Rumble In The Desert
Who will crown himself the Best in the West at the U.S. Open on Lake Mead?
BY PAUL LEBOWITZ
WON BASS CONTRIBUTOR
LAS VEGAS — The WON BASS U.S. Open is finally here, the pinnacle of bass battle in the West, a storied tournament with a history that reaches back to 1981. The high stakes for this event that fishes Oct. 12-14 bear this out. The winning pro will take home $100,000 based on the 250 boat field, plus a beautiful new Bass Cat Puma FTD with a Mercury ProXS 250 worth $64,000 for a total championship value of $164,000!
Staged on Lake Mead, a fair and unforgiving venue that requires even the best bass anglers to bring nothing less than their “A” game, the stunning desert scenery of the U.S. Open sets a dramatic stage.
Of course, this is a shared weight, Pro-Am event, and the co-anglers will have something to say about who finishes first on the Pro side. With a new AAA each of the 3 competition days, the deck will be constantly reshuffled.
Co-anglers sport their own stakes too. The AAA Champion will win $10,500 and a great prize from sponsor Huntington Beach Honda, a 2021 Honda Fourtrax Rancher 4×2 ATV worth $5,499, bringing the AAA cash and prize total value to nearly $16,000, and that’s not counting the value of the quiver of 6 technique specific St. Croix rods that also come with the AAA championship.
Other opportunities to win include three daily $1,000 Big Fish prizes for each division, Pros and Cos, as well as $2,000 daily Big Stringer money on each side. It’s plenty of incentive for anglers who might otherwise be out of the running to keep on fishing. Cashing a check at the U.S. Open makes is a highlight in any bass angler’s career.
In light of COVID-19, the 38th edition of the U.S. Open will look a little different, with no Sponsor Showcase and grand Awards Ceremony due to limitations on the size of gatherings. Those changes will not take away from the event according to elite level Pro Josh Bertrand.
On the contrary, he said, “It adds to the event, everyone’s been cooped up so long, wanting to compete, wanting to be at a big event. I think it’ll be as big or better than any U.S. Open ever. Guys are dying for this moment.”
Regional Pro Joe Uribe, Jr. has fished several bass tournaments this year, and he made a point of saying it’s on the anglers to protect their sport and tournament organizations by working well together.
“The most important thing is we protect our fishery and the tournament organization so we can continue having these events during the pandemic,” he said. “The State of Nevada is taking this very seriously. Let’s all do our part, work together as a team and follow the instructions of Tournament Director Billy Egan.”
To exultantly lift the U.S. Open championship trophy, the Pros who fish the 2020 U.S. Open will have to get by 2019 champion Nick Salvucci. Catching lightning in a bottle consecutive years is impossibly difficult, but he’s already nearly done it. In 2018 Salvucci narrowly finished second. Can he put in another exceptional performance? Only time will tell.
Fans can follow the drama via live BASS ZONE broadcasts of the 3 daily weigh-ins. A link to the live broadcast will be available on the WON BASS Facebook page and at wonbassevents.com.
Setting the stage
Major league bass pro Roy Hawk will be looking for his second U.S. Open championship. Hawk credit the Open with establishing his career. In 2002, he won his first boat by cashing in a big fish. “It put legs under me,” he said. “A guy in Idaho can’t fish the Bassmaster Classic,” Hawk points out.
But anyone can sign up and fish the U.S. Open so long as they register early enough. The U.S. Open filled its 250-boat field nearly a year in advance. It’s a tremendous opportunity according to Hawk. “The guy from Idaho can get one shot a year against real anglers for real money and he could win it and change the course of his life. That’s the mystique of the U.S. Open. He knows, it happened for him.
Hawk won in 2015, and he likes what he sees this year. I’m expecting a win,” he said boldly, but what high level pro doesn’t? That’s the necessary mindset for success. But there’s a little more to it.
