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WON BASS BLOG





The WON BASS BLOG


WON BASS is the leading tournament bass fishing organization in the West, offering both a pro-am circuit and a full slate of team tournaments across the Tri-States (California, Nevada, Arizona) area. Part of the Western Outdoors family of events and publications, WON BASS not only produces a monthly supplement to Western Outdoor News on everything connected with the bass fishing world, but is also the host organization for the prestigious U.S. Open of Bass Fishing held annually on Lake Mead outside of Las Vegas, NV. For tournament schedules and rules, check out www.wonbass.com.


Calif Open Day 3 - Championship Friday
Noy Vilaysane dominates the WON BASS California Open with a record 89.27 3-day total. He jumped out to a huge lead with 41.76-pound on Day 1, winning by an incredible 23-lb margin. 


BY PAUL LEBOWITZ

WON Staff Writer

LAKEPORT – Noy Vilaysane of San Diego completed his domination of the Pro Division of the 7th annual WON BASS California Open by weighing in 25.64 pounds of bass on Day 3, to coast to victory by an incredible 23-pound margin. He won a new Bass Cat Sabre FTD outfitted with a Mercury Pro XS 175, a boat that has been accurately described as a pocket rocket, plus $15,000 in first place cash.

Ultimately, the 14-pound lead Vilaysane built on Day 1, when he weighed a tournament record one-day limit of 41.76 pounds, was too much for the field to overcome. In fact, Vilaysane built on his lead every day.

“It feels great. Every trip I take up here it keeps on getting better and better. I had a couple of real good spots, any of those spots can pull out 20 or 30 pounds. If you have 5 to 8 options, they are pretty nice options,” he said.

Vilaysane was helped out on Day 3 by his AAA Kenneth Helms, who caught two fish of approximately 8 pounds on dropshot while Vilaysane threw large swimbaits and occasionally mixed it up with small plastics. They fished an area of surrounded by shallow grass in approximately 5 feet, targeting big pre-spawn bass.

Vilaysane claimed big bass of the tournament for the 11.74-pound chunk that backstopped his huge Day 1 limit, and Pro Big Bag of the tournament. “Something just told me pick up that rod and throw it. She just annihilated that bait. She surprised me, that’s how the swimbait goes,” he said.

Two-time past California Open champion Wayne Breazeale of Kelseyville finished second, with 66.12 pounds of bass. He blindly fished bass bedding areas Clear Lake State Park.

Fellow local John Pearl of Upper Lake was third, just fractions of a pound behind Breazeale, with 65.81 pounds.

Jonathan Green of San Pablo (62.33 pounds) and Todd Woods of Los Angeles (61.99 pounds) rounded out the top 5 in the Pro Division.

On the AAA side, Ryan Furno of Aloha, Oregon finished first with 68.14 pounds, largely on the strength of the 41.76-pound limit he shared with Pro Noy Vilasayne. Cody Nugent of Surprise, Ariz. was second with 63.87 pounds, and Kevin Quach of San Jose was third with 63.35 pounds.

Randy Sapp of Vista (62.28 pounds) and Nick Klein of Oroville (60.71) rounded out the top 5 in the AAA Division.

Visit wonbass.com for complete standings.

 

Captions:

TOP CALIFORNIA OPEN PRO Noy Vilaysane celebrates his new Bass Cat Sabre FTD outfitted with a Mercury Pro XS 175, while WON BASS Tournament Director Billy Egan offers his congratulations.

 

AAA ANGLER Ryan Furno hoists his trophy while WON BASS Tournament Director Billy Egan holds the St. Croix bass quiver Furno won for his California Open victory. 



Morning Report

LAKEPORT — Pro Noy Vilaysane led the pack by nearly 18 pounds when he blasted off first this morning on the final day at the WON BASS California Open, a new Bass Cat Sabre FTD outfitted with a Mercury Pro XS valued at $42,000 at stake.


competitrsattheCOMPETITORS AT THE WON BASS California Open queue up for the blast-off on Championship Friday.

