Umarex Axeon


Pat McDonell's Blog

Click here for Pat McDonell's Bio

Tuesday, January 24, 2017
Ramp update for Shelter Island
Tuesday, January 31, 2017
Souza brothers team up for bay win

Rubik’s Cube club
The San Diego Bay Bass Open is a super fun event and a tough nut to crack. Usually I just fish it, and hope to finish in top 25 (it’s rare when I do) and cover it for the news­paper. It’s the only tourney I compete in all year. Usually I eat humble pie because this is a highly competitive event. I believe I have finished in the top 25 twice in nine years with various partners.

This time I fished with our saltwater editor, Merit McCrea, who stood in for my regular partner, Floyd Sparks, who could not make the event when it moved to the next weekend due to weather concerns.

VALERIE HANDZUS HOLDS a nice calico and a spottie that were two-thirds of her and husband Tom’s sixth place bag. They are always in the top 10 and are regulars on the bass circuit.

We got a $300 check for fifth place. Surprise! None more than me. Valerie and Tom were among many who walked up to congratulate us. Doug Kern of Fisherman’s Landing Tackle who competed again with Rick Maxa and sponsored the $1,500 first place prize was another who came by the Izorline booth where I was standing with Merit and his significant other, Wendy Tochihara of Izorline, a sponsor. Kern, the Handzus and many others who stopped by are always higher on leader board than me, so it meant a lot for them to say congrats. I got a lot of e-mails, as word spread on FB, including one e-mail Monday morning from former saltwater editor and Brandon Hayward, who might be one of the best fishermen I’ve ever been on a boat with. Cool stuff.

Funny story. I was interviewing winners and talking with director Dwayne Patenaude after walking over to the leader board from the San Diego Marlin Club, a few blocks away, where I had docked my boat after dropping Merit off with the three-fish weigh-in bag. I prefer to avoid the launch ramp crush and bring the boat down two days early and now keep it at the club dock.

I didn’t weigh our fish. Merit had done that while I drove the boat back to the club dock after dropping him off. Anyway, it took a while to square away the gear at the club. I walked up after the weigh-in was long over and immediately saw Dwayne, the director.

“There you are,” he said as I walked up. “Been looking for you.” He grabbed the winners, the Souza brothers, Tony and Mario, and I began interviewing them. After 10 minutes, a friend Jim Salazar comes over and says, “Nice job!”


He says, “Yeah, Fifth place. That’s great!”

Really? What? I looked again at the leader board 10 feet away and frankly was surprised. Actually shocked. Super fun experience and a blast fishing with Merit, who basically just mirrored what I did since he is a S.D. Bay novice. Of course, he’s a great fisherman, and a sportboat captain and marine biologist, but the San Diego Bay is the Rubik’s Cube of inshore fishing. Unlock its secrets and it’s a fun playground.

I tried something new this year. Rethought everything, buying some new baits and learning how to use them. The tubular Hookup Baits new on the market were not cheap. I changed all my tackle to suit the technique. We fluttered and twitched the baits over structure, and that got us six legal fish and a 2.54 pounder very early in the game at the cable structure. There were 40 boats in that area, and I didn’t see any big fish or hoots. So after we had a bag to weigh in and a nice fish, we felt no pressure. We were just looking for another 2- to 3-pound sand bass that never came. No pressure, as I said, but fishing and hoping. It’s a lot more fun when you have three decent fish in the bag.

We knew it was tough for everyone and hoped we would make top 15 because it was so slow with all the rain. Fifth was pretty cool. We felt pretty good about it all and Merit and I celebrated with a lunch buffet and three Ballast Point beers, and later went to dinner after the event with Wendy and our mutual longtime friends, Lori and her husband, Dave Sachau. A fun day and evening with friends...Now recovering.

Yeah, it was fun, but I don’t plan on quitting my day job for tournament fishing. Then again…

* * *

Pat McDonell is editor of WON and directs the annual WON Cabo Tuna Jackpot. He can be reached at

Reader Comments
Be the first to comment!
Leave a Comment
* Name:
* Email:
Website (optional):
* Comment:

Advertise with Western Outdoor News
The Longfin Tackle Shop