Patrick Touey Rallies to Second Place, Anthony Hunt Wins AAA Division
BY DAN O’SULLIVAN
Laughlin, Nev.– Once again, the final day theme of the 2023 Bass Cat / Mercury WON BASS U.S. Open presented by Laughlin Tourism Commission and Visit Laughlin turned out to be change. While the weather remained warm as it had been the first two days of competition, the field was treated to stiff breezes that spun the speed gauges up to 25 miles per hour.
Wind can be an angler’s friend, or in the case of precision casting with Forward Facing Sonar and finesse tactics, it can be a massive frustration. With many of the leaders using those type of tactics, the anxiety level of said anglers was elevated with concern of being able to present light lures to their prey.
As day three commenced, the anglers atop the leaderboard were separated by less than five pounds and day two leader Kyle Grover of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calif, and second place pro Spencer Shuffield of Hot Springs, Ark. had a scant .51 pounds as their margin as the day began. With such a tight grouping atop the leaderboard, it really was possible for anyone in the top five to take the victory.
It almost happened.
When fifth place pro Patrick Touey of Santa Maria, Calif. weighed 19.93 pounds to take the lead with four anglers remaining, the story got really interesting. Garrett Howard of Riverside, Calif. fell short with 13.18 pounds. Roseville, Calif. pro Bryant Smith just missed the mark with 17.98 pounds and Shuffield had an atypical off day with 11.98 pounds leaving only Grover to erase Touey’s Cinderella story.
Feeling he had fallen short himself, Grover needed 16.25 pounds to tie Touey, but when the scales bottomed out to 16.49 pounds, Grover erupted in celebration and Touey emotionally left the stage after the pair embraced.
Grover won the 2023 WON Bass U.S. Open in wire-to-wire fashion with a three-day total weight of 56.75 pounds, with a .24-pound winning margin over runner up Touey. Smith retained his third-place position with a total weight of 55.36 pounds. Shuffield finished fourth with 51.73 pounds and Howard rounded out the top five with 50.01 pounds.
As he took the microphone from WON Bass tournament director Bill Egan, Grover exclaimed that he saw a fish move late in the day his AAA partner caught that made the difference. “I saw a good smallmouth bolt under the bow of my Ranger Boat and head towards the back,” he said. “I told him to drop behind the boat, he did and caught it. It was a two pounder that culled us up a half of a pound, and that was the difference.”
Grover said that he spent his competition in the Upper Basin between Cottonwood and the power lines and had three areas that produced. “I had a deep spot that had a school of smallmouth on it, and I caught a couple off of it each day,” he said. “My other spots were guts and pockets that the fish were roaming in chasing shad, which was key, there had to be shad in those pockets.”
Grover used a pair of dropshot baits thrown on 7’3” medium-light St. Croix Legend Elite pinning rods matched with Daiwa Certate reels. He spooled them with 10-pound-test Sunline braid and 6-pound-test Seaguar Tatsu Fluorocarbon leader. He alternated between a 4.5-inch Straight Tailed Roboworm in Morning Dawn color or a Berkley Flatnose Minnow in Brownback Color. He rigged them both on size 1 Gamakatsu Split Shot / Dropshot Hooks and alternated between 1/4 to 3/8-ounce teardrop tungsten dropshot weights depending on depth. Lowrance Active Target 2 was also instrumental in his victory, reporting that he used the Forward Facing technology to catch the majority of his weight.
He said he could not believe he was a U.S. Open Champion. “I remember fishing my first U.S. Open on Lake Mead thinking I was hot stuff, and blanking,” he said. “I realized how tough this tournament was then and watched as guys like Aaron Martens – who has always been my favorite angler – won this trophy, and now I have one of my own; I am so happy, but stunned, it’s a dream come true.”
For his efforts, Grover earned the keys to a 2024 Bass Cat Cougar FTD, Mercury 250 ProXS combo from Bass Cat Boats’ president Rick Pierce, that when rigged with Lithium Pro batteries and charger, a Power-Pole Total Boat Control 8’ Blade, trolling motor and electronics will be valued at $82,000. He also earned a cash prize of $74,000, bringing the Champion’s purse to $156,000.
Touey said that the tale of his tournament would come down to lost fish. He reported having a good practice period but had to adjust with the pressure. “I fished above Cottonwood in the Upper Basin and caught them on a crankbait, a tube and a dropshot,” he said. “I lost 10 pounds of culls that would have closed this out easily, and you just can’t do that in tournaments and expect to win.”
He fished a Bill Norman Little N in Chartreuse Shad color early in the week. that he threw on an iRod Crank Jr Rd, with 10-pound-test Fluorocarbon, but had to turn to finesse tactics more as the event progressed. He chose iRod 722 Air spinning rods with 10-pound-test braid and 6-pound-test leader and a pair of finesse baits, a green pumpkin tube on a tube jig and Berkley Maxscent Flatworm in Green Pumpkin rigged on a dropshot rig with a 3/8-ounce weight.
Anthony Hunt, of Clovis, Calif. earned the title of AAA Champion by moving from fourth place with a 10.39-pound limit to bring his three-day total weight to 41.29 on the final day to take the victory in the AAA Division. The AAA Champions said that he was stunned. “I have fished my whole life, but had to stop for quite a while, and I’ve just gotten back into recently with my father-in-law,” he said. “I love to fish and knew that this was the biggest tournament out here, I can’t believe I’ve won it.”
Hunt reported using a variety of baits to catch fish. “I caught some on finesse baits and some on reaction baits this week, and had a great week with my pros, I’m absolutely in shock.” Hunt earned $8,500 cash and an ATV worth an additional $8,000.
He was followed by Markos Avalos of Las Vegas, Nev. in second place with 40.05 pounds. Third place AAA went to Quincy Lewis, of San Diego, Calif. with 39.98 pounds, fourth place went to Travis Hargis of Chula Vista, Calif. with 38.98 pounds and Bo McNeely of Rancho Cucamonga, Calif. rounded out the top five in the AAA Division with 39.19 pounds.
That concludes the 2023 Bass Cat / Mercury WON BASS U.S. Open presented by Laughlin Tourism Commission and Visit Laughlin. Takeoffs and weigh-ins of 183 pro and AAA anglers occurred daily at Katherine Landing at Lake Mohave Marina located at 2690 Katherine Spur, Bullhead City, AZ 86429.
Complete Standings of both divisions can be found below:
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The 41st Anniversary 2023 WON BASS U.S. Open is presented by the following sponsors; Bass Cat Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Costa, Abu Garcia, Bridgford Foods, Daiwa, Gamakatsu, Phenix, Power-Pole Total Boat Control, Eagle Claw TroKar, Lithium Pros, Lowrance, Anderson Toyota, Loco’s Bar and Cocina, DD26, Top This, Johnon’s Bait and Tackle, LTC Laughlin Tourism Commission, Last Chance Performance Marine, Yamamoto Baits, Huntington Beach Honda, Peregrine 250, Livingston Lures, Roboworm, Trika Premium Fishing Gear, Liqui Moly Marine, Anglers Marine, Stealth Stix, Smokey Mountain Herbal Snuff and Pouches, KUIU, Signature Gate Systems and Welding, Sure Life, Visit Laughlin and Western Outdoor News.