Local Wayne Breazeale, a past two-time winner, sat in second, with a crowd of talented anglers nipping at his heels. Breazeale said he felt good about his tournament, but a little bit down on how big a lead he gave Noy on the first day.


“I had a tough first day he had an incredible first day. It takes the wind out of your sails when you’re down 17 going into the final day. I just got to go out and get two big ones try to get back in it, but that’s a pretty good lead to try to overcome,” he said.


John Pearl, another local and an angler who has been on a hot streak who sits in 6th, was optimistic, saying he’s fishing in the right area. “I’m around them, it’s just getting them to bite. I’m going fishing just like I did yesterday. There were 3-foot rollers coming in on my swimbait spot. I said let’s just go get a limit and third fish of the day was a ten. We got a good start to the day. We just went fishing,” he said.


Pearl noted the crowd fishing behind Noy, with at least 20 anglers sitting in striking distance of the podium even if they can’t catch the leader. “It’s close. One little stumble and you’ll end up in 40th place.”


The weigh-in on Championship Friday will start at approximately 3:00 p.m., with the leaders not due in until 4:45 p.m. Barring technical difficulties, it will be broadcast live on the WON BASS Facebook page. For full California Open standings, visit wonbass.com.


Calif Open Day 2

Vilaysane leads by nearly 18 pounds going into the final day of the WON BASS California Open


EVENING UPDATE DAY 2 - 2019 California Open


BY PAUL LEBOWITZ

WON Staff Writer


LAKEPORT — Noy Vilaysane started the Day 2 of the WON BASS California Open with a 14-pound lead on the strength of his astounding 41.76-pound Day 1 limit, and when the day was over he’d incredibly expanded his lead to nearly 18 pounds.


Still, he’s taking nothing for granted. “I’m going to go out there and have fun, I’m going to go out there and fish. If it works, it works. That’s fishing,” he said.


Villaysane and his Day 2 partner AAA Randy Sapp 21.87 pounds on Day 2.


Two-time past California Open champion Wayne Breazeale’s consistency pushed him into second place with one day remaining. He weighed 24.30 pounds on Day 2, for a 45.96 total. Jason Newby is third with 43.62 pounds. He weighed 19.85 pounds. It’s a crowded field after Vilaysane, there’s still plenty to fish for.


Pro Big Bass of the day went to James Bunker (9.67 pounds), Jonathan Schuyler (8.69), and Bryan Lutz (7.83).


AAA Big Bass and Big Bass of the Day went to Kevin Potter (10.84-pounds), James Rathjen (8.09 pounds), and Cody Nugent (7.16 pounds).


The AAA leaders are Ryan Furno with 56.11 pounds, Cody Nugent (45.98 pounds) and Kevin Quach (45.45 pounds)


The day started out fairly calm, but by the time the afternoon rolled around the wind was howling. Most competitors experienced a soggy and tiring ride back to tournament headquarters at Konocti Vista Resort. The forecast for Day 3 calls for more wind, but it isn’t expected to be as rough as it was on Day 2.


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DAY 1 WON BASS California Open leader Noy Vilaysane built on his lead on Day 2, weighing 21.87 pounds to take an 18-pound plus advantage in the third and final day.

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Morning update:


Yesterday's record setting, 41.76-lb bag was an amazing catch.


BY PAUL LEBOWITZ

WON Staff Writer


LAKEPORT — As the competitors in the WON BASS California Open launched onto Clear Lake for Day 2, the buzz was still going strong on yesterday’s record setting 41.76-pound limit caught by Pro Noy Vilaysane and AAA Ryan Furno.


Pro Joe Uribe Jr. acknowledged he put in a decent day’s work to compile the 20.33-pound limit that had him in the upper tier of all Day 1 finishers, but he couldn’t resist joking. “I’m within striking distance, I’m only 21 and a half pounds out. I’m right there. Put me in coach!” he said.


