Inaugural event attracts hundreds of anglers with big fish weighed in at four Sierra locations opening weekend; Allan Cole wins with a 9-pound, 9½-ounce brown
ALLAN COLE HOLDS his 9-pound, 9½-ounce brown from Lower Twin Lake at the Bishop Visitors Park. He is shown with his son Eric Cole and 395 Derby Director Billy Egan and the first-place prizes, topped by a Gregor/Mercury package worth $10,000 WON PHOTO BY PAT McDONELL
BISHOP — Well-known Brownbagger and lure designer Allan Cole of Henderson, Nev., won the first annual WON 395 Big Fish Sierra Trout Opener derby, catching a 9-pound, 9½-ounce brown trout at Lower Twin Lake Saturday on a A.C. Plug to claim the top prize of a 15-foot Gregor/9.9 hp Mercury outboard package on top of an EZ Loader trailer worth $10,000. The derby areas eligible were all Lone Pine to waters north of Bridgeport.
Cole weighed it on Sunday afternoon at Rick’s Sports Center in Mammoth, driving south from Bridgeport to weigh it on the same scale as second place finisher John Montgomery’s 9-pound, 9-ounce rainbow from Convict Lake the previous day. Cole had weighed the brown trout Saturday at the Lower Twin marina, unofficially at 9 pounds, 9.7 ounces after he caught it Saturday.
“Knowing Montgomery’s fish held the lead at 9 pounds, 9 ounces, he wisely drove south on Sunday to get the fish on the same scale,” said derby director Billy Egan. “It was a smart move because the fish didn’t lose much weight, and got him first place by half an ounce.“
Cole, 74, was fishing with his 40-year-old son Eric and caught it at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in the middle of snow flurries and wind.
It was cold and snowing, he remembered, and when the rod went off in the holder he grabbed it and immediately knew it was a good fish. The AC Plug he designed with Owner treble hooks (“I love Owner hooks,” he said) was trolled 25 feet down on the lead core line.
ALLAN COLE HAS made the heavyweight brown trout scene for decades. This opener, the Henderson, Nev. angler took the No. 2 opening day big fish spot, weighing in this 9-pound, 9½-ounce Lower Twin Lake catch that went for a trolled A.C. Plug lure in a kokanee pattern. ERIC COLE PHOTO
“The fish chase the schools of kokanee,” said Cole. “You target the kokanee and the big browns are with them.”
Cole knows big browns’ habits. He has 42 browns over 10 pounds, and had a 26 pounder from Paulina Lake in Oregon back in ’03, and in 1978, he got the biggest trout in Sierra opening day history, a 20 pounder on Lower Twin Lake. This fish that won the derby, narrowly missed becoming his 11th brown trout over 10 pounds at Lower Twin, although he admits he has not caught a 10-plus pound brown from Lower Twin in a decade. The drought continues, but he won the derby.
Besides the Gregor/Mercury package, the big brown also earned Cole a $200 Flambeau Warming Kit and a $200 Sierra Slammer plastics package. It was part a $15,000 total of prizes given away over the weekend by WON to five of the top derby anglers who competed Saturday and Sunday. All top-five anglers also earned a Cousins FSP703 7-foot spinning rod and an Owner hook package.
“Where do you guys get all this stuff?” asked Cole. Indeed, it was a mountain of high-end tackle that went to the top teams — the top-5 anglers overall, and the top-5 anglers at each weigh-in location.
The weigh-ins were conducted at four weigh centers both days, with Derby Central being Bishop City Park. The other three weigh areas were Rick’s Sports Center in Mammoth Lakes, Ernie’s Ski & Sports in June Lake, and Ken’s Sporting Goods in Bridgeport.
As anglers weighed in, the weigh stations recorded the catches and relayed them to Billy Egan in Bishop. Egan is the Freshwater Events Director at WON and is also the WON BASS Director.
