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  • Updated: 06/08/04


    SPIRIT LAKE, N.D. (May 28, 2004) – Bruce Hill of Forest Lake, Minn., and co-angler Brad Barth of Plymouth, Minn., landed the heaviest limit of the $401,750 Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Tour stop on Devils Lake Friday to open a 4-pound, 15-ounce lead over their closest competitors. The lake was not as generous to opening round leaders Nick Johnson of Elmwood, Wis., and co-angler John Blanchard of Crystal, Minn., however, as the pair squeaked into the final round by 1-ounce after leading the first two days of competition. 
       Hill and Barth caught five walleyes weighing 29 pounds, 11 ounces while working leeches around six key areas of submerged brush along a quarter-mile stretch of trees on the east side of the 150,000-acre lake. Johnson and Blanchard, meanwhile, struggled to land four walleyes weighing 15 pounds, 15 ounces after being struck by engine trouble. The catch was just enough to eliminate No. 5 seeds Tim Reitan of Sabin, Minn., and co-angler Herbert Stanford of Oregon, Wis., who finished 11th with three walleyes weighing 15 pounds, 14 ounces. 
        “I feel very confident that if I can get my five fish tomorrow, I will win,” said Hill, who made his RCL Tour pro debut in 2001 on Devils Lake. “I’m fishing a spot that I found last year and couldn’t drive by without fishing it again this year. I’ve had it to myself all week, and everything is working, so I’m not going to change a thing.”
       Hill entered Friday’s semifinal round as the No. 2 seed after catching five walleyes weighing 23 pounds, 4 ounces Wednesday with co-angler Randy Blasky of Fordville, N.D, and five walleyes weighing 26 pounds, 6 ounces Thursday with co-angler Jeff White of Bismarck, N.D. Barth was the No. 2 seed after catching five walleyes weighing 27 pounds, 5 ounces Wednesday with pro Mark Courts of Harris, Minn., and five walleyes weighing 21 pounds, 2 ounces Thursday with pro Dan Majeske of Billings, Mont. 
       “Today was the best day of fishing I’ve had in my life, and it was my third consecutive day to catch over 20 pounds,” said Barth, who is fishing his first tournament and postponed closing on a new house Friday in order to compete. “I’ve had great draws, and the entire experience has been excellent. I’m excited about the finals.”
       Weights were cleared Friday for the top 20 pros and co-anglers who made the cut out of an original field of 174 pros co-anglers. The 10 remaining pros are casting for a top award of $90,000 in cash and prizes, including a Ranger, Crestliner or Lund boat powered by Evinrude or Yamaha, and the 10 remaining co-anglers are chasing a top award of $15,000 cash. The winners in each division will be determined by the heaviest two-day weight. 
       Rounding out the top five final-round qualifiers are pro Phillip Milliser Jr. of Plymouth, Ind., and co-angler Conrad Johnson of Fargo, N.D. (five walleyes, 24 pounds, 12 ounces); pro Jerry Hein of Stillwater, Minn., and Blasky (five walleyes, 24 pounds, 4 ounces); pro Shannon Kehl of Menoken, N.D., and co-angler Lynn Jurrens of Watertown, S.D. (five walleyes, 23 pounds, 9 ounces); and pro Troy Morris of Bismarck, N.D., and co-angler Mark Gardner of Casper, Wyo. (five walleyes, 22 pounds, 9 ounces).
       Overall, the 20 semifinal round teams fishing Friday weighed in 82 walleyes, including 12 five-walleye limits. The day’s catch totaled 322 pounds, 15 ounces. 
       Pros and co-angler are randomly paired, and cash awards are presented to the top 60 anglers in each division. A total of 348 anglers representing 21 states and Canada participated in the tournament.
       The final takeoff starts at 7 Saturday morning from Spirit Lake Casino and Resort, which is located at 7889 Highway 20/57 in Spirit Lake. The final weigh-in start at 3 p.m. at the Wal-Mart store located at 210 Highway 2 W. in Devils Lake. The community is encouraged to attend daily takeoffs and weigh-ins. 
       Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Tour anglers compete in four regular-season tournaments in their quest to qualify for the $1.4 million Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Championship in Moline, Ill., Sept. 29-Oct. 2 where the world’s top pros will fish for as much as $400,000 cash and co-anglers will chase as much as $150,000 cash. The total purse for the 2004 season is $3.19 million, and cash awards are presented to the top 60 anglers in each division at every regular-season tournament.  
       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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