Uribe said it was incredible to see Vilaysane’s giant bag. “It shows how great Clear Lake is and the potential. Conditions yesterday, a lot of us knew it would be a tougher day with the heavy winds we had the day before, it really muddied up a lot of the areas that guys were anticipating catching them at. For Noy to do that yesterday shows that all the lake wasn’t affected,” Uribe said.


Day 2 dawned calm, but the forecast calls for the wind to build as it wears on. Uribe said he would fish the conditions, taking every day as a new day. He’s in the same boat as 124 other Pros, far behind on weight but determined to fish well and hard for the best possible result. The tournament is far from over.


Mike Iloski’s Great Save


Everything went wrong for Pro Mike Iloski yesterday, until it didn’t.


His boat broke down not far from tournament headquarters at Konocti Vista Resort first thing in the morning. He was out of luck, his game plan in shreds. He spent two hours on the phone searching for a marine repair shop to help him after tournament hours, and when that was done, he just went fishing.


“You can’t control stuff you can’t control, we just put our rods in the water and went fishing. Less expectations, fished the stuff that I know from years past, areas that I know, luckily we broke down in that area,” he said.


Iloski pulled a double digit, 10.24-pound largemouth out of his unplanned spot, and his AAA Kevin Quach roped a 7.11, backstopping a 26.91-pound limit good for third place after Day 1 — weighed when they flagged down another tournament boat and his AAA took their fish to the scale.


Iloski was towed in, took his boat to the repair shop, and was back on the water to start Day 2 in a strong position.


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COMPETITORS AT THE WON BASS California Open at Clear Lake ready their boats for the Day 2 take-off.


HISTORIC DAY 1 WEIGHT
LAKEPORT - CRUSHING !


Noy Vilaysane and AAA Ryan Furno crush records with 41.76-pound day 1 at the California Open

Crushing. That’s the only way to describe what Pro Division angler Noy Vilasayne and his AAA Ryan Furno did in lapping the field on Day 1 of the WON BASS California Open with an astounding 41.76-pound limit.

Vilaysane’s Big Fish weighed 11.74 pounds, but every fish in his combined limit was a chunk. Consider, the per fish average was over 8 pounds!

Tournament Director Billy Egan said the Vilaysane-Furno limit was the largest he’s weighed in the ten years he’s run tournaments for WON BASS.

Terry McKnight, fish reporter for the Lake County Record Bee said he’s covered and run tournaments at Clear Lake since 1986 and never seen the like and opined that Vilaysane’s 41.76 pounds could be a single day lake tournament record.

McKnight said Vilaysane told him he caught his fish in deep water while using swimbaits. He further said Vilaysane said he couldn’t believe it when he hooked into his 11.74-pound Big Fish.

Pro Sean Wayman and AAA Nick Klein sit in second with 27.30 pounds, normally an outstanding Clear Lake day, but one that was overshadowed on Day 1. Wayman’s limit was backstopped by a 9.01-pound Big Fish, good for third Pro Big Fish on the day.

Pro Mike Iloski and AAA Kevin Quach are in third after Day 1 with 26.91 pounds. Iloski scored second Pro Big Fish with his 10.24-pound largemouth. That’s two fish over 10 pounds on Day 1 if you’re counting. Clear Lake gives up the goods.

AAA Big Fish of the day went to Justin Taylor Bolen (09.80 pounds), Kevin Quach (7.11 pounds), and Aaron Riggs.

Competitors fished under bluebird skies and the forecast high winds never materialized in the northern portion of the lake, but some who fished south of The Narrows said it was windy.

CRUSHING – Pro Noy Vilaysane and AAA Ryan Furno show off their record-shattering 41.76-pound Day 1 limit at the WON BASS California Open.