“It’s kind of unique, the water level is almost exactly the same as when I won,” Hawk said. “I don’t know if will play out the same, but it is a familiar water level. The tournament should be a lot of fun, fishing this last spring was really good. When it’s all said and done, when you look at statistics, the winning bag weight will be fairly low (compared with other events), but guys could have 16, 17 pounds, maybe a 20-pound bag. Catch 12, 13 a day and you’ll be real close, you might be in second.”
Looking back on his 2015 U.S. Open championship, Hawk said he relied on his own intuition. “I believe the Lord gives you signs. I have no ego in that. When you have that feeling, your gut instinct, that’s what I do. It (the 2015 victory) gave me a lot of confidence in that. I just rolled with it, didn’t have any stress with it and knew what I was supposed to do, even the last day when I struggled. I knew it would happen eventually. I was in a situation where I really needed to win. It changed the course of my life.”
Hawk doesn’t feel like he’s fishing against the field. He’s fishing against himself. “All I can control is my performance, that’s it,” he said. “Whether I win or lose I can’t take it personally as long as I’ve done everything possible to control every variable. My job is the performance aspect, to be the best person I can be on and off the water.”
Aaron Martens, a huge name in the sport, is tied for most U.S. Open championships with three, back-to-back in 2004-2005, and again in 2011. His fans will be glad to hear he’s feeling great after two successful surgeries to remove cancerous tumors from his head. Martens has been incredibly open about his battle.
“I feel terrific, normal, every day is better,” he said. “I pray about it, I believe (the cancer) could be gone… I’m feeling young again.”
Martens was planning on an extended pre-fish. He says it’s a time he enjoys with family.
“I sure don’t know what to expect this year,” he said. “The amount of fish pressure makes it tricky. That’s what makes the U.S. Open so much fun because it’s hard, it’s not an easy event. It’s like a marathon of tournaments. It’s like an Ultra because of the work you put in it. It’s a tough tournament.”
Martens added that extreme boat pressure makes the fish harder to locate. He grew up fishing desert bass, and he feels comfortable he can catch them once he locates the fish. “I used to do that as a kid,” he said.
Popular regional Pro Joe Uribe Jr. said the U.S. Open is cherished by the bass fishing community, whether the anglers are elite level Pros or club fishermen. “It’s the big hoorah of the year, a chance to compete at the highest level,” he said. “It’s 3 days and no cuts. You fish against some of the best anglers out west and in the country.”
Uribe feels at home on Mead, calling it an even playing field. “There are so many variables,” he points out. “It’s tough fishing on a big body of water and the fish will be on the move. Where will they be today? It’s feast or famine, they are either there or not and don’t replenish fast.”
Mead will be a bit of a mystery for every angler. There haven’t been many events on the lake due to a long coronavirus shutdown earlier in the year. Uribe shared what he’s heard.
“The fishing has been decent. We’re just now transitioning to fall time. I live in Arizona where it’s been triple digits every day. This week it started cooling down. If we see transition, the bait fish moving up in the shallows, it’ll be a good time.”
It isn’t every day guys can say they are fishing for $100,000, one of the largest prize money payouts in the sport. “I always try to put myself in position to compete,” Uribe said, echoing an often heard sentiment. “I’m not competing against the other boaters, it’s me against the lake.”
Elite level Pro Josh Bertrand said he looks forward to the U.S. Open. “It’s such a unique tournament, it’s as special as any tournament out there,” he said. “It’s such a unique classic on a such a special lake and it means so much to win it. It’s a huge deal.”
Like the others, Bertrand said the pressure exerted by a 250-boat field plays directly into his strategy. “With that many boats, the most important thing is figuring out what the fish are doing. It changes how you do things, it’s a huge factor. All 250 guys have an equal shot.”
The lake is a new puzzle to solve every year. “Whatever spot you caught them on last year is irrelevant,” Bertrand said. “The grass will grow differently, the bait will go to different areas, it’ll change within 2 weeks. I don’t think any lake changes like Mead. It’s always fishing different every time you go and that’s what makes Mead fair.”