“The derby was a big success for the first-time effort, and with a few adjustments can be bigger and easier for anglers to sign up on-site at the weigh stations as well as through WON and also the Internet,” said Egan. “We learned a lot and were thrilled with 250 entrants. I think we can have 1,000 people entering this next year, especially with the continued support of Sierra retailers.”
The second-place finisher by the narrowest of margins was John Montgomery of Bishop with a 9-pound, 9-ounce rainbow from Convict Lake, who won a $1,000 Sea Eagle Stealth Stalker inflatable package, a Cousins rod, Owner hook pack, plus a $500 Panther Martin lure pack, and $200 Flambeau Warming Kit. He could have used that Warmer Kit. The weather at Convict opening morning was frigid with snow flurries. He said he started fishing at 4 a.m. and just before dawn, on his friend Mike Alvarado’s boat at the lake inlet, his outfit was slammed. He was using PowerBait, a No. 16 treble and straight 6-pound line.
JOHN MONTGOMERY OF Bishop with his 9-pound, 9-ounce rainbow caught at Convict Lake Saturday and weighed in at Rick’s Sports Center in Mammoth Lakes. He won a $1,000-value Sea Eagle Stealth Stalker inflatable boat, a Cousins rod and much more sponsors prizes seen in the photo with derby director Billy Egan. His 9-pound. 9-ounce rainbow from Convict took second place in the first annual 395 Big Fish Derby.
“It was a screamer,” he said. “He made at least four big runs. “It was a tough fish.” He credited his buddy, also an ex-Marine, with a great net job on a crazy fish.
Third place was taken by Glen McKenzie with a 7.3-pound rainbow from June Lake, who took home a $500 Rapala Lure Package, Cousins rod, Owner hook packs and a $200 Flambeau Warming kit.
Fourth Place was claimed by Vulfrano Perez of Petaluma, who caught a 6-14 rainbow on a Rapala from Lower Twin Lake, Bridgeport. He won a $500 Rooster Tail package from Yakima Baits and a $200 Warming Kit from Flambeau, plus the Cousins rod and Owner hook pack.
Fifth place was won by Mike Moniz of Discovery Bay with a 6-pound, 2-ounce rainbow from Upper Twin. He caught it on a Lucky Craft Lure, reported Jim Reid at Ken’s Sporting Goods, where he weighed it Saturday morning. That fish won him a $200 Flambeau Warming Kit and a $200 Thomas Bouyant lure package.
There were other ways to win, with special weigh station prizes. Of course, the champion, Allan Cole took the big-fish weigh station prize at Rick’s in Mammoth with his 9-pound, 9½-ounce brown taking a $200 Sierra Slammer plastics box, and a $250 Rick’s Sports Center Gift Card.
At Ken’s Sporting Goods, it was Vufrano Perez with a 6-pound, 14-ounce rainbow from Lower Twin Lake on a Rapala who grabbed the weigh-station prize of a $250 gift certificate from Ken’s, as well as a Bridgeport Vacation Rentals certificate for $550 for spot camping in the Sierra.
Ernie’s Ski & Sport weigh station at June Lake on the June Lake Loop saw Glenn McKenzie’s rainbow of 7 pounds, 3 ounces take a nice $200 Sierra Slammers Package.
Bishop’s biggest fish brought to its Visitor’s Park site was a 4.95-pound rainbow from the Lower Owens River Sunday on a Rapala by Ryan Nealon of Thousand Oaks, who won a $200 Sierra Slammer plastics package and a dream stay at Parcher’s Resort and a free boat rental at South Lake.
WON would to thank all the anglers who participate, all the national and local sponsors, and the weigh stations who helped over an extremely busy weekend, said Egan, the 395 derby director.
“I really think this a great idea, being a derby for all the Sierra, and it will really grow if it continues each year and especially if anglers can sign up and pay at the shop,” said Rick Flamson, owner of Rick’s in Mammoth Lakes. “I had three dozen people come to the shop who wanted to sign up Friday with cash, do it quickly. They just didn’t want to go online. It has a chance to be a huge event here opening day.”