PORT CLINTON, Ohio -- Daryl Christensen of Montello, Wis. won the opening tournament of the 2003 In-Fisherman Professional Walleye Trail on Lake Erie. It was the veteran pro's second PWT victory, the first coming in 1998 at Lake Stockton, Mo. His winning weight of 57.18 pounds paid $63,000.
The Lake Erie tournament, scheduled for April 16-18, ran two days instead of the usual three due to gale-force winds that caused Day Two to be canceled. The wind also affected the post-spawn walleyes. A later-than-usual spring, cold and extremely dirty water shut the bite down.
Christensen essentially won the tournament on the first day. He pulled five fish weighing 45.63 pounds, the heaviest one-day catch of the tournament, to take a 4-pound lead over Bismarck's Dave Kraft. When the tournament resumed on Day Three, Christensen managed to boat just two walleyes weighing a combined 11.55 pounds. Meanwhile, 11 competitors in the field of 143 pros and five who placed among the top 10 pulled more weight, including Michigan's John Bergsma with a day-leading 24.83 pounds.
But the angler fellow pros call the "Jigmeister" had supplemented his Day One catch enough to maintain the lead. After three hours of trolling without catching a fish on the final day, Christensen switched to jigging. He went to a reef near South Bass Island, where his amateur partner hooked a 4-plus pounder. But though Christensen loves to jig, he's smart enough to know when a particular technique won't do the trick, and he's versatile enough to use the technique that will. He returned to trolling and nailed his second fish
"The jigging fish guaranteed the victory," Christensen said later. "This really feels good."
Kraft hung onto second place with 49.92 pounds, good for a $20,000. In third place with his highest PWT finish was Brad Davis of Jackson, Wis. with 49.53 pounds.
The highest placing Minnesota pro was Foley's Ernie Olson, who finished 40th with 29.01 pounds. Walker's Tommy Skarlis, who won this tournament last year, placed 75th with 17.99 pounds and East Gull Lake's Ted Takasaki was 90th with 15.4 pounds.
Six rookie pros finished in the money, including Ken Van Oss, Oshkosh, Wis., 7, Jack Neuman, Naperville, Ill., 15, Kevin Schweder, Janesville, Wis., 20, Mike Hiser, Pickerinton, Ohio, 23, Pete Petros, Dekalb, Ill., 28, and Marc Hudson, Fremont, Ohio, 32.
Anglers found deep-diving crankbaits with wide-wobbles worked best. The lures were most effective in the top 10 feet of the water column. Water with "in-between" clarity was best. Too clear or too muddy and the fish didn't cooperate.
The pro who advanced the most places from Day One to Day Two was Shannon Kehl, Menoken, N.D., who moved up 53 places.
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