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Franklin leads pros into final round of $1.4 million Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Championship
Lessila wins $75,000 as Co-angler Division champion
RED WING, Minn. (Oct. 4, 2002) – Richard Franklin of Louisburg, Kan., braved rainy conditions and a threat of wind Friday to claim the top spot heading into Saturday’s final round of the $1.4 million Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Championship. With the help of his partner, co-angler champion Tim Lessila of New Berlin, Wis., Franklin brought in four walleyes weighing 16 pounds to ensure his shot $300,000 cash.
“To lead two days in a row and be second on day one is an honor in itself,” said Franklin, an RCL rookie who has dominated the first three days of the championship. “This is a dream come true. I have waited my whole life for this.”
Franklin caught his fish using a three-way rig with floating jigs and night crawlers in 4 to 12 feet of water. He changed his pattern Friday from crankbaits to jigs due to changing water conditions. He said he plans to use rattling jigs Saturday because the muddy water will call for a noisier bait.
A full field of 234 pros and 234 co-anglers representing 19 states was cut to 12 pros and 12 co-anglers following Thursday’s competition. Six more pros were eliminated Friday leaving the top six for Saturday’s final round. Catch weights are cleared for semifinal- and final-round competition.
Rounding out the top six pros are Bruce Samson of Minnetrista, Minn. (four walleyes, 12 pounds, 3 ounces); Joe Wilson of Rolling Stone, Minn. (three walleyes, 10 pounds, 10 ounces); Mike Gofron of Antioch, Ill. (four walleyes, 7 pounds, 10 ounces); Richard Nascak of Winona, Minn. (three walleyes, 7 pounds); and Brad Knoll of Menasha, Wis., (two walleyes, 6 pounds).
Co-angler competition concluded Friday with Lessila taking home $75,000 cash and the co-angler title. Lessila, who like Franklin is an RCL rookie, was the last co-angler to weigh in. He edged past Steven Maksymyk of Manitoba, Canada, by nearly 4 pounds to take the crown.
“I’m so nervous. I can’t believe it,” Lessila said. “This tournament is just terrific. I got lucky and was paired with good pros, and I ended up winning. I’ve had three great days. This was a lot of fun.”
Rounding out the top three co-anglers are Maksymyk (four walleyes, 12 pounds, 3 ounces) and Hans Halvorson of Grafton, N.D., (three walleyes, 10 pounds, 10 ounces). Maksymyk fished with Samson; Halvorson was paired with Wilson.
Takeoff Saturday starts at 7 a.m. at Treasure Island Resort and Casino in Red Wing and the final weigh-in will be held at 3:30 p.m. at the Wal-Mart store located at 225 33rd St. W. in Hastings, Minn. The Family Fun Zone featuring interactive games and product displays for the whole family opens Saturday at 11 a.m. at the Hastings Wal-Mart. Families are encouraged to stop by and join the fun before attending the final weigh-in.
Named after Wal-Mart and boat manufacturers Ranger, Crestliner and Lund, the $2.9 million Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Circuit is the world’s most lucrative walleye-fishing series. With a purse of up to $1.4 million, the Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Championship is the most lucrative walleye tournament in the history of the sport. The championship will be broadcast to 45 million Outdoor Life Network subscribers Oct. 12 at 10:30 a.m. CST.
FLW Outdoors, the world’s leading marketer of competitive fishing tournaments, administers the RCL Walleye Circuit. Other FLW Outdoors-sanctioned tournament trails include the Wal-Mart FLW Tour, EverStart Series, Wal-Mart Bass Fishing League and Wal-Mart Texas Tournament Trail.
Sponsors of the 2002 Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Circuit are Wal-Mart, Castrol, Conseco, Crestliner, Energizer, EverStart Batteries, Evinrude, Faded Glory, Garmin, Kellogg’s, Lund, Minn Kota, Newell Rubbermaid, Poulan, Ranger Boats, Snickers, Stanley, Weed Eater and Yamaha Outboards.
To register for competition or for more information about the Wal-Mart RCL
Walleye Circuit, visit www.operationwalleye.com or call 270-362-5259. Entry
fees for the championship are $1,500 for pros and $750 for co-anglers.
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