Bertrand, like Uribe, is focused on the lake’s transition from summer to fall. “It’s interesting because the last couple of U.S. Opens I’ve been to, in 2017 and last year, we had major cold fronts roll through at the end of practice. In fall you don’t know if you’ll get a late summer bite, a transitional bite, or a fall bite. It’s been the hottest summer ever in the desert. It will be interesting to see what shape the lake is in and when that fall bite will start to hit. Will it be when we’re there or after?”
For a guy who fishes most events on his own, Bertrand sure appreciates his co-anglers. “They always have something to offer, no matter the situation,” he said. “They may be a great angler, they may be experienced on Lake Mead, they might come in with a really open mind and adjust on the fly and try something you recommend. So many co-anglers put key fish in the boat. You’re working together, it’s a big deal.”
What will it take to win? “It’s always different every year, ranging between 10 and 13 pounds a day,” Bertrand said. “You have to catch a couple 3 pounders every day. If it’s good (fishing) you have to fish bolder and more aggressive.”
A tough bite means a different approach. “If 29 wins for 3 days and you make the adjustment, you might be able to finesse more and fish for bites rather than swing for the fences and strike out.”
BY JODY ONLY
LAKEPORT – The scales have closed at the 2020 WON BASS California Open. The final day’s highly-anticipated clash of Clear Lake titans saw the 2018 U.S. Open winner, Bub Tosh, of Modesto, and two-time California Open champion (2016, 2017) Wayne Breazeale, of Kelseyville, square off with less than a pound separation and six hours of fishing ahead of them.
To say the day was epic for Tosh, is too much of an understatement.
With AAA partner Dave Kiesgen, from Peoria, Ariz., Tosh put together a five-fish limit at 32.72 – an average of 6 ½-pounds each. It was the biggest stringer of the event – the only one to break the 30-pound range. The awe-striking sack rocketed Tosh and Kiesgen both to the top of their respective leaderboards.
Tosh crushed the 160 other pro competitors, widening his gap over the runner-up position by more than 11-pounds.Article Inline Ad
“Who’s the king,” exclaimed Tosh as the excitement of his win began to sink in.
Kiesgen climbed from his Day Two spot at 99th to 1st with the addition of the Day Three weight.
“I’ve never really punched before and today Bub put on a clinic for me,” said Kiesgen. “He really is an amazing puncher. The best part was when I caught a seven. We kept looking at her and we just couldn’t believe the size of her head.”
The seven that Kiesgen referred to was a 7.29, that he put in the box for the shared-weight event. The AAA win put $6K in his pocket.
For his efforts, Tosh took home the WON BASS pro prize package valued at $67,500, including a Bass Cat Sabre FTD with a Mercury 150 ProXS and a cash payout.
“Maybe even more than the prize, I wanted to beat Wayne,” said Tosh. “He is widely regarded as the best at Clear Lake and I wanted to beat him. I love you Wayne, but I wanted to beat YOU at Clear Lake.”
Breazeale faced his most challenging day of the three-day tournament, bringing in 17.84 for his five.
“It was Bub’s time,” said Breazeale.
When the winner was announced, the fierce competitors shook hands and parted ways; but we all know, the rivals Tosh and Breazeale will meet again next year, when the Clear Lake crown will once again be up for grabs.
Stayed tuned to the WON BASS Facebook page for future events. The next on the schedule is the 2020 U. S. Open at Lake Mead October 12 – 14, 2020.
If you missed the previous FACEBOOK “LIVE” broadcast we hosted at 12:30 PM today, please read below!
At this time, we regretfully need to inform you that effective immediately the WON BASS CA Open scheduled for April 8th – 10th at Clear Lake has been postponed until July 22nd – 24th at Konocti Vista Casino due to the COVID-19 concerns. Konocti Vista Casino (707-262-1900) is wide open for these new dates. We recommend calling to adjust your reservation accordingly.
All entry fees that we currently have processed for the CA Open will be forwarded to the new dates. There is no need to pay balances now. We will post the new itinerary ASAP for the new dates. We will have the website information changes done soon. We are already getting new sign ups as I type this message for the new dates.