LAKEPORT – Game on! The WON BASS California Open is underway on Clear Lake, and the stakes are high.

126 boats launched from the Konocti Vista Resort beginning at 6:45 a.m, every Pro Division angler vying for a Bass Cat Sabre FTD outfitted with a Mercury Pro XS valued at $42,000 plus more than $15,000 cash.


The AAA anglers – the California Open is a Pro/Am, shared weight event – are in contention for their own championship, this one worth cash and a sweet prize quiver from St. Croix.


day1takeoff
BLAST OFF! —Heading out on Day 1 under clear, calm and cool skies. The wind was expected to climb throughout the day.

Conditions were challenging on the eve of the tournament, with winds over 22 mph blowing out spots across the lake. On the morning of Wednesday, Day 1, the winds had calmed but were expected to pick up again in the afternoon.


Prior to Tuesday’s high winds., the fishing was very good for some anglers. There were rumors of a 16-pound largemouth caught during pre-fishing, and whispered words had it that many 10+ bass had also joined the pre-fish party.


Wayne Breazeale, past two-time California Open champion, said, “The fishing is off the hook. If we get a break in the wind these guys are going to put some big bags up. The lake is full of 3 to 4 pounders now.”


Todd Woods, recent champion at the inaugural WON BASS Arizona Open, said, “In my opinion, Clear Lake is one of the top 5 lakes in the world. I’m expecting one or two 30-pound bags or close to it. I think there will be a lot of decent bas weighed in, the deal is you have to be consistent, you can’t stumble.”


Tournament sponsors include Bass Cat, Mercury, St. Croix, Daiwa, Techron Marine, Rapala, Lew’s, Clear Lake Outdoors, Yozuri, Cal Coast Fishing, and the Konocti Vista Resort.


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126 BOATS LAUNCHED at Konocti Vista Resort Wednesday morning to compete in the WON BASS California Open.


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TROPHIES STAND PROUDLY, ready to be claimed by the Pro and AAA champions of the WON BASS California Open on Clear Lake.


ARIZONA OPEN RECAP 2019

 BY PAUL LEBOWITZ

WON Staff Writer

FINAL DAY:

LAKE HAVASU CITY – Pro Division angler Todd Woods held firm on Day 3, catching a limit of nice largemouth while fishing docks in the Lake Havasu Marina to defend his Day 2 lead and go wire to wire at the inaugural WON BASS Arizona Open. He ended the event with 61.95 pounds and built on his lead to coast into first place overall.


BIG PRIZE -- WON BASS Arizona Open winner Todd Woods cleaned up, claiming a Bass Cat Sabre FTD outfitted with a Mercury Pro XS 175 and more than $11,000 in cash. Here Bass Cat representative Kevin Short congratulates Woods.


For his efforts, Woods won a Bass Cat Boats Sabre FTD outfitted with a Mercury Pro XS 175, plus some $11,000 for first place, and additional Big Stringer cash.

“I was fishing mostly grass, shallow grass. I had excellent AAAs, especially my last day guy Derrek Stewart ‘cause he kept my head in the game. He caught the first fish. We kept it loose,” Woods said.

TODD WOODS rocked the inaugural WON BASS Arizona Open Pro Division, going wire to wire and piling up a 3-day total of 61.95 pounds to win.


Joe Uribe, Jr. had a spectacular Day 3, using it to move from third after Day 2 into second overall in the Pro Division with a total of 56.90 pounds.

“I had a great time at the first WON BASS AZ Open at Lake Havasu and caught a lot of fish the last couple of days. We didn’t catch the key fish to seal the deal,” Uribe said, adding that he fished mostly swimbaits.

Canadian visitor Ted Stewner put in strong work on Day 3, and it was just enough to edge Kerr out of third place with 51.81 pounds. “I was working a deep pattern, 23-24 feet using a Spro Fly and Keitech,” Stewner said.

