Plastic tag is ticket to $500 derby prize

Tired of catching smallish rainbows he knew wouldn't lead to cash in Saturday's Rainbow $5,000 fishing derby, Danny Casey replaced his Ford Fender flasher and Wedding Ring lure with a larger, jointed Shad Rap lure meant for a big Diamond Lake rainbow.

It didn't work.

Trolling in front of the Diamond Lake Resort, Casey's trout rod hooked a standard 12-inch rainbow trout.

"I didn't even wait for the net," says Casey, 30, of Central Point. "I just sort of slung it into the boat."

As the fish flopped on the deck, Casey spied a plastic tag sticking out of the trout's back and he knew he had a winner.

The tagged fish was worth $500, and it was the only of the big-ticket trout to get caught during Saturday's derby, sponsored annually by The Black Bird Shopping Center.

"If I would have known it was a $500 fish, I probably would have gotten the net," he says.

Casey's prize was tops among local anglers in the tournament, in its 16th year, which drew more than 1,000 anglers.

The tagged "Lithia Lunker," worth $5,000 if it would have been caught during Saturday's derby, went uncaptured, as did four other tagged fish worth $500 each.

Casey was the only Rogue Valley angler to cash in big in this year's tournament, with the top five finishers all residing in other basins.

First place went to Diamond Lake's own Terry Kutz, who boated a 241/2-inch rainbow that topped the scales at 5 pounds, 4 ounces. That netted Kutz $1,000.

Klamath Fall's Mickey Wilson earned $750 with his 233/4-inch trout that weighed 4 pounds, 15 ounces, while Chris Matta went home to Vancouver, Wash., with $500 thanks to his 22-inch trout that weighed 4 pounds, 12 ounces.

Junction City's Andy Fielder's 23-inch trout was longer than Matta's fish but weighed in at 1 ounce less, so he took fourth and the $350 check that goes with it. Sutherlin's Ross Mock matched Fielder's trout with a 4-pound, 11-ouncer, but it was a half-inch shorter than Fielder's trout, and that was the tie-breaker. Mock won $325 for his effort.

In all, 31 participants — counting Casey — earned cash for their catches in the derby.

Casey was gunning for the winner's list when he switched to the larger lure while fishing with his father, Mike, and friend Leland McShane, in McShane's boat.

He was more than happy with the foot-long trout, as well as its prize.

Casey has already spent half of his winnings on fishing gear — bass gear, actually, because he's more geeked about catching warmwater fish than trout.

The other half, he says, reached his savings account.

The winning trout, on the other hand, didn't make it past Saturday evening, as it was the center of the post-derby celebration in more ways than one.

"I cooked it Saturday on a cedar plank," Casey says. "I'm not much of a fish eater, but he was good."

Reach reporter Mark Freeman at 541-776-4470 or

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