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Weighty catch nets derby winner $1,000

Dan Runyon picked the right day to hook the biggest rainbow trout he's ever scratched at Diamond Lake.

The retired Grants Pass police officer Saturday hooked into a rainbow weighing nearly 6 pounds, plenty fat enough to bring home the $1,000 top prize in the Rainbow $5,000 trout-fishing derby at the eastern Douglas County lake.

After a 15-minute fight and two majestic jumps by the fish, Dennis Holseybrook was able to get a net under his long-time fishing partner's trout to ensure the top prize in this 12th annual derby, which is run by the Black Bird Shopping Center in Medford.

"I was shaking like a leaf when we finally got it to the boat," Runyon says. "The biggest fish I've ever caught there was 3 pounds. It was so exciting.

"The derby is a lot of fun," he says. "I would have had a lot of fun even if I didn't win it."

Close to 1,100 anglers took part in the tournament, in which everyday anglers play like the pros by earning cash prizes for the largest trout caught at the lake that day by pre-registered contestants.

Runyon's fish weighed 5 pounds 12 ounces, about 11/2; pounds fatter than last year's top catch. The second-place check for $750 went to Jodi Toews, whose trout weighed 4 pounds, 1 ounce. Third place went to Neil Brown for a 3-pound, 14-ounce trout that netted him $500.

The smallest money-making trout — worth $50 for Jerald Holmer in 30th place — weighed one ounce shy of 3 pounds.

"The whole day was fantastic," says Bill Quitt, Black Bird's president. "We had 350 more people show up than last year, the weather was 87 degrees and no wind, and the fishing was pretty good. Can't ask for more."

Before the derby, Diamond Lake Resort general manager Steve Koch predicted the winning trout would be caught on bait or flies along the weed-lines at the south end of the lake.

He could not have been more wrong.

Runyon and Holseybrook were fishing old-school — trolling worms slowly behind Ford Fender flashers just off the bottom in 37 feet of water.

"To catch the big fish, you gotta go where the water's coldest," Runyon says.

Both men trolled the same gear at the same depth, but the trout chose Runyon's worm right about 8 a.m.

With a 4-pound leader and 6-pound main line, Runyon had to baby his fish as it came to the boat time after time, only to watch it scream away.

"The first time it jumped is when I started getting nervous," he says.

The nerves didn't stop until Holseybrook slipped the net under the immense trout.

"Dennis is a great netter," Runyon says. "That makes all the difference in the world."

In Runyon's boat, there's no difference between who hooked the trout and who netted the trout on derby day.

"We split the prize money," Runyon says. "Five hundred each. That's the way we do things."