Justin Kerr, whose Day 2 charge had narrowed Woods’ lead to 3 pounds, found the going tough on Day 3 and finished fourth with 50.97 pounds – including the Pro Big Fish of the Tournament, a 5.97-pound largemouth caught on Day 2.

“I had a lot of fun on the first couple of days. Today was a struggle. I didn’t figure out the largemouth bass at all,” Kerr said.

On the AAA side, Joe Bolen finished first with 47.62 pounds. He was followed by Ed Cox, 44.78 pounds, and Paul Herber, 43.72 pounds.


Day 2 update:


Todd Woods holding firm in first place after Day 2 of the WON BASS Arizona


LAKE HAVASU CITY – Todd Woods didn’t sleep well the night before Day 2 of the inaugural WON BASS Arizona Open sponsored by Bass Cat Boats. The pressure was on after he took a 5+ pound lead in the Pro Division on Day 1. Who knows if he’ll sleep at all tonight? After Day 2 and with just one day to go, he’s still leading the pack.


HE CAN SLEEP LATER -- Todd Woods says he doesn't sleep well during tournaments, particularly if he's leading. Two days in, and two days in the lead in the Pro Division means Woods might not get any sleep until Day 3 is over. After Day 2 of the WON BASS Arizona Open he has a 3+ pound lead and a 40.82-pound total weight. He's pictured with his Day 2 partner Joe Bolen, who sits in first in the AAA Division.


Woods, while fishing with AAA Joe Bolen, piled up a 17.12-pound limit on Day 2. Added to his spectacular Day 1 23.70-pound effort, that’s 40.82 pounds total.

“We only caught 5 today. We’ll have to work hard tomorrow,” Woods said.

Justin Kerr vaulted into second overall with the big bag of the day, 21.34 pounds backstopped by the Pro Big Fish of the day, a 5.97. With his Day 1 16.10 pounds, that puts him at 37.44 pounds overall, a little more than 3 pounds behind Woods. It might have been less. Kerr said he lost a couple of big ones. “It’s something to go after tomorrow,” he said.

JUSTIN KERR is all smiles with a big move on day 2.


Joe Uribe, Jr. put in a tremendous Day 2 effort of 20.12 pounds. With his strong 15.28-pound Day 1, he’s sitting in third overall with 35.40 pounds total. “It was one of those days. We caught them all by 9. I’m looking forward to the final day,” he said.


JOE URIBE JR. had a great day on day 2, putting him in 3rd place overall with one day to go.


Pro Ted Stewner sits in fourth place with 33.36 pounds overall, and Jeffrey Allen Scott is in fifth with 33.02. Local favorite Dean Rojas is sixth with 32.28 pounds.

“It was tougher today for us, we had only 7 bites. When you get all your bites good things happen,” Stewner said. For his part, Rojas said he feels far behind. “I’ve got to figure out how to catch bigger ones,” he said.

Joe Bolen leads the AAA Division after day 2 with 35.30 total pounds. Justin Taylor Bolen sits in second with 30.79, and Paul Herber is third with 30.63. AAA Big Fish of the day was a 7.74-pound largemouth caught by Kelly Burns.

Many anglers found the going tough on day 2, and that includes Major League Fishing pro Josh Bertrand, who weighed in one fish on the day. “This is one of the most challenging bites I’ve ever seen. I was hard-headed in what I was doing. I’ll be more open minded tomorrow,” he said.



DAY 1 UPDATE



Todd Woods and Kelly Burns Blast into Day 1 Arizona Open Lead

LAKE HAVASU CITY – On a tough first day of fishing at the inaugural WON BASS Arizona Open sponsored by Bass Cat Boats, Pro Division competitor Todd Woods and AAA angler Kelly Burns smashed the 77-boat field on the strength of Burn’s overall and AAA Big Fish of the day, a 7.74-pound largemouth. Woods big weighed 4.36, for a total bag of 23.70 pounds and more than a 5-pound lead.

