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  • Updated: 10/05/03


    RED WING, Minn. (Oct. 1, 2003) – A day of brilliant sunshine provided a stark contrast to chilly temperatures on the Mississippi River near Red Wing Wednesday as 440 anglers kicked off the four-day, $1.4 million Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Championship. Two hundred and twenty pros are angling for a top prize worth as much as $400,000 cash, the richest payout in walleye-tournament history, and Douglas Vandersteen of Lundar, Manitoba, and his co-angler partner Jarrad Fluekiger of Alma, Wis., lead the charge with a four-walleye catch weighing 22 pounds, 6 ounces. Two hundred and twenty co-anglers are in the hunt for a top co-angler award of $150,000 cash.
        Many championship contenders found the mighty Mississippi to be mighty miserly Wednesday, with only 26 boats landing five-walleye limits. Vandersteen and Fluekiger, however, lead the field by a 3-pound, 5-ounce margin thanks to solid pre-fishing by Vandersteen.
        “I found decent fish in Pool Four about a week and a half ago, but I spent last week in Pool Three and figured out how some things were working,” said Vandersteen, who caught most of his walleyes Wednesday using Shad Raps. “But we laid it all on the line and went to Pool Four today, and it came through.”
        Fluekiger, no stranger to the leaderboard after finishing ninth in last year’s championship, put himself in position to claim a second consecutive RCL Walleye Championship top-10 finish. “I had a blast,” he said. “This feels great, and I hope I can stay here.”
        2003 Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Tour Angler of the Year Jason Przekurat of Stevens Point, Wis., sits in 150th place after Wednesday’s competition with one walleye weighing 1 pound, 9 ounces. Dr. Bruce Samson, $300,000 winner of the 2002 championship that was also held on the Mississippi River, weighed three walleyes weighing 5 pounds, 9 ounces to claim the 60th position. However, RCL Tour veterans Scott Allar of Welch; Rick Walter of Casper, Wyo.; and Pete Harsh of Sauk Centre each remain solidly in contention with top-25 rankings after opening day.
        Rounding out the top four are pro Steve Lamb of Nashville, Tenn., and co-angler Chad Carroll of Machesney Park, Ill. (four walleyes, 19 pounds, 1 ounce); pro Robert Bodin of Red Wing and co-angler Derek Ferestad of Overland, Kan. (five walleyes, 15 pounds, 12 ounces); and pro Randy Carroll of Oswego, Ill., and co-angler Rob Jiminez of Missoula, Mont. (five walleyes, 13 pounds, 12 ounces). Three teams caught 12 pounds, 13 ounces to form a three-way tie for fifth: Allar and his co-angler partner Karl Elsner Jr. of West Monroe, N.Y.; John Hertensteiner of Victoria and his co-angler partner Philip Bear of West Des Moines, Iowa; and Jack Neuman of Naperville, Ill., and co-angler Glenn Rosenfeldt of Sabin.
        Anglers take off each morning at 7 a.m. from Treasure Island Resort and Casino in Tower. Thursday’s weigh-in will also be held at Treasure Island beginning at 3 p.m. Friday and Saturday’s weigh-ins will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 1752 Frontage Road in Hastings beginning at 5 p.m. Friday and 3 p.m. Saturday. The community is encouraged to attend daily takeoffs and weigh-ins. The Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Tour Family Fun Zone featuring boat and truck displays, sponsor giveaways and children’s games will open at the Hastings Wal-Mart at 3 p.m. Friday and 11 a.m. Saturday. Admission is free.
        The Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Championship field is comprised of anglers who qualified for the event via the $3.07 million Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Tour or other sanctioned tournament organizations. Pros and co-anglers are randomly paired each day and fish for a combined boat weight. Pros supply the boat and tackle and control boat movement. 
        The full field will compete again Thursday, after which the top 12 pros and 12 co-anglers advance to Friday’s semifinal round based on their two-day accumulated weight. Weights are cleared for the semifinal round, and pros compete for one of six final-round slots. Co-angler competition concludes Friday based on their one-day weight.
        The winning pro is guaranteed $150,000 cash. Qualified Ranger, Crestliner and Lund owners are eligible for a $150,000 bonus, and if the winner’s boat is equipped with an Evinrude or Yamaha outboard, he will receive another $100,000 for a top pro award of $400,000 cash. The winning co-angler is guaranteed $75,000 cash, and if he is a registered owner of a Ranger, Crestliner or Lund boat, he will receive a $45,000 bonus. If his boat is equipped with an Evinrude or Yamaha outboard, he will receive another $30,000 for a top co-angler award of $150,000.
        The Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Championship is administered by FLW Outdoors and named after boat manufacturers Ranger, Crestliner and Lund. FLW Outdoors, the world’s leading marketer of competitive fishing, is named after the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, Forrest L. Wood. Other FLW Outdoors tournament trails include the Wal-Mart RCL Walleye League for weekend anglers; the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, the world’s most lucrative bass-tournament series; the EverStart Series, designed as a pathway to the FLW Tour; the Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League for weekend anglers; and the Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail.
        Wal-Mart and many of America’s most respected companies support FLW Outdoors and its six tournament trails. Wal-Mart has been the title sponsor of FLW Outdoors since 1997. For a complete list of FLW Outdoors sponsors and for more information about the premier products and services they offer, please visit FLWOutdoors.com.

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