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Feature Article: Troutfest Recap 2019

WON / Big Bear Lake TroutfesT 2019 headlined by big rainbows amidst ideal early fall weekend

BY BLAKE WARREN/WON Staff Writer Published: Oct 24, 2019

Luck clearly in the air for one TroutfesT couple, as first-timers score huge prize haul to cap off event

BIG BEAR LAKE — Wow, what a weekend. The 15th annual WON / Big Bear Lake TroutfesT was undoubtedly one to remember as plenty of sunshine and beautiful weather descended over the San Bernardino Mountains and some of Big Bear Lake's stouter rainbow trout decided to join the festivities in a big way. It was an impressive showing of quality rainbows surpassing the bar of the past half dozen years of the event, and there was no shortage of neither smiles nor fun had “up the hill” the first weekend of October at the alpine fishery.


With the lake having come up 15 vertical feet earlier this year thanks to an exceptionally wet winter and springtime, coupled with around 12,000 pounds of trout stocked in the weeks ahead of the event, along with cooling lake temperatures and much improved conditions transitioning from summer to fall, hopes were high all around. That was clearly evidenced before the two-day derby even got underway, as nearly 100 more anglers had signed up for this year's TroutfesT than in 2018.


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ONE LUCKY COUPLE — It was some kind of beginner’s luck for Bill and Tammy Finch, who were both fishing their very first TroutfesT. First, Bill’s number was called as the winner of a brand new Suzuki 9.9hp outboard, but the big shock was when wife Tammy’s raffle number was rattled off at the finale of the awards ceremony just afterward, making her the winner of the Grand Raffle Prize 15-foot Klamath Advantage aluminum boat armed with a Suzuki 20hp tiller motor. WON PHOTOS BY BLAKE WARREN

Those high hopes started translating into reality on Saturday morning, and by about 2 p.m. – halfway through day one's weigh-ins – the conveyor belt of nice-sized Big Bear trout coming to the scales began turning in earnest. A 4-plus pounder here, a solid limit of 2-pound 'bows there, followed by a sprinkling of even more trout going 3 pounds and bigger on up until the time the scales closed for the day.


The jockeying for the event's Big Fish was very much like a stretch run during a late-summer maiden claiming race at the Del Mar Fairgrounds, with one angler bumping off the next by a head or a nose (i.e. an ounce here, an ounce and a half there) until the show-stopper arrived with about 30 minutes left to weigh in the form of a 7.27-pound trophy rainbow brought in by Kyle Miyamoto of San Pedro. “I was just anchored up over there by the Observatory and using peach-colored garlic PowerBait and got bit,” he said. “I'm pretty stoked.” Miyamoto had just one other trout to weigh on day one but it was a 2-plus, leaving him just 3 pounds off the pace of Andrew Mack's impressive 12.37-pound first-day limit.


Nearly 500 pounds of trout were checked in on day one and while trollers – and those using Rapalas in particular – seemed to be getting the better of the early October bite, it was Miyamoto's 7-plus that ate the dough that highlighted the first day of competition along with Mack's strong showing. Plenty of other folks in each of the four divisions were right there in the mix as well.


Sunday's earlier weigh-in schedule kicking off at 10 a.m. saw just a handful of stringers brought in during the early going, as most TroutfesT anglers were putting the final couple hours of lines-in-the-water time to use in trying to flush out their limits or entice that one last, bottom-of-the-ninth-inning bite that could earn Big Fish honors and one heckuva nice prize package. But with just one hour to go before the scales closed, the deluge of Big Bear rainbows began descending on the weigh tables at Big Bear Marina.


Just about the same general number of limits on Sunday, with a similar string of 3 and 4 pounders also making appearances as the first day's fishing produced. The catching was clearly steady for many folks at this year's TroutfesT, and it appeared that well more than just a few folks in each of the divisions might be in the running for trophies when the dust finally settled and the final tallies were made.


rowingupasstormROWING UP A STORM was Nedra Crouse after winning the special Panther Martin / Sea Eagle raffle, which earned her a new Sea Eagle SUPCAT10 and a Suzuki 2.5hp motor along with a box of Chevron Techron Marine additive.

The only sure-fire thing going into the awards ceremony – barring something bordering on the “freak scale” in regard to trout fishing taking place in the final hour – was that the Adult Male division had been by all intents and purposes wrapped up and tied with a bow when Andrew Mack returned to the scales on Day 2 with a smidgen over 14 pounds to back his 12-plus total on the first day. A pair of fat rainbows capped by a 5.41 pounder to flush out his limit would all but lock up the top spot and serve as one of the more impressive two-day showings in recent years' memory.


“I had a huge fish on yesterday that I lost,” Mack said after checking in his big day-two limit. “It was on for maybe 10, 15 seconds and then the hooks pulled – it was big, the biggest thing I've ever hooked here. Then today, I hooked into that 5½ pounder and it was one of the best fights I've had in my life, maybe about 10 minutes, and it took one huge jump out of the water, then another one before I got it to the boat.” While Mack didn't specify where he did all his plundering over the two days, he did say that he spent all his time trolling around the same, relatively small area with DT7 Rapalas in rainbow trout, firetiger and gold/black patterns rigged on 2-pound line.