Arizona Open day 1

Ted Stewner and Bobby Tidd after weighing in a mixed bag on day one of the three day ARIZONA OPEN at Lake Havasu


Pro Ted Stewner and AAA Bobby Tidd sit in second place with 18.61 pounds, and pro Jason Cloke and AAA Joe Bolen sit in third after day one of the 3-day event at Lake Havasu. Cloke’s 5.91-pound largemouth was the Pro Division Big Fish. He earned $770 for Pro Day 1 Big Fish.

“We caught all our fish shallow. It was just run and gun,” Pro Division day 1 leader Woods said. His AAA for the day, Kelly Burns, added, “Be in contact with your pro ahead of time. Listen to him. That was our key.”

SMASHING -- Pro Todd Woods and AAA Kelly Burns lead the WON BASS Arizona Open after day one on the strength of a hefty, 23,70-pound bag backstopped by a 7.74-pound largemouth caught by Burns. That largemouth was the Big Fish of Day 1.


Woods earned $770 for Pro Big Stringer, and his AAA angler Kelly Burns added $385 for AAA Day 1 Big Fish and another $385 for his share of the Day 1 Big Stringer.

Day 1 second place Pro Todd Stewner played down his good day. “We caught one here and one there. I think we got lucky,” he said.

Third place Pro Jason Cloke said he didn’t get many bites. “We got 8, but we got them all on the boat,” he said.

On the Pro side, Day 1 Big Fish was rounded out by Tom Nokes, who was second with a 4.90, and Shannon Abbott, with a 4.76. Both Pros earned $385. On the AAA side, second place Day 1 Big Fish went to James Wiegand with a 5.78 and third to David Crunden with a 5.38. Each earned $192.50.

Anglers fished under a high, clear sky and warmer conditions into the high 60s, yet many in the field found tough going. “We threw everything in the box and moved around a lot. Hopefully we’ll get them tomorrow,” said AAA Nick Teschler, who fished with Pro Tony Lain.

Day 2 gets underway at safe light on Thursday, January 10. For full results and to follow the action over the 3 competition days of the WON BASS Arizona Open, visit wonbass.com (hit refresh on your browser if you’ve visited the site and don’t see the day 1 results).

Showdown at Havasu January 9-11
How pros Dean Rojas, Roy Hawk, Joe Uribe and Josh Bertrand see the inaugural WON BASS Arizona Open playing out

BY PAUL LEBOWITZ

WON BASS Contributor


LAKE HAVASU CITY — A winter bass tournament winner will be cold-forged at Lake Havasu when the inaugural WON BASS Arizona Open kicks off a new tradition January 9-11.


Not only is this event the perfect opener for the 2019 competitive bass fishing season, the timing is ideal. Sure the water will be chilly, but there’s something about this season at Havasu that produces big fish. To find out why and collect some thoughts on how the event will play out, we asked Havasu local bass pros Dean Rojas and Roy Hawk and lake regulars Josh Bertrand and Joe Uribe to share their thoughts. All of these high-caliber pros are gearing up to fish the tournament, so take some of what they say (or better yet don’t say) with a grain of salt.


Dean Rojas, the natural


bassmastereliteseriesBASSMASTER ELITE SERIES pro Dean Rojas makes his home at Lake Havasu so he figures to have a home-field advantage at the WON BASS Arizona Open. He says catching 5 each day will be the biggest goal. PHOTO COURTESY DEAN ROJAS


Rojas is a natural one to ask about Havasu in winter. The Bassmaster Elite Series pro has made his home here since, well, forever. He’s thrilled WON BASS is coming to his home waters.


“I want to thank WON BASS for bringing the Arizona Open to Havasu, the diamond of the Colorado River system. January is an interesting time, it will showcase a lot of the great things Havasu has on offer,” he said.


