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  • Updated: 04/12/04


    SPRING VALLEY, Ill. (March 31, 2004) – High, muddy water on the Illinois River is conspiring against anglers fishing the $3.19 million Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Tour season opener, holding the field of 170 boats to just two five-fish limits Wednesday. Only 56 boats brought sauger to the scale, a sharp contrast to last year’s tournament when 158 of 165 boats weighed fish on opening day.
       Ranger pro Steve Lotz of Lena, Ill., and his opening-day teammate, Tony Jaworski of Chicago, lead the tournament with five saugers weighing 12 pounds, 14 ounces that they caught targeting current breaks with live bait. The men hold a 1-pound lead over pro Gerrick McComsey of Fort Pierre, S.D, and co-angler Dean Holden of Red Wing, Minn., who caught four saugers weighing 11 pounds, 14 ounces. Six pounds, 5 ounces separate the top five teams. 
       “It’s a real tough bite, but since the river crested, things should improve every day,” said Lotz, who is fishing his seventh RCL Tour event. “I feel pretty good about my chances. I need to catch a couple more and hopefully end up with 15 or 16 pounds total to make the cut.”
       The river, swollen by heavy rains and littered with debris, crested early Wednesday morning and should start falling according to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. This could produce much better fishing as the tournament continues through Saturday. 
       “I feel very confident that I’ll catch a few more fish and make the cut,” said Jaworski, who has earned a pair of seventh-place finishes in the 13 RCL Tour events he has fished since 2001. “That’s my main goal. After the cut everyone will start from zero, and we’ll go from there.” 
       Rounding out the top five teams are Pete Harsh of Sauk Centre, Minn., and co-angler Scott Koenigsfeld of Three Rivers, Mich. (five saugers, 9 pounds, 15 ounces); John Campbell of Marco Island, Fla., and co-angler Don Kaufman of Casper, Wyo. (four saugers, 8 pounds, 8 ounces); and Patrick Byle of Hartford, Wis., and co-angler Carolyn Brandon of Greenville, Ohio (three saugers, 8 pounds, 2 ounces).
       A total of just 91 fish weighing 231 pounds, 5 ounces were caught Wednesday, and 93 percent of the fish were weighed in alive.
       Pros and co-anglers fish for a combined boat weight and are randomly paired each day. The RCL Tour is the world’s most lucrative professional walleye-fishing series, awarding the winning pro at each event $90,000 in cash and prizes, including a Ranger, Crestliner or Lund boat powered by Evinrude or Yamaha. The winning co-angler collects $15,000 cash at each tournament. At the $1.4 million Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Championship on the Mississippi River in Moline, Ill., Sept. 29 – Oct. 2, pros will fish for as much as $400,000 cash and co-anglers will chase as much as $150,000. 
       Daily takeoffs on the Illinois River start at 7 a.m. at Spring Valley Boat Club in Spring Valley. Thursday’s weigh-in starts at 3 p.m. at the boat club, and Friday and Saturday’s weigh-ins start at 3 p.m. at the Wal-Mart store located at 1650 38th St. in Peru. The community is encouraged to attend daily takeoffs and weigh-ins. 
       Anglers from 19 states and Canada are competing in the lucrative tournament, which will award $401,750 in cash and prizes to the top 60 anglers. The top 20 pros and top 20 co-anglers advance to the one-day semifinal round Friday based on their two-day opening-round catch. Weights are cleared Friday, and only the top 10 pros and top 10 co-anglers advance to Saturday’s final round where the winners are determined by the heaviest two-day weight. 
       The RCL Tour 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-sanctioned 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 more information about the Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Tour, visit FLWOutdoors.com or call (270) 252-1000

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