A new addition to TroutfesT in 2019, up and coming singer – and aptly named for the event – Kylie Trout hit the stage during the final hour of weigh-ins and leading just up to the mid-afternoon awards ceremony, accompanied by partner Dalton Baird, and the duo rocked Big Bear Marina for nearly two hours as the crowd settled into their seats, grabbed delicious complementary tastings from another new sponsor, Alpine Beer Company and rep Rick Welch, along with hot dogs served up by enthused TroutfesT staffer Sarah Abbott.


The numbers were in just prior to the awards kicking off, and they were indeed eye catching. Nearly 1,000 pounds of trout caught over two days fishing and the average catch being 1/3 of a pound better than in 2018, while over 400 more rainbows were weighed. And that's just the quantity angle. The quality was most certainly there too, as it took a trout weighing at least 4 pounds to even get into the top 20 of the Big Fish conversation, which was ultimately upheld by Kyle Miyamoto's 7-plus pounder. For context's sake, the overall top 20 anglers cleared 10 pounds in total weight as opposed to last year when Robert Horn was the only one to do so amidst a finicky early fall bite – each division was won with at least 10 pounds as well.


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BIG FISH HONORS went to Kyle Miyamoto of San Pedro for his 7.27-pound rainbow trout caught on day one of TroutfesT. His big catch netted him a Lowrance 5-inch Hook 2 electronics unit, a $250 Yo-Zuri gift certificate and a lifelike replica of his big catch from Global Fish Mounts, as well as a Big Bear Vacation Package with gift cards from Big Bear Sporting Goods and The Captain’s Anchorage Restaraunt, a two-hour pontoon rental from Big Bear Marina and a 2-night stay at Robinhood Resort. WON PHOTOS BY BLAKE WARREN

It was then time for raffle prizes and recognition of the top anglers of the weekend. Top honors and plenty of loot went out to the top finishers of each division (along with the rest of the top 5): Andrew Mack (1st – Adult Male, 26.37 pounds); Linda Hunter (1st – Adult Female, 13.71); Marcos Cortes (1st – Junior Male, 15.25); Samantha Hensle (Junior Female, 11.14). Along with their well-earned trophies, high-end Lew's rods and reels, Engel coolers, Rapala, Rooster Tail, Panther Martin and Sierra Slammers lure packs, SKB Tak-Pak Backpacks and more was dished out to those making the top 5.


Raffles saw lots more swag of the same ilk go out to TroutfesT anglers, 10 randomly selected total weights produced blind bogey winners who would each take home checks worth over $200, and Kyle Miyamoto was rewarded for his trophy trout of the tournament with a Lowrance 5-inch Hooks 2 electronics unit, a $250 Yo-Zuri gift certificate, an extremely lifelike replica of his big catch from Global Fish Mounts and a Big Bear vacation package consisting of gift certificates from Big Bear Sporting Goods and The Captain’s Anchorage's Restaraunt along with a two-night stay with Robbinhood Resort and a two-hour boat rental from Big Bear Marina.


The special Panther Martin / Sea Eagle raffle reached its crescendo when Nedra Crouse's Panther Martin lure package with her angler number on it was pulled to score the Sea Eagle SUPCAT10 fishing platform, and she couldn't have been more thrilled to have her own new toy to play with on her home lake as a Big Bear resident. And she won't have to row herself to where she needs to go unless she wants to since the SUPCAT10 also came with a 2.5hp Suzuki for easy transport when Big Bear's inevitable winds kick up.


But the real head-scratching and astonishing moment of the whole awards ceremony came right as it neared its conclusion.


returnofthemackRETURN OF THE MACK — TroutfesT angler Andrew Mack of Rancho Cucamonga followed up his 12.376 pounds on day one with over 14 pounds of trout on day two, stacking up a very impressive two-day total weight of 26.39 pounds backed by stout rainbows like these to finish with the overall heaviest weight and top spot in the Adult Male Division.

Nearly all the treasure trove of prizes had been emptied when Bill Finch's number was hollered out by tournament director Billy Egan as the winner of the Suzuki 9.9hp outboard as the second biggest general raffle prize. Finch couldn't have been more thrilled with his good fortune, smiling from ear to ear and zealously hugging his new outboard when Egan rattled off the next raffle number – the one which would bestow the Grand Raffle Prize of a brand new 15-foot Klamath Advantage aluminum boat with a Suzuki 20hp motor upon one lucky TroutfesTer.


The numbers rang out of Egan's voice, and a fortunate victor emerged from the folded chairs facing the stage.


“That's my WIFE! “Tammy! Tammy! You won the freaking boat!” Bill Finch yelled out as his wife strolled toward the stage with a shell-shocked grin.