How so? Havasu offers shallow cover, deep water, and fish on rock, grass and brush. All techniques are in play, but he mentioned two by name. “Lipless cranks and dropshotting play a factor in catching Havasu bass this time of year,” Rojas added.


Winter is a fickle time. The longtime Havasu resident warns that it’s susceptible to high winds. “We won’t see what happened at the U.S. Open (when dangerously high winds scrapped day 1), but one of the days we’ll have wind, it’s just a matter of how much we have,” he said. Plot your tactics accordingly.


Rojas said when preparing for the actual competition days, it would be good to have fish all over the lake, in the lower end, upper end, and the river. “Conditions could change hourly, the wind comes up and goes flat, a lot of things happen in January, a lot of variables,” he said. “But I think Havasu is the one lake in the southwest where you could hold an event in January with over 100 boats and have the potential to catch 25 pounds.”


Rojas well knows the biggest weights Havasu has seen come in January. The fish are in early, early pre-spawn at that point, and the water is as cold as it’s going to get. “The days are starting to get a little longer. It’s the time of year when big fish are eating. Every lake in the country has a time big fish bite. At Havasu that’s January. The big ones just bite, we could hit it while we’re there, you never know,” he added.


Catching five will be the biggest goal. “If you come in with 5 you have a good chance, but to catch more you have to get lucky on those big ones,” Rojas said.


Grass beds, those that are left, will be at a premium in the winter. Rojas doesn’t see this as a problem. Secondary stuff, the brush piles and natural rock structure of the lake itself will stand in for the grass. “Havasu is known for a huge habitat enhancement program for many years with plastic cages placed throughout the whole system. There’s a lot of cover for the fish to get under,” he said.


One more note. The lake level was still high as Rojas spoke. He said it’s likely to drop prior to the Open. “The usual winter drawdown could drop the lake 3-4 feet and could spread the fish out more,” he said.


Homestanding Roy Hawk


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HERE’S ROY HAWK with a chunk of a Havasu largemouth. The Bassmaster Elite Series pro figures it’ll take a bunch of these to win the tournament — maybe 52 pounds! PHOTO COURTESY ROY HAWK

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THIS PHOTO SENT by Roy Hawk demonstrates that the smallies at Havasu come bonus-sized too. PHOTO COURTESY ROY HAWK

Bassmaster Elite Series pro Roy Hawk also calls Havasu home turf. He’s a big believer in the Arizona Open, especially this year. “We encourage everyone to come out. The Arizona Open will be the single biggest tournament in Arizona this year, when there’s no FLW, no Wild West. Guys should come out and be supportive of it,” he said.


Hawk said the winter has been a mild one so far, and Havasu is fishing at a 6.5 or 7 out of a 10 scale. He predicts the winner will need to come up with heavy limits each day. “It’ll take 55 pounds or close to that. Maybe 52 pounds,” he said.


Havasu will make for a level playing field. “It’s so diverse from one end to the other. You can fish dirty water or clear, current or no current, you can flip, you can fish in 25 to 30 feet. Finesse and heavy gear both come into play,” Hawk said.


In some ways, this diversity makes the lake hard to break down. “Just fish to your strengths and if you’re catching fish narrow it down,” he said.


If Hawk is wrong about the mild winter and the conditions go south, he figures the fish will pull off. When the conditions are good there are always fish up shallow in the reeds, up the coves and up the river. “We catch them shallow year round,” he said.


Hawk shared a few of his favorite winter baits. In general, they are: the A-1 rig, tailspinners, Rat-L-Traps, crankbaits, jerkbaits, and dropshot year round. Small, do-nothing baits like the Ned rig, the fly, and small tube jigs without a lot of action to them work very well in the winter, he said.


Winter is a tougher time of year. Hawk figures 50 percent of the field could come in shy of a limit at least one of the 3 competition days. “It’s a technical time of year, but we’ll see some weight, some 20 pound bags. It could be tough for sure, you won’t catch 50 a day like some times of the year,” Hawk added.


