DIXON – It wasn’t the one that got away, but it was close to it.
Dan Dippel missed on his first two attempts to net partner Joe Dyer’s monstrous flathead that he hauled in at about 7:15 Saturday morning on the Rock River. Finally, Dippel netted the fish that would win him and Dyer the Cabela’s King Kat Tournament.
“When Dan finally netted that fish, I mean, man, were we happy,” said Dyer of Rock Falls, who has guided on the Rock River for more than 20 years and once caught a 73-pounder.
“If we would have lost that fish, he probably wouldn’t have talked to me,” Dippel said.
If the fish wound up back in the water, would Dippel have followed?
“Probably so,” he said.
The fish was a 28.74-pound beauty of a flathead and the big fish of the tournament, worth $1,200. It helped Dippel and Dyer claim the five-fish limit total weight prize of $3,600, as they added four channel cats to total 48 pounds even.
Dyer’s big catch was his and Dippel’s first of the day.
“I was snagged up,” Dyer said. “I pulled it out of a snag and told my partner I just had one hit. Then, he just buried the rod. He pulled the rod down real flush. I set the hook on him and fought him for about 10 minutes to get that fish in.”
Dippel and Dyer were the fifth team to weigh-in on the banks of the river at Page Park.
Then it was time to wait.
“We heard that another guy thought he had a 30-[pounder],” Dippel said. “That’s the one that was 27. When they pulled it out, I thought it might be bigger than ours. It’s real nerve-wracking waiting. The waiting game is terrible.”
Dyer’s prize fish was caught using bluegills for bait and came from below the Sterling/Rock Falls lower dam.
Dyer thought the second-place team of father and son Tom and Clint Walker of Sterling also caught their 27-pound flathead in the same area. But, the Walkers weren’t divulging.
“That’s a secret,” said Tom Walker, who typically partners with his son in crappie tournaments.
The Walkers caught just three keepers, but their 27-pounder helped them total 41.5 for second place.
Clint hauled in the team’s big catch. He had to battle his nerves more than the fish.
“I was a little nervous and shaky,” Clint said. “I’ve had big ones before, and they’ve come off. The first year I fished this, I had one I couldn’t even stop. I lost my head and didn’t pull anchor.
“I tried ripping him tight and dragging him, and ended up ripping the hook out. The only thing I was thinking was he was coming off. I was glad to see it go in the net. That took a lot of weight off my shoulders.”
Tom was quick to point out his contribution to the ordeal.
“I did exquisite netting,” he joked.
The third-place team was Matt Dennison and Tyler Richards of Rock Falls (31.02 pounds). Fourth place went to Eddie and Frank Sanders (30.08). Eddie is from Savanna and Frank of Sterling. Rounding out the top five were Rock Falls’ Mike Doyle and Brock Law (27.72).