PORT CLINTON - Tom Nordyke and Dave Crawford had the kind of day fishermen dream about.
The anglers from Monroe County, Michigan, enjoyed a sunny morning on Lake Erie and came ashore yesterday afternoon with five walleye totaling 45 pounds.
Their haul ranked them third among 156 teams in the first day of the Wal-Mart RCL Walleye Tournament, which runs through Saturday.
The pair grinned as Mark Dorn, the tournament's director of walleye operations, weighed their catch in front of a crowd of about 70 onlookers in Waterworks Park.
“Today was a good day,” said Mr. Nordyke, a first-year pro from Newport. “We basically did what we wanted to do. ... I knew this was going to be a great tourney.”
His amateur “co-angler,” Mr. Crawford, said the lake exceeded his expectations.
“We were hoping to get some 7 or 8-pounders,” said Mr. Crawford of Maybee. “But we pulled in a couple that were 10, 11 pounds. This just happens to be an awesome fishery.”
The two-person teams left from Catawba Island State Park at 7 a.m. and fished into the early afternoon, keeping their five biggest fish. Pro Tom Brunz of Madison Lake, Wis., and his co-angler for the day, Thomas Kunstman of Beaver Dam, Wis., led with a catch totaling 47 pounds, 5 ounces.
The amateurs are assigned new partners each day of the tournament.
The top 20 finishers in each category - pro and co-angler - after the first two days of fishing will advance to the semifinals tomorrow.
“Friday, those 20 go out and start from zero,” Mr. Dorn said.
The top 10 finishers in each division tomorrow will fish in the finals Saturday.
The top professional fisherman will take home $50,000 and a fully rigged boat with motor, a prize worth more than $40,000, Mr. Dorn said.
The top co-angler will receive $15,000. Altogether, the tournament will award $386,000 among the top 50 fishermen in each group.
“I'm fishing for all the money,” said Rick Zachowski, a professional fisherman from Milwaukee.
Mr. Zachowski and his co-angler, Ralph Diercks of Red Wing, Minn., brought in five fish totaling 36 pounds, 8 ounces.
“We had a great time today,” Mr. Zachowski said. “We had our limit in 10 minutes, then worked on upgrading our catch.
“We just set down in a great spot. I can't tell you where,” he added, smiling.
Mr. Diercks was impressed by his first fishing trip on Lake Erie.
“It's awesome,” he said. “There's lots and lots of fish out there.”
Yesterday, the tournament's competitors brought in 773 walleye, weighing a total of 4,820 pounds, 5 ounces.
All that fish was donated to two Toledo charities: Seagate Food Bank and the North End Food Bank, said Duane Myers, an official with the Ottawa County Visitors Bureau.
Today's catch will be awarded to the Ohio Veterans Home in Sandusky.
Tomorrow's catch will be given to the Victory Temple, a Sandusky-area church that runs a soup kitchen, and Saturday's haul will go to Homeless Solutions, a Mahoning County charity, Mr. Myers said.