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Fishing duos will say 'I do' on same day

While the national dialog turns to lipstick and pigs, four outdoorsy women proved last weekend that you don't need either to be successful.

Unless they were using pork rinds as bait.

One of the last big fishing tournaments of the season attracted lots of women to Fish Hook Lake. Female fishers, sans lipstick, augmented their male partners in the last of the "Fall Classic" tournaments sponsored by the Park Rapids Tennis Association.

The events raise about $2,000 for boys tennis programs.

Husbands, wives and teams of engaged couples placed throughout the top ten finishers out of the 35 teams entered. In fact, women represented four of those teams.

Suzie Johnson stole the show when she tearfully accepted first prize. She and fishing partner Kenny Barr plan on using the $1,000 in prize winnings for their upcoming wedding.

It will fittingly be held on Deane's Point, the same location as the tournament weigh-in.

Her proud fiancée sent Suzie to the weigh-in alone, and later to claim the prize.

"I've done this dozens of times before," he said. "She deserved this.

"We've been fishing together for the last two years," he said. "She caught three of the four biggest bass. When I found out the night before that all these wives and fiancées were fishing, I thought it was absolutely cool."

Barr has been fishing tournaments 25 years. He said Suzie "rejuvenated that fire of fishing tournaments" for him. "She's unbelievable," he said proudly.

Suzie's skills at catching bass carried the team through the three-species competition.

Suzie nervously sat through the winner announcements, which typically start with the tenth place finishers and work their way up to grand prize.

She kept whispering, "We caught more fish than they did," Kenny recalled.

"I told her, 'Honey that's because we won,'" he replied. When the actual announcement was made, a stunned Suzie received a trophy, the check and hugs all around. She giggled and wept all at the same time.

Karie Lindow took third place with her husband, Kevin. They've been married six years and annually fish this tournament and the Gene Cirks tournament on Lake Belle Taine, held in mid-summer. When Karie is on the sidelines (the shore), her dad partners with Kevin.

"It was cool that four teams of women placed," Karie said. She's been fishing 15 years.

Kenny's brother, Guy Barr, fished with his wife, Denise. The couple took seventh place.

A grinning Guy hefted his heavy bag of fish onto the dock and up to the weighmaster - leaving Denise to tidy up the boat. She was a good sport about it.

Then there was Jeremy Anderson, who partnered with his fiancée, Kayla Hochhalter.

"This was the last test before our wedding," he joked.

"I didn't catch any of the fish we counted," Kayla said apologetically. Jeremy put his arm affectionately around his fiancé's shoulders as if to say it was OK. They placed ninth.

The wedding is still on.

Now that the winners have been announced, a potentially divisive situation has arisen. Both Kenny and Suzie and Jeremy and Kayla are getting married Oct. 11. It will divide the loyalties of the fishing community, since the weddings are 15 miles apart at roughly the same time.

It probably won't matter.

Each couple can say they landed the great catch that didn't get away.