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Kings of style: Decades of trying to win the Coho Classic finally pays off

Capt. Danny Mock (left), Capt. Rich Sleziak (with trophy), Joe Szymanski and Capt. Eric Mock at the back of Triple Catch. Kevin Cheeseman is not pictured.
Provided

For perspective, the 2019 Horizon Bank Coho Classic has been the Hoosier Coho Club’s main event for 45 years; Capt. Rich Sleziak is 42.

‘‘Finally won the damn thing,’’ said Sleziak, who began fishing it at 20. ‘‘Fishing was excellent.’’

On May 5, Sleziak, brother captains Danny and Eric Mock, Kevin Cheeseman and Joe Szymanski won the pro side of the Classic and $12,000 in style, beating Fin Scout, the closest competitor, by more than 65 points.

‘‘It was amazing,’’ Sleziak said. ‘‘You are fishing with guys with million-dollar boats, fishing against all the Michigan City charter boats. Finally came together for me. I had some OK catches [over the years] and a bunch of [lousy] ones.’’

Their 10 fish the first day weighed 138.65 pounds. That went to 141.3 pounds the final day. A 10-point bonus for each fish caught brought their total to 479.95 points. Both days were anchored by Chinook heavier than 18 pounds.

‘‘Once you started catching 13- and 14-pound fish, it was like it was nothing,’’ Sleziak said. ‘‘Obviously, it is not like that all the time. But regular old Joe Blow can go out there and get their two- or three-man limit in a couple of hours.’’

When the weather has allowed, salmon and trout fishing on southern Lake Michigan has been so good that three people in the last week compared it to the 1980s.

‘‘We were mainly fishing kings east of ‘The Donut’ to Indiana Dunes State Park in 50 to 60 feet of water,’’ Sleziak said. ‘‘We kept going in and out of the dirty water. You had to be in a little bit of stained water.’’

They were fishing out of the Triple Catch, a 36-foot Tiara. Their primary baits were Michigan Stinger spoons: KC 1, Jelly Belly and 2 Face.

‘‘When you do the same thing over and over for so long and it finally works out, it is a relief,’’ Sleziak said.

The Coho Classic trophy in Slez’s Bait and Tackle in Lake Station, Ind.<br>Provided
The Coho Classic trophy in Slez’s Bait and Tackle in Lake Station, Ind.
Provided

Hunting

Turkey hunting ends Thursday in Illinois’ north zone.

Wild things

An incredible spring for morel mushrooms keeps going. We hear anglers are swapping Ziploc bags of morels for minnows. . . . Joe McCartin spotted a couple of whooping cranes in the south suburbs last week. Formally report a whooping crane at savingcranes.org/report-whooping-crane.

Paddling

The 62nd annual Des Plaines River Canoe & Kayak Marathon is Sunday. The river is projected to be high and flowing well. Details are at canoemarathon.com.

Stray cast

Jimmy Carter solidified his place as my favorite president by heading out to turkey-hunt at 94 — until a broken hip stopped him.

A spokeswoman says former U.S. President Jimmy Carter says he has broken his hip. She said that Carter underwent surgery at a medical center in Americus, Ga. | AP file photo
A spokeswoman says former U.S. President Jimmy Carter says he has broken his hip. She said that Carter underwent surgery at a medical center in Americus, Ga. | AP file photo