ESCANABA - Professional fisherman Ryan Dempsey of Oneida, Wis. and co-angler Bruce Frevent of Centreville, Ia. grabbed the lead after Thursday's opening round of the National Guard Soldier Appreciation tournament, catching a five-walleye limit weighing 27 pounds, 15 ounces.
This is the third tournament for Dempsey, who decided to sign up for the event Wednesday night after closely watching the weather forecast through the week.
"I was really looking for a good forecast," he said. "I really didn't feel like coming up here and battling the five-foot waves if the wind was blowing hard. It looked good, and it ended up being a good decision for me."
Keith Shelton | Daily Press
Pro anglers Ryan Dempsey, left, of Oneida, Wis. and Bruce Frevert of Centerville, Iowa, display their catch at Thursday’s weigh-in at the Escanaba Marina. The duo wrapped up the first day the FLW Walleye Tour Bays de Noc Tournament in first place with a total weight of 27-15.
Chad Schilling of Akaska, S.D. and Phillip Riccio, Jr. of Huntley, Ill. finished this sunny, warm and breezy day in second place, bringing five fish weighing 27-11 to the scales.
Derek Parker of Skandia and Todd Dankert of Anoka, Minn. came in third, also filling their limit at 26-7 in the National Guard FLW Walleye Tour event on the Bays de Noc.
"Everything that could have gone right, went right," said Parker. "I couldn't have asked for a better partner. The day started pretty slow. We caught a couple fish in the Little Bay, but they weren't the right size. Things started coming together when we got to our second spot, and we started catching some big fish about noon.
Thursday's 10 teams, all of which brought in five walleyes, include:
1. Ryan Dempsey, Oneida, Wis. and Bruce Frevent, Centreville, Ia., 27-15.
2. Chad Schilling, Akaska, S.D. and Phillip Riccio, Jr., Huntley, Ill., 27-11
3. Derek Parker, Skandia, and Todd Dankert, Anoka, Minn., 26-7
4. Korey Sprengel, Beaver Dam, Wis. and William Bay, Berlin, Wis., 25-7
5. Dusty Minke, Forest Lake, Minn. and Todd Rieder, Fond du Lac, Wis., 24-13.
6. Stephen Paulsen, Peshtigo, Wis. and Kenny Brenner, Moline, Ill., 24-8.
7. Brian Bjorkman, Fargo, N.D. and Steve Beasley, Macomb, Mich., 24-6.
8. Ross Grothe, Northfield, Minn. and Isaac Bower, Mosinee, Wis., 24-5.
9. Bill Shimota, Lonsdale, Minn. and William Ditto, Leaf River, Ill., 24-4.
10. Ted Takasaki, Sioux Falls, S.D. and Randy Hummel, Jackson, Minn., 23-15.
"All I did was play the wind all week (in pre-fishing). I got a chance to follow the dirty water (generally containing more feed), and today I knew where it was."
Stephen Paulsen of Peshtigo, Wis. and Kenny Brenner of Moline, Ill. placed sixth with their limit at 24-8.
Team Evinrude member and former Rapid River resident Tom Keenan, now living in Hatley, Wis., and Keith Hahn of McHenry, Ill. ended the first day in 14th with their limit at 23-3.
"It was a great day," said Keenan. "We got off to a decent start. We caught 10 fish in the first two hours and at least eight afterward. We just couldn't reel in the big one. Our biggest was 26 1/2 inches, which is a little disappointing. We caught bigger ones in pre-fishing, and I think we can reel in some bigger fish tomorrow. If somebody told me we'd be this close (within 12 ounces) to the top 10 with 23 pounds, I'd take it."
Glenn Chenier of Gladstone and Kevin Yancey of Newport, Mich. came in 23rd with five fish at 21-1.
"It was a rough day," said Chenier. "The fishing went pretty well itself, but everything else went wrong. I lost the injector in my motor this morning and was running one cylinder short. For a while, I was beginning to wonder if we'd make it back (to shore).
"We need one more quality fish tomorrow. The 21 to 23-inch walleyes are the prime fish, but we're not finding enough of them. Since you're allowed to keep only two over 23 inches, you have to be very selective about ones you do keep."
Brett King of Claremont, Minn., the leader for Angler of the Year honors, and David Jachym of Wildwood, Ill. were 25th (20-11).
Another former Rapid River resident Mark Keenen, the brother of Tom Keenan who now resides in Appleton, Wis. and Bryon Haro of Blaine, Minn. shared 28th with Nick Schertz of Tomahawk, Wis. and Brian Wolter of Fond du Lac, Wis. at 20-6.
Among the remaining Upper Peninsula pros are Don Loch of Iron Mountain in 41st, Neil Armatti of Gwinn 56th and Lynn Hanisko of Escanaba 92nd.
Co-angler Jim Hubert of Bark River is in 36th, with Scott Peterson of Escanaba 53rd, J.J. Scully of Menominee tied for 77th and David Hanes of Rapid River 82nd.
There were 99 boats on the water Thursday. Anglers caught 363 fish, including 44 limits and 1,435.8 pounds.
The tourney resumed this morning with weigh-in again scheduled for 3 at the Escanaba Marina in Ludington Park.
The top 10 teams after today's fishing advance to Saturday's finals.
Saturday's weigh-in is set for 4 p.m. at Wal-Mart, which will be preceded by the FLW Expo which starts at noon.