First time is a charm

GARRISON – Just enter and win. What’s the big deal?

It may seem that way for Kasey Power of Wilton and Bryce Bethke of Bismarck. The fishing team captured the 2013 Governor’s Cup Walleye Derby on their first try. The derby was held July 19-20 out of Fort Stevenson State Park.

Power and Bethke put themselves in great position to make a championship run when they turned in a five-walleye limit of 21.34 pounds on Day 1. That catch kept them well within reach of first day leaders Jeff Enzminger of Bismarck and Gary Cayko of Glasgow, Mont., who topped the leaderboard with 21.53 pounds.

Only two other teams in the 252-boat field weighed in with 20 pounds or better on Day 1. They were defending champions Don Schumker of Stanton and Jesse Schumaker of Bismarck, 20.92 pounds; and Shane Crawford and Ward Heinzen of Garrison, 20.09 pounds.

While Power and Bethke managed to hook and land enough pounds of walleyes to win, neither day started out particulary well.

“It didn’t look good. We stumbled onto them the first day,” said Power. “We didn’t know where they were going in but we lucked out. The ones we caught were really nice. We had fun.”

Crankbaits proved to be the key for the winners. They stuck with the artificial baits even though many in the tournament were having success with live bait rigs such as spinners and nightcrawlers.

“They were definitely hard to get. They weren’t hot and heavy by any means,” said Bethke. “Everything we ended up getting was a big fish, so it worked out really good for us. We got it done.”

Power and Bethke were among the earliest to weigh in their final day catch. When their Day 2 weight of 22.50 pounds appeared on the digital display above the scale, a large crowd in Garrison City Park responded with a loud applause.

With the top weight came the “hot seat,” a seat in a boat near the weigh-in area. Power and Bethke were to remain there until someone dethroned them with a heavier catch.

“There’s some good fishermen still out there. We’ll see,” said Bethke while seated on the “hot seat.”

Indeed there were. Three other teams with first day weights of 20 pounds or better were still on the water. So too were several teams of former champions and top contenders. One by one, the boats arrived at City Park, tourney participants brought walleyes to the stage and the scale dipped. None of the weights proved to be enough to overtake Power and Bethke.

“It took a while this morning before we finally started getting them,” said Bethke about Day 2. “Once that sun started to peek out it turned on from there. It was really looking good.”

The first-time entrants to the Governor’s Cup received a winning check of $10,000 and the satisfaction of having spent two very memorable days on Lake Sakakawea.

The past three champions of the Governor’s Cup all made respectable runs at the top money. Defending champions Schumaker and Schumaker finished third; 2011 champions Matthew Liebel of Williston and Tory Hill of Minot 19th; and 2010 champions Mike Marshall of Garrison and Bill Marshall of Minot 30th.