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Mike Stevens – KNEE DEEP

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Friday, April 26, 2019
Sierra bullets: Opener and beyond
Thursday, May 23, 2019
The Eastern Sierra sans trout

Big Fish Challenge trends and facts
I’m no tourney director, but I sit close enough to WON Tournament Director Billy Egan to be able to play one here in my on version of “Director’s Notes. I also only played a small role in the creation of the WON Big Fish Challenge four years ago, but I am the guy that follows it closest over the course of the 10-week event because I write the weekly updates, the wrap-ups and the previews for the next installment.

CATALINA ISLAND IS well within the WON Big Fish Challenge boundaries, and it could produce the top fish in any of the event’s six species categories. WON PHOTO BY MIKE STEVENS

The 2019 BFC is the fourth annual (with no end in sight) and in just three years, I’ve already been able to pick up on some trends, keys to making the most out of your participation and hard facts.

For one, if you fish saltwater, it is an absolute no brainer. At $40 (all in, and it’s even less if you only want to target three or fewer species in the Challenge), you’re off and running and chasing one of six grand prize packages that routinely exceed $5,000 in value. Come to think of it, you could actually be chasing MORE than one of six, because in the first year of the Big Fish Challenge, we had a guy win TWO grand prize packages. When he came to pick up his prizes, he was lucky to have brought a truck. You fish whenever you want within a 10-week window in peak saltwater season. If you fish between San Diego and Santa Barbara, that whole coast is peppered with official weigh stations, making it very convenient. It doesn’t get any simpler than that.

While you can sign up at any point, it pays to be in the game from the get-go. Every year so far, we’ve had multiple participants tell us they caught a fish that would have won it all, but they had not yet entered. A couple entered after the fact and ended up getting a bigger one anyway, but you hear the former more than the latter.

Keep tabs on for updates and current leaders. This especially comes into play for the weekly prizes (each top fish of each species wins a respectable prize for that as well). What happens is, a guy will catch a 10-pound yellowtail, for example, and not weigh in and submit the fish because he knows a 25 pounder is the overall leader. But, if no one else submits a yellowtail that week, the weekly prize goes unclaimed! (or it gets beat by a 5-pound rat). We probably see that scenario more than anything. Short version: weigh in and register your catch — no matter what.

Oh, another in the “no brainer” vein. In the second year, no one weighed in a dorado until the final week of the Big Fish Challenge. That fish was not that impressive, but it was good enough for a grand prize package. What made it frustrating here in the office was we were constantly getting photos of 15- and 20-pound dorado caught within 10 miles of the WON office and printing them in the paper for weeks, but they were all caught by guys who were not signed up. In their defense, it was early, and word was still getting around about the event in only its sophomore year.

It’s a level playing field. Sure, a guy who fishes more than you has better odds, but that’s on you. But we’ve had multiple kayak winners — including the guy who won two grand prizes in one year. Another year trended toward private boaters, and the other to sportboat guys. So, if there is anything that is not predictable from one year to the next, it’s what TYPE of angler takes more of the grand prize packages because in just three years going on four, we’ve already seen it all.

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