Mark Verhaagh caught the biggest fish, this 12.38-pound walleye, at Saturday’s Jack Dallman Memorial Tournament. Verhaagh and his partner, Jesse Gillis, placed first overall with a two-fish weight of 18.85 pounds. EagleHerald/Jody Korch
Mark Verhaagh caught the biggest fish, this 12.38-pound walleye, at Saturday’s Jack Dallman Memorial Tournament. Verhaagh and his partner, Jesse Gillis, placed first overall with a two-fish weight of 18.85 pounds. EagleHerald/Jody Korch
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MARINETTE - The old spring standby - a jig and a minnow - was the best bet at Saturday's 20th annual Jack Dallman Memorial Tournament.

The next day, trolling crankbaits worked best for the Early Bird Walleye Classic.

While anglers fished, walleyes were dropping their eggs onto the Lower Menominee River rocks. The result was a weekend of big fish, though not a lot of numbers for many.

Mark Verhaagh of Sobieski was the envy of his peers when his 12.38-pound walleye was weighed in at Nestegg Marine, the tourney headquarters. It was the biggest walleye caught in the past 12 years of the Dallman tourney, and probably the biggest in tourney history.

"Yeah, I'm happy with it," Verhaagh said.

He wasn't sure he had a trophy fish on his line, but his fishing partner, Jesse Gillis, was.

"Right away I didn't know, and then he comes flying back with the net and said, 'you've got a big (one).' Then it was a holy &%$@ moment."

Verhaagh hooked the walleye on a jig and minnow in the river at about noon. They caught about a dozen fish during the tourney.

"All in all that's a pretty good day," Verhaagh said.

Just three brown trout were caught, and Marinette's Brian Clairmont caught the biggest one, a 4.59-pounder. It hit a brown jig and minnow at the river mouth, and Clairmont knew right away it was a trout, not a walleye.

"They wiggle where a walleye kind of thumps," Clairmont said. "I'm glad it stayed down."

He was fishing with Peshtigo's Jeff Budish, and they earned a chunk of change and some good prizes.

"That net man was on the ball because he scooped it right up," Clairmont said of Budish.

Gary Conrad and Derek Manders placed second with two walleyes weighing 18.73 pounds. Doug Gillaume and Kacy Pamperin (14.98) were third.

Joe Laitinen caught the second-biggest walleye, an 11-pounder, on a green jig and minnow in the river.

"I thought it was probably like 7 or 8 pounds," Laitinen said. "And then we got it in, and oh, a little bigger than that."

His net man was Eric Peterson.

"I saw it under the water before I netted it," Peterson said. "I knew it was big. That's when it got serious."

The ice blew out of the river mouth just in time for the Dallman tourney, so for the first time this spring, anglers were able to troll in the bay - normally the winning technique at the Dallman tourney. But water temperatures are much colder than normal, so the best fishing was in the river. Laitinen and Peterson tried trolling for a couple of hours but didn't get a bite and returned to the river.

Menominee's Jamie Schomer and Pete Pericolosi avoided the crowds by staying in the bay. They placed sixth with two walleyes totaling 14.07 pounds. Their total catch included three walleyes, one trout and a sucker.

"And it bit," Pericolosi said of the sucker, which hit their blue-and-silver Rapala Husky Jerk. "Not everyone can say they caught a sucker."

Water temperatures were 37 degrees to the south of the river mouth and just 33 to the north.

"The fish were sluggish," Schomer said. "We were trying to find warmer water."

Brett Mans didn't catch the biggest walleye, but the Crivitz High School freshman was mighty pleased with his 9.74-pounder. He and his father, Pat, were fishing the river, and quickly caught a 5-pounder, and then the 9.74-pounder hit their pink-and-white jig.

"We hadn't fished more than five minutes," Brett said. "We just put that one back, put a minnow on and I dropped it down."

Funds raised from the tourney will be used for the M&M Great Lakes Sport Fishermen Club Heads Up Derby and Kids' Derby.

Sunday, the District 2 Walleye Club of Iron Mountain held its fifth annual Early Bird Walleye Classic at the Mystery Ship Marina. Hank DeClark Sr. and Hank DeClark Jr. of Iron Mountain placed first with two walleyes totaling 19.65 pounds. Both were spawned out.

After catching just one walleye Saturday, the father/son team stuck with their bay trolling. Although they caught just four fish, their Silver Smithwick crankbait lured in the winners. They fished nearly five hours without a fish on Saturday, and caught both of their lunkers by 10 a.m. Sunday.

"We usually do good down here," DeClark Sr. said. "Keep at her and don't give up."

Most walleyes weighed in on Saturday hadn't spawned yet, but many had on Sunday.