ESCANABA - The FLW Walleye Tour Bays de Noc Tournament had a special meaning for Derek Parker of Skandia.
Parker was the lone U.P. resident to place in the top 10 on a body of water he knows and loves, but this tournament especially hit home due to recent events in Parker's life.
"I thought about my dad every time I was on the water. We used to fish together all the time. Since he's gone, it's just memories. That's all I have. It's special, I felt really connected, at peace," Parker said.
Keith Shelton | Daily Press
Derek Parker of Skandia enjoys his time in the leaders’ chair after his Saturday weigh-in initially vaulted him into first place. Parker, the lone U.P. angler to finish in the top 10, ended up placing seventh in the FLW Walleye Bays de Noc Tournament
Parker's father passed away last month. Struggling to cope at times as he mourned his loss, returning to the Bays de Noc helped him come to terms.
"I've been having some hard times, we spent a lot of time on the water," Parker said. "Earlier this week I pre-fished by myself and for the first time since his death, I felt at peace.
It was really hard. No matter what I did over the last month, it was the wrong decision. Whatever it was out there this week, it cleared my mind. I was determined to get it together. I did my best out there and hunted fish in ways I never had before."
Parker had an incredible three days of fishing. After day 1, he was sitting pretty in third place. On Friday, despite hauling in his second straight bag of at least 20 pounds, he slipped to 10th place, barely making the cut. Saturday ended up being his lightest weight of the weekend, but he still caught five fish and improved to a seventh place finish.
"All night long, I couldn't sleep," Parker said. "Then this morning I got up and everything clicked. I got in the boat, pulled out and the nerves went away.
"Being able to place on these waters against these anglers...I mean I have posters of these guys on my walls. To not only compete against them but to place seventh is amazing."
This was Parker's first year fishing on the FLW Tour, though he is a veteran of the Cabela's Masters Walleye Circuit and has fished these waters before.
Parker was impressed by the presentation of the FLW Tour and said he will likely switch circuits going forward.
"I feel the overall competition is stronger in FLW and the publicity is better," he said.