Blake Warren – ON THE HOOK

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Friday, October 27, 2017
Open Ended
Tuesday, February 06, 2018
Time to reassess things? You ain’t lion

What a pair
Nov. 17, 2017

Well, that sure was fun. Things have been a wee bit on the busy side of the ledger here at WON the past month-plus. Last month was essentially taken hostage (in a good way) by the 35th installment of the U.S. Open at Lake Mead — and what a heck of a tournament it was — while early November has been consumed with the 19th annual Cabo Tuna Jackpot, which Director Pat McDonell recently tabbed as, “the best Jackpot ever.”

Needless to say, it’s been a fun couple of months, and it’d be hard to imagine either of these two behemoth fishing events coming off a whole lot better than they did when all was said and done. The biggest tournaments on both the freshwater and saltwater ends of WON’s event spectrum were huge hits all around, lacking no shortage of either interest or excitement.

Starting off with the WON BASS U.S. Open, nobody really knew what to expect when the Mead event’s dates were bumped back from mid-September to mid-October way back in the springtime. But when 208 boats — the most entries in any Open over the course of its 35-year history — motored out of Callville Bay Marina bright and early on the morning of Oct. 16, it was clear that the date change had been a positive development. Not to mention the many big names who were able to attend the Open, from the likes of three-time Mead champion Clifford Pirch and two-time Open champ Rick Clunn, to top Elite pros like Brett Hite and Josh Bertrand, to industry staples such as former Open winner Gary Yamamoto — there was no shortage of bass fishing star power battling it out in the Nevada desert this year.

Then there was the Open and the fishing itself. Almost unheard of at Lake Mead for the tournament, Mother Nature offered up three pretty ­consistent days of mild weather and favorable conditions and the field capitalized, scoring significantly bigger bags than in recent years and creating a log jam atop the leaderboard and setting the stage for a thrilling finish to the Open.

In the end, it was Arizona pro Justin Patti just fending off Elite angler Brett Hite with a 9.79-pound, 5-fish bag on Day Three to seal the wire-to-wire victory by a smidge over a half-pound, while posting the heaviest winning weight (36.30) at the Open since 2005.

With the massive field of over 200 boats and the addition of Bass Cat as a WON BASS title sponsor this year, Patti cashed in big time to the tune of nearly $120,000 for his U.S. Open championship — not too shabby for three days’ work if you can get it.

If it was ever in any sort of question, it is clear that the U.S. Open is back front and center in a big way, and carrying a swath of momentum into 2018.

Just about the same time the hardware was being doled out to Patti at the Boulder Station Casino, some 1,300 miles south, in the waters off Cabo San Lucas, the big tuna started to come on in a major way. The Los Cabos Tuna Jackpot appeared to have hit the... well, tuna jackpot.

Come tournament time the first week of November, the big yellowfin were biting full bore. While the seamingly endless string of parties and festivities raged on back on shore, the tuna party followed suit on the region’s renowned tuna grounds. When all the reel-screaming and tuna battling was over, an impressive 11 cow tuna had hit the scales, along with a pair of super cows over 300 pounds to boot — not to mention another cow and another 300-plus that came in just a tad to late to be officially weighed. Any time your top-10 fish for the tourney go nearly a ton and a half, I think it’s a safe bet to go ahead and call the event a rousing success.

In spite of a slight dip in the number of total teams, the Jackpot payed out nearly $700,000 to nine different teams, with the winning Estrella del Norte scoring over a quarter-million dollars ($252,800) for their tourney-topping 338-pound yellowfin — becoming the first two-time winners of the Jackpot in the process — and Team Tequila Teasers cleaning up nicely with a $132,800 payday to cap off the big-winners list. Big fish, big money, indeed.

And the other half of the fun in Cabo — the partying end of things — went off without a hitch, with a number of upgrades over the course of the festivities ranging from convenient check-in, awesome parties and excellent gourmet to free-flowing cocktails, lots of top-notch sponsor prizes being doled out and another nice, annual chunk of change being raised for charity. Not a bad way to wrap up the 2017 WON event season to say the least.

Aside from a self-admitted propensity to purchase an occasional ticket (or 12) at Del Mar’s betting windows and the alleged degenerate online trifecta box wager on a random claiming race in the seventh at Santa Anita, I’m not much of a gambler... but here’s throwing a nickel on the hunch that both events will be even bigger and better next year, riding the crest of a wave of burgeoning momentum right on into 2018.

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