LORAIN — Veteran walleye fisherman Bruce “Doc” Samson has had a lot of success on the water over the past 25 years, but his performance at the AIM Pro Walleye Series event at Lorain’s Black River Landing this weekend surprised even him.
“I have always said I would never win a trolling tournament,” said Samson after coming ashore Saturday with 63.17-pound final-day catch to wrap up the title in the event’s Lorain debut.
The weight contributed to a three-day total of 186.06 pounds of walleye, 15.45 pounds better than second-place finisher Mike Gofron.
Local waters were friendly to Sheffield Lake’s Mike Zaborski, who came on strong Saturday to leap from fifth to third among the 29 partipants in the final standings among.
Samson got off to a good start on the final day.
“I knew I won by noon,’’ said the 63-year-old Minnesota resident, who used big spinners to pull in most of his catch. “I didn’t change nothing today. The storms this morning really didn’t affect the depth of the fish so I just went back to the same place where the big fish were all week.”
The timing of win, the eighth major tournament victory of Samson’s career and his first on the AIM tour, perfectly coincided with the release of his ninth instructional DVD on Thursday. The topic of his latest DVD — trolling for walleye.
Although Samson said the line of early morning showers and thunderstorms which crossed over Lake Erie in the first two hours of fishing Saturday didn’t alter his game some of his fellow anglers were not so lucky.
Aaron Humbert shattered a windshield on his boat in the high waves and rookie Justin Schneider sustained damage to his boat which limited him to a five-fish catch for the day.
Neither wind nor rain could affect Don Lund.
Lund, shaking off the disappointment of having his Day 2 catch nullified for a late return to shore, set a one-day series record with a 70.20 pound catch which included a a 32-inch walleye.
Gofron, the leader after Day 1, also rebounded from a tough Day 2 to bring home a 59.32-pound catch Saturday.
“I have fished tournaments over by Cedar Point and over around Port Clinton early in the season before, but they are nothing like this,” said the Illinois resident. “To catch walleye like this in the middle of the summer it’s great.
“Lake Erie is always choppy, and you’re going to get hit with some water out there so you might as well take those waves in June when it feels good and not in April when they freeze to your face.”
Zaborski, who turned in a three-day catch of 170.02 pounds, was a late addition to the AIM series field. He said he enjoyed his first catch-record-release tournament.
“I have fished a lot of other circuits out there and this is probably the best organized event I have ever fished,” he said. “There is no fishing like Lake Erie fishing.
“I probably caught between 30 to 50 fish every day, but 50 percent of fishing is luck. You just have to catch the big ones.”
Lorain’s Ronnie Rhodes also stepped it up Saturday, turning in a 51.38-pound catch to move up to 20th.
Wisconsin’s Chase Parsons, who set a short-lived, one-day bag record Friday, finished fourth with 169.86 pounds, just ahead of Perrysburg’s Charles Robinson with a 169.12 pound-catch.
Gary Parsons, Chase’s father, came in sixth with at 168.4 pounds, while fellow Wisconsin native Keith Kavajecz held on for seventh place at 166.61 pounds.
The top seven placers share the prize money, with Samson taking home $16,000 for first-place.
AIM Pro Walleye Series president Joe Baron said the organization’s first trip to Lorain was a successful one.
“The people at the Lorain Port Authority were great. The fish cooperated and everything ran smooth,” said Baron, who added he hopes the series can return to Black River Landing in 2013.
Ninth-place finisher Jim Carroll, who come from Minot, North Dakota, to compete said the walleye fishing was the best he’s ever seen.
“To all the walleye fishermen out there, I tell them, ‘This is our Mecca. You’ve got to come fish Lake Erie at least once.’”
Contact Todd Shapiro at 329-7135 or email@example.com.