Blake Warren – ON THE HOOK

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Tuesday, October 10, 2017
Tuesday, February 06, 2018
What a pair

Open Ended
35th U.S. Open proves to be one doozie of a tourney

There is always a good amount of nail biting. Always plenty of drama, suspense in the air, which only builds to a crescendo by the time the sun positions itself directly above the beast of a lake that is Mead on that one particular Wednesday — the third and final day of the most prestigious bass fishing tournament in the western United States. The WON BASS U.S. Open at Lake Mead. It’s a bear. Throw in a tournament-record 208 boats with some of the very best and most accomplished bassers in the country and beyond… and it’s Godzilla.


THE 35th EDITION of the U.S. Open was a rousing success with 208 boats, good fall fishing and an exciting finish.

As incredibly tough as the Open is to successfully compete in, it might be even more of a monstrous task to remotely accurately predict its outcome. I’m not too sure who exactly had the defacto King of Lake Mead and three-time Open champ, Clifford Pirch, beginning Day Three tied for 66th and winding up an essential non-factor in 61st place. Or that a total weight of 24.39 pounds would only just eke one barely into the top 50 — when that exact weight would have landed that angler alone in 3rd place just one year ago.

Who had it pegged that last year’s Day One U.S. Open leader — who would ultimately slip to 26th place by the 2016 tourney’s end — would bounce back in incredible fashion to not only lead the prestigious event after Day One yet again, but also go on to claim the Open crown by going wire-to-wire to top the biggest field in the tournament’s long-running history? I’m sure there aren’t a whole lot of hands in the air right now.

But whether anyone saw any of the 2107 U.S. Open unfolding as it did (astronomically unlikely), these are just a few of the many unforeseen events that are forever linked together to tell the story of this year’s Open — which could most easily make claim to be among at least the top three tournaments in its storied 35-year history.

When the desert dust finally settled and the weigh scales finally cleared, it was none other than Justin Patti, the Day One leader each of the last two Opens, who stood victorious over the massive largest-ever U.S. Open field. The Arizona pro extended the streak to four consecutive years of the Open champion hailing from The Grand Canyon State, yet just another one of the zillion little interesting factoids to come out last week’s instant-classic tournament.

To say Patti’s gate-to-finish win was impressive would be selling him short in a way. It was beyond that… especially to anyone who has ever wet a line at Lake Mead in a competitive event. Patti put on a clinic in displaying every weapon Mead forces an angler to have in his arsenal over the course a three-day tourney. Game plan? Check. Ability to adapt on the fly? You bet. Grinding out a limit each day? Yup. Resilience? Oh man, the resilience…

That’s what’s most impressive from this particular set of eyes from a distance here in coastal California. But it’s incredibly hard to not be impressed with the immense fortitude Patti showed out in the Nevada desert last week. Especially due to, and because of, “last year.”

On the afternoon of Sept. 12, 2016, Patti had plenty of reason to smile after weighing in 11.63 pounds on Day One of last year’s Open, giving him a first-day lead of over a pound heading into the second day of the tournament. “Hopefully I can duplicate it tomorrow,” the Arizona pro said after releasing his first day’s limit.

Day Two yielded not only no limit for Patti, but not a single fish at all. From solid to stripe in just 24 hours’ time.

He would find another limit on the Open’s third day, but ultimately land in 26th place with just a tad under 20 pounds. Still a good showing and still in the money, but the dream of a U.S. Open title had been thwarted by one bad day.

Fast forward to this past Wednesday morning. Patti motoring out of Callville Bay with a 31/2-pound lead on the final day of the Open. Can you imagine the nerves? The amount of pressure? Especially after “last year.”

As the final flight of anglers weighed in one-by-one, Patti had to grit his teeth and hope he had enough heft from his five Mead bass from his Day Three efforts. The final intrigue — as many expected — came down to he and Elite pro Brett Hite, who started the day within a short flip cast of Patti’s heels in second place. Hite, who by all accounts appeared extremely confident in the morning, hit the scales with 11.66 pounds. An impressive weight considering the final day offered up the toughest fishing of the three.

But Patti delivered 8.59 pounds to the weigh station shortly thereafter…good enough to complete the redemption song in dramatic fashion, and take the 35th U.S. Open title by a smidgen over a half-pound — and taking down Godzilla with it…

It’s most obviously subjective, and maybe it’s just the immediate buzz in the initial aftermath of the whole thing, but that right there might well have been the best and most exciting Open of them all. The star-studded field with so many big bass names, over 200 boats going at it for three days, solid October fishing, a tightly-contested leaderboard heading into Day Three and the Costa Live Web Broadcast bringing more on-the-water coverage than ever before. If the West is often an afterthought or somewhat overlooked at times in the professional bass fishing world on the whole, it sure as heck couldn’t be ignored last week — the 2017 Open was just about as good as it gets.

Pretty darned good stuff if you ask me. But then again, nobody did. I’m just sayin’…

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