place with 29 pounds, 13 ounces, which he caught while pulling crankbaits.

"I was worried going into today," Woodward said, "because I didn't think I had enough time on the water."

Turns out he had a good program despite weighing just four of five possible fish.

"I just couldn't get that last bite," he said. "I only had four all day."

Individual fish are not weighed at this tournament, but these two monster walleyes caught by Brian Keller of Winneconne, Wis. were surely among the biggest weighed on Day 1 of the Walmart FLW Walleye Tour season opener on Lake Erie.Rest of the best

5th: Pat Byle, Cogate, Wis., 28 pounds, 3 ounces
6th: Ted Takasaki, East Gull Lake, Minn., 28 pounds, 2 ounces
7th: Scott Schiefelbein, Birchwood, Wis., 26 pounds, 15 ounces
8th: Perry Good, Brainerd, Minn., 26 pounds, 12ounces
9th: Ronnie Rhodes, Lorain, Ohio, 26 pounds, 2 ounces
10th: David Kraft, Bismarck, N.D., 25 pounds, 12 ounces

Top 10 co-anglers

1st: Marty Barski, Crystal Lake, Ill., 38 pounds, 6 ounces
2nd: Trevor Sacksteder, Columbus, Ohio, 30 pounds, 9 ounces
3rd: Dave Holte, Rapid City, S.D., 29 pounds 13 ounces
4th: Kenny Henexson, Thornton, Colo., 29 pounds,13 ounces
5th: Chip Adams, Stafford, Va., 28 pounds, 3 ounces
6th: Ted Dorsey, New Londson, Wis., 28 pounds, 2 ounces
7th: Bruce Frevert, Centerville, Iowa, 26 pounds, 15 ounces
8th: Pete Stasney, New Prague, Minn., 28 pounds, 12 ounces
9th: Mark Willand, Dawson, Minn., 26 pounds, 2 ounces
10th: Darrell Martin, Forest Lake, Minn., 25 pounds, 12 ounces

Friday's launch is scheduled for 7 a.m. at the Nor' Easter Club, 2801 Nor' Easter Cove Road in Port Clinton. Friday's weigh-in will be at Waterworks Park beginning at 4 p.m. Saturday's final weigh-in will be at Walmart, 2826 E. Harbor Road in Port Clinton beginning at 4 p.m. The community is invited to attend daily takeoffs and weigh-ins, which are free and open to the public.

Tags: vince-meyer  headline-story  2009-04-15-lake-erie-port-clinton-oh 

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