IF you CANNOT fish the event during the new dates, and have made a deposit or full payment, please email me at email@example.com and we will process those refunds or transfers as soon as we can. IF you had to back out of the event prior to this announcement and wish to re-enter, you are encouraged to call us when you are able.
We thank you all for your understanding and continued support of WON BASS and our sponsors. WON Bass wishes everyone the best in these tough times. We are a family and we look out for each other!
There are still a few Pro spots available until we reach our 200 boat count for the 2020 CA Open at Clear Lake. The event is April 8-10 at Konocti Vista Casino. Don’t miss the boat!
The balance payments for the 2020 Won Bass CA Open are due by March 15th. Please use the link below to pay your balance or call Billy Egan at 949-366-0248 or mail in your check to Won Bass P.O. Box 73370 San Clemente, Ca 92673. If you have made a deposit and CAN NOT make the event, we need to know ASAP!
We are currently sitting at 193 Pro’s with 191 AAA’s registered. The boat limit for the event is 200. We are not taking any new AAA’s as we are waiting until balances are paid up! You may call the office to be put on the call list, and if we need you, we will reach out!
Shaun Bailey took home more that $72,000 in cash and prizes from the recent AZ Open. We look forward to crowning a new 2020 CA Open champion at this yeas event!
All anglers that are fishing only one event or signed up for an event after December 31st, must update and pay their WON BASS membership if you have not already done so.
Thank you for supporting WON BASS and our great Sponsors.
WON PHOTOS PAUL LEBOWITZ
BLISTERING START – Shaun Bailey of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., the 2020 WON BASS Arizona Open Champion, was propelled to his eventual victory by this 9.31 pound largemouth caught on a Roboworm Zipper. His 3-day tally totaled 52.34 pounds.
BY PAUL LEBOWITZ
WON BASS CONTRIBUTOR
LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. – Shaun Bailey of Lake Havasu City, Ariz. bested the field in the record-setting, 173-boat second annual 2020 WON BASS Arizona Open, claiming a Bass Cat Sabre FTD powered by a Mercury Pro XS 150, a Power-Pole Shallow Water Anchor worth $2,000, plus $25,424 and additional Big Bass cash for total cash and prizes of some $70,000.
The local angler was staked to a quick start on a fiercely windy Day 1 of the 3-day competition when he weighed 21.95 pounds backstopped by a tremendous 9.31-pound largemouth, the Big Bass of the tournament. Bailey credited good luck for finding the lunker in 25 feet of water on a Roboworm Zipper.
That effort put him in range of Day 1 leader and good friend Matthew Williams, also of Lake Havasu City., who smashed his own expectations by weighing 24.50 pounds with a 7.62-pound largemouth kicker. Williams said he caught his fish shallow.
Williams would hold his lead through a calm and sunny Day 2, when Matthews weighed 16.55 pounds to Bailey’s 16.23, setting up an intriguing final day duel between two locals on Championship Friday. Matthews, with a 2-day total of 41.05 pounds, had just under a 3-pound edge on Bailey. Popular Pro Joe Uribe, Jr. of Surprise, Ariz. sat in third with 35.36 pounds.
On Day 3, another flat calm day with high, bluebird skies, Bailey weighed 5 bass for 14.16 pounds for a 3-day tally of 52.34 pounds to capture the 2020 WON BASS Arizona Open Championship. Matthews faltered, weighing just 3 fish for 8.50 pounds and finishing with 49.55 pounds, a total which dropped him to fourth overall. He earned a $8,424 payout.
Meanwhile Uribe, Jr. brought 5 fish to the scale for 15.97 pounds, vaulting him to second overall for consecutive Arizona Opens with 51.33 pounds. Uribe Jr. said he targeted smallmouth using a swimbait designed with his father Joe Uribe, Sr. He won $15,424.