Lake regular Joe Uribe


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FLW PRO JOE URIBE figures to be in the mix at the WON BASS Arizona Open. He’s won a couple tournaments at Havasu, highlighted by a 26.5-pound daily limit. PHOTO COURTESY JOE URIBE


FLW pro Joe Uribe’s parents have a place in Lake Havasu City, making him a regular visitor from his home in Surprise, Ariz. He’s won two FLW events at the lake, highlighted by notching a 26 1/2 –pound daily limit with a 9-pound kicker. “That was in February. This is the early part of January in the dead of winter. Fishing could be tough. The lake level could drop after the first of the year making access harder for anglers venturing into the Colorado River backwaters and tributaries,” he said.


The shared weight format will help. Uribe said getting 5 bites a day will be an accomplishment, but the size of the fish will be good. “They’re feeding heavily on threadfin and gizzard shad as well as small gamefish like bluegill and crawdads. There’s no lack of forage,” Uribe said.


Uribe figures it will take 15 pounds a day to do well, and 18 pounds a day to win the Arizona Open.


In his opinion, the usual winter pattern has a lot of largemouth and smallmouth in and around manmade structure, brush piles, palm fronds, shallow reefs and points. “There’s a lot of cover at Havasu,” Uribe says, echoing several of his fellow pros.


Some competitors may chase the bass that school up with the stripers to hunt the baitfish so plentiful on the lake, but most anglers will find better consistency finesse fishing, Uribe figures. “Light line, small baits, long casts… The water is clearer the colder it gets. It could be interesting. Some anglers may find largemouth in and around the tules,” he said.


Havasu is a big lake. The California side holds deeper water and lava-style rock. The Arizona side features flatter bays and coves for anglers to target. “Anglers can venture south by the dam, into the Bill Williams arm where there’s shallow water, tules, baitfish and stained water,” Uribe points out.


Frequent visitor Josh Bertrand


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JOSH BERTRAND, Bassmaster Elite Series pro, says the colder months of winter produce the biggest fish at Havasu. If you can find a group of big female bass, you can rack up the weight fast. PHOTO COURTESY JOSH BERTRAND


Bassmaster Elite Series pro Josh Bertrand loves Lake Havasu. He’s been fishing it for 15 years on and off. “I’ve watched the lake get better and better over the years. I only get to fish it a couple times of year but I have a handful of top ten finishes in regional tournaments,” he said.


“There’s so much you can do as a fisherman. There are largemouth and smallmouth, all kinds of different cover, rocks, grass and artificial structure,” he added. “Finesse and power anglers, anyone has a legitimate chance to do well. It’s rare you can have both. Guys will get checks doing a lot of different things. Different sections of the lake all fish differently. Get to a section of the lake you feel comfortable and get them to bite,” he said.


Bertrand isn’t put off by the colder water of winter. It’s a common time for fish to be fattened up. “They feed for the winter, their metabolisms are revved up and fish get grouped up. When those guys (single day lake record holders John Bailey and his partner Mike Williams, and runner up John Galbraith and Billy Skinner) caught gigantic bags they found the motherlodes. Sometimes the fish school by size, and if you can find a group of giant females you can catch a huge bag of fish,” he points out.


“You should expect fewer bites than spring but the bites you will get will be bigger fish on average. At Havasu the average quality is one of the best in the country,” Bertrand said.


Havasu is home to some big gizzard shad, bait when full grown almost too big for average bass to eat. “There are always some that are the perfect bite size for a 5-pound fish. It’s one of those high risk, high reward things to target,” he said.


WON BASS Arizona Open Sign Up


To sign up or for more information on the WON BASS Arizona Open, visit wonbass.com and click on “Schedule and Results,” or visit wonews.com and click on the “Events” tab, or call WON BASS Tournament Director Billy Egan directly at (949) 366-0248.


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