Brimley, Mich. — By SCOTT BRAND THE EVENING NEWS BRIMLEY — Scott Duncan of Antioch, Ill., parlayed 15 fish over three days weighing a total of 54.97 pounds into a $40,000 in cold, hard cash in the 2012 Anglers Insight Marketing (AIM) Bay Mills Casino Can-Am Challenge. Cold and hard were also apt descriptions for the 61 professional anglers and their co-anglers over the three-day tournament as hellacious winds and falling rains made life miserable even for those catching fish. On Day 1 — Thursday — more than half the best walleye anglers from the United States and Canada went home without a single fish. Ten of the 61 registered anglers drew blanks on all three days of the tournament and a dozen more professional spent three days on the water to boat a single fish. Pat Neu of Forestville, Wis., was one of those anglers having a difficult time in the event coming up empty on days one and two. Rough weather forced him to seek shelter in Brimley Bay on the third day of the tournament where he suffered additional heartbreak when multiple fish came "unbuttoned" before they could be netted. But a lone fish — measuring over 30 inches with an estimated weight of 11.63 pounds — changed Neu's fortunes propelling him into 21st place. It was his only fish in three days on the water and the biggest of the tournament. The winning recipe for four of the top five anglers came in an area known as "The Horseshoe." Local angling expert and owner operator of Wild Bill's Bait and Tackle Dave Atkinson, explained the hot bite came in an area of Lake George upriver of the "The Bowling Alley," a series of floating cans marking the channel on the east side of Sugar Island. Duncan took his 15 fish, besting Marianne Huskey's 16 fish weighing 50.98 pounds to take the top honors. Duncan also pocketed an additional $6,000 in contingency money from Lund Boats for captaining one of their vessels to victory for a total of $46,000. Third place finisher, Mike Gofron and fifth place finisher Mark Brumbaugh also made the run from Brimley, through the Soo Locks and around Sugar Island to the hot spot. Duncan said he ran #10 Down Deep Husky Jerks on a short leash behind planer boards. "The deep diver has the right wiggle and keeps the hooks up out of the way (of the emerging weeds)," said Duncan. Huskey, the leader after Day Two, said she didn't have a bite — save for a lone catfish — on the third day until it was almost time to leave when a sudden burst of activity netted her five fish in approximately 20 minutes. She fell just short of becoming the first woman to ever win a major walleye tournament. The Can-Am pitted the USA versus Canada with the winning side getting bragging rights and additional $250 in prize money. The anglers fishing under the red, white and blue banner dominated the good-natured competition tripling the catch of their competitors in numbers, inches and weight. Or as Jim Carrol of Minot, North Dakota put it as the large tent erupted in laughter from those on both sides of the river: "We clubbed them like a baby seal." The cross-border competition now stands at 1-1 as Canada won the previous showdown between the two countries at a previous event in Dryden, Ontario. Mike McMaken of Cedarville scored a top 10 finish with 19.38 pounds. Dane Stanaway of the Sault came in 23rd place with 11.11 pounds while Ron Gordon of the Sault came in 29th with 6.92 pounds rounding out the local professional angler ranks. The AIM format limited anglers to artificial lures, prohibiting the use of bait which seemingly made things more difficult for the field of competitors. Using the catch, record and release format, all of the captured fish were photographed against a tape measure and immediately released back to the waters where they were caught. While the professionals were out on Saturday for the final day of the tournament, the Bay Mills Resort and Casino hosted a kids' fishing event which brought upward of 600 young anglers to the site. The majority of participants were sent home with donated rods and reels and it appears as though those who went home empty-handed will be getting new combos mailed to their homes.
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