Perennial WON BASS hot stick Justin Kerr Simi Valley, Calif., who sat in sixth place going into the third and final day, weighed 17.34 pounds for a 3-day tally of 50.58 pounds, good for third place and $10,424. Kerr said he fished the run of the lake.
Winner Bailey switched to crankbaits on Day 2, sticking with that pattern through a tough Day 3 during which he missed several fish, causing him to doubt his chances, but he prevailed by powering through.
WON BASS Opens are shared-weight Pro-Ams. On the Amateur side, Jim Poff of Apple Valley, Calif. finished on top with 42.67 pounds and $6,142, and a prize quiver of top of the line St. Croix bass-specific sticks. He was followed in second place by Kevin McBean of Shafter, Calif. with 38.58 pounds, good for $5,142. Jason Akins, also of Apple Valley, finished third with 38.51 pounds, for $4,142.
The 173-boat field for a bass tournament is a new Lake Havasu record, besting the former record of 160 set by FLW.
A more detailed account of the Arizona Open will be featured in the next edition of Western Outdoor News.
Major WON BASS sponsors include Bass Cat Boats – Feel the Rush!; Mercury Marine; LifeSource Water Systems for the year-long LifeSource Cup $10,000 points race; Daiwa; St. Croix; Strike King; Rapala; Lew’s; Gamakatsu; Phenix and Power-Pole.
For full 2020 Arizona Open standings, visit WONBASSEvents.com. WON BASS action resumes with the California Open, April 8-10 at big bass factory Clear Lake, Calif. The season ends with the prestigious U.S. Open, Oct. 12-14 at Lake Mead, Las Vegas. Both events are virtual sell-outs. Visit WONews.com and click on the Events tab to add yourself to the wait list or for more information.
VICTORY POSE – Shaun Bailey with his trophy and the Bass Cat Boats Sabre FTD prize boat, outfitted by a Mercury Pro XS 150. In all, his Arizona Open victory brought him some $70,000 in cash and prizes.
CONSISTENCY PERSONIFIED – Joe Uribe, Jr. of Surprise, Ariz. finished second at the 2020 Arizona Open for consecutive years. He said he fished a highly technical pattern to overcome the pressure of a Lake Havasu record 173-boat tournament field.
MATTHEW WILLIAMS of Lake Havasu City, Ariz. took a 2-day total of 41.05 pounds into Championship Friday but could not seal the deal. He finished fourth with 49.55 pounds.
PERENNIAL WON BASS hot stick Justin Kerr finished third with a 3-day total of 50.58 pounds. He said he fished the run of the lake.
Feb 5-7, 2020 at Lake Havasu
Click the logo’s below for more info on our title sponsors
WON BASS and our title sponsors Bass Cat Boats and Mercury Motors are excited for our 2nd Annual Arizona Open at Lake Havasu February 5th -7th, 2020. WON BASS after 36 successful years of running professional bass fishing tournaments, which include 36 U.S. Open’s, 7 California Open’s at Clear Lake and now 2nd AZ Open at Lake Havasu. The event is slated for February 5th – 7th, 2020 at beautiful Lake Havasu. This fishery has been on the rise for many years with the growing population of small mouth bass and the stable large mouth bass population. It’s a great place for an Open style event, and February is a great way to kick off 2020 at Havasu.
The first round of “Early Birds” end November 1st, 2019. Official practice is February 1st – 4th until noon. February 4th is off limits after 12:00 Noon for registration and partner pairing. Bass Cat test rides will be available on February 3rd from noon till 6:00 pm at Windsor launch ramp. Entry deadline is January 31st.
To enter online simply click on the correct link on the top right of this page. If you mail in your entry you can save 4% by paying by check or cashiers check. To be eligible for the early bird drawing you can do it online and the registration date will be immediate. On checks mailed in the postmark date will apply. Entries will be processed however in the order they are received in our offices.
Pro Grande Prize
BCB SABRE FTD with Mercury 150 ProXS
*BCB Boat includes mounted Mercury 150 ProXS, 2 electronic units, complete hull and trailer package, with trolling motor and starting battery.