Laughlin Tourism Commission and Laughlin Chamber of Commerce again shows firepower, commitment to WON BASS as ideal hosts
BY MIKE STEVENS
WON Staff Writer
LAUGHLIN – Windy conditions cut the second-annual running of the WON BASS Laughlin Open from three fishing days to one, so a single five-fish bag determined the Pro and AAA winner of the second of four events on the WON BASS calendar. Kevin Wiggins of Winterhaven, Calif. topped the leaderboard on what would have been Day 2 on the water, and once the National Park Service shut down the final day like it did the first, he was announced Champion of the 2023 Laughlin Open.
Wiggins’ winning bag consisted of five fish for 21.33 pounds allowing him to edge out 2022 Laughlin Open champ Justin Kerr of Lake Havasu City who weighed in a 20.61-pound limit.
It was actually a very tight race in the top half of the leaderboard with a half-dozen bags over 20 pounds brought to the weigh-in stage, eleven over 19 pounds followed by 18-plus pound limits from there all the way down to 35th place.
Las Vegas angler Cody Steckel finished third with 20.54 pounds, then Nevada anglers Anthony Salazar of Henderson and Tim Klinger of Boulder City tied for fourth with 20.26 pounds each. Rounding out the top 10 was Max Hernandez in sixth (20.16) Christopher Owen (19.87), Jonathan Schuyler (19.8), Shane Edgar (19.66), and Ray Arbesu (19.61). Hernandez picked up $1,095 in the Big Fish option for his 5.22 pounder in addition to $5,095 for the sixth-place finish.
As the champion on the Pro side, Wiggins laid claim to a Bass Cat Bobcat packing a 150 hp Mercury ProXS valued at $45,000, a check for $15,000 and another $2,250 in the Big Stringer Optional. The total cash-and-prize haul for Wiggins stacked up to $62,250 when it was all said and done.
Ronnie Orbaker was Wiggins’ co-angler that day, so naturally he emerged as the Laughlin Open champ on the AAA side. He was instrumental in this particular victory as his 4.99-pound smallmouth stood as the big fish in that team’s limit. He picked up $4,600 for finishing in the AAA top spot, another $1,125 for his share of the Big Stringer option, $548 and a pair of Costa sunglasses for his big fish, and one of the six Abu Garcia rod-and-reel combos that went to the top six AAA finishers for a total value of $6,273.
Wiggins said in practice he just put the trolling motor down and searched points for post-spawn bass and also look for bed fish up shallow, and he found good numbers of 4-pound class fish in both zones. When tournament fishing arrived, he was able to return to those areas and catch a good amount of those bass, including the 4.99-pound kicker smallie caught by Orbaker.
“Most of the fish were bed fish, drop-shotting most of them,” Wiggins told Rod and Reel Radio. “I was primarily using Roboworms. We were specifically targeting smallmouth bass, and all the fish we weighed in were smallmouth.”
Drilling it down a bit more, Wiggins said he was using braid to 8-pound fluorocarbon with 4-inches of line between the weight and the hook.
“I found fish all the way from Katherine (Landing) all the way up to the second power lines, probably about 15, 20 miles up past Cottonwood. The lake was pretty much ‘on’ all over, it was just targeting those bigger fish.”
Costa awarded sunglasses to the anglers catching the top three big fish on both sides of the tournament. On the Pro side, the went to Melvin Williams with his 5.49-pound bass that was the overall biggest of the event, Max Hernandez (5.22) and Brett Leber (5.08). AAA anglers who got Costas for big fish were Bryan Colby (5.21), Ronnie Orbaker (4.99) and Thaddeus Vinson (4.60). Colby also picked up $1,095 for Big Fish on the AAA side.
In the Bridgford in the Boat promotion, George Azevedo and Ron Slack each will receive free entry into a 2024 WON BASS event, and Kenny Myers scored a Phenix Feather Series rod simply for being paired with Phenix pro, Jeremy Mann.
Of course, Wiggins had something to say about the weather situation at this particular Laughlin Open.
“We fish lakes on the river lakes all the time, especially the national park lakes, and there’s a thing in their rules that says if it’s a two-flag day, which is over 35 miles per hour wind at any time during the day, the tournament is canceled,” said Wiggins. “We’ve been dealing with this since the Bass Pro Shops Open on Lake Mead and the accidents they had when sending people out when it was blowing 40, 45 miles an hour. Since then, the Parks Service has been paying close attention to the wind, and forcing the tournament directors to also pay attention”
He mentioned how WON BASS Tournament Director Billy Egan was on a good run there if having tournaments land in line with very fishable conditions, and that it “caught up with him” this season.
“Kind of a weird weather pattern, you usually don’t have days where it’s windy, not windy, windy, not windy, because Saturday was beautiful, too, and that’s just the weather pattern we fell into”, he said. “I really have to commend Billy in what he does and the decisions he makes.”