Sure enough, Tammy Finch had done exactly that, mere moments after her husband had collected his brand new Suzuki outboard. Not too shabby of a day for a couple who was fishing their very first TroutfesT and caught just 3 trout total over the two days – with Tammy eventually saying all three catches had belonged to her.


“This is just unbelievable, unbelievable!,” Bill exclaimed.


Indeed it was. This very scene that just happened to so unbelievably play out on an October afternoon is exactly what the WON / Big Bear Lake TroutfesT is all about.


Western Outdoor News would like to thank all of its sponsors for TroutfesT 2019 including: Klamath, Suzuki, Lew's, Alpine Beer Company, SKB, Engel Coolers, Sea Eagle, Robinhood Resort, Panther Martin, Rapala, Thomas Buoyant, Yakima Baits, Sierra Slammers, Big Bear Marina, Holloway's Marina, Big Bear Frontier Lodge, Big Bear Sporting Goods, The Captain’s Anchorage and the Big Bear Chamber of Commerce and Visitor's Bureau.


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FIRST PLACE JUNIOR male Marcos Cortes is all smiles after taking the top spot in his division with a pair of trout limits totaling 15.25 total pounds for the two days. Marcos scored a high-end rod and reel from Lew’s, a SKB Tak-Pak backpack, a Sierra Slammers lure pack and a 12-lure Rapala trout lure assortment.

juniorfemalewinnersJUNIOR FEMALE WINNERS with their deserved TroutfesT trophies. (From left to right 5th – through 1st): Charlie Pierce, Raven Harris, Candace Hoffman, Audrina Chavez and Samantha Hensle.

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THE TOP FINISHERS in the Junior Male division (from left to right – 1st through 5th): Marcos Cortes, Roman Duenas, Jaeger Finch, Diego Gomez and Chris Robinson Jr.

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ADULT FEMALE TOP 5 — (5th through 1st from left to right) Leslie Reno, Christina Briceno, Lisa Yocum, Sabrina Inkhothav and Linda Hunter.

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TOP 5 IN THE ADULT MALE DIVISION (from left to right): Carl Van Burger (3rd), Robert Sevaly (5th), Kyle Miyamoto (4th), Joseph Donato (2nd) and Andrew Mack (1st).


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A BIG DOUBLE on Day 2 for Junior Male angler Roman Duenas of Rialto, who was using Tasmanian Devils near the Observatory. Roman fell just short of the top spot in his division by a half-pound to finish second with just under 15 total pounds.

cachocachomanCACHO, CACHO MAN — Short rod Tate Cacho was pretty happy with this 2-plus pounder he caught on the morning of day one at TroutfesT.

thatssoravenTHAT’S SO RAVEN — Raven Harris of Mar Vista displays her 4.44-pound rainbow caught on day two along with her sister Sierra and the Harris family canine. WON PHOTOS BY BLAKE WARREN

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BIG RAINBOWS WERE the theme at TroutfesT 2019. Here Joe Bojorquez and Eileen Borja show off a pair of 4-plus pounders on day one.

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BLIND BOGEY WINNERS are all smiles after scoring $201.50 checks for coming closest to randomly pre-selected two-day total weights without going over.

christopherbirdCHRISTOPHER BIRD HOLDS up one of the bigger day two rainbows going over 5 pounds and caught on a Rapala.

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I’M IN FIRST! — Young Candace Hoffman points to her standing in the top spot near the end of day one’s weigh-ins. Candace would wind up in third place in the Junior Female division.

youngcandacehoffmanYOUNG CANDACE HOFFMAN gets a hand from brother Caden in hoisting up her 4.82-pound trout caught on a rainbow trout-pattern jointed Rapala.

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ONE OF THE fish that helped Junior Male Jaeger Finch to a 10-plus pound day one limit that carried him to 3rd place in the division when the dust settled. Dad Jon seems pretty happy about the day’s results.

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A PINK RAPALA fooled this nearly 5-pound rainbow for Michael Kucura Jr. of Rancho Palos Verdes.

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THE TROUTFEST CROWD turns its focus toward TroutfesT tournament director Billy Egan on the stage as Sunday’s awards ceremony is about to get underway.

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KYLIE TROUT AND Dalton Baird rocked the TroutfesT stage leading up to Sunday’s awards ceremony. 

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THE KLAMATH PRIZE BOAT awaits its lucky winner at TroutfesT 2019.

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A SEA EAGLE SUPCAT10 with a Suzuki 2.5hp motor was the big bounty for the special Panther Martin / Sea Eagle raffle.

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A SUZUKI 9.9HP and Chevron Techron Marine await one lucky TroutfesTer prior to the general raffle.

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ALPINE BEER COMPANY and SoCal Sales Rep Rick Welch made the trek up to Big Bear from San Diego and was a big hit during Sunday’s weigh-ins and awards, serving up three of their more popular IPAs: Duet, Nelson and HFS.


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ALL PUMPED UP — Joe Bojorquez of Apple Valley was pumped to win one of two 50-quart Engel coolers in the general raffle.

techronmarineCHEVRON TECHRON MARINE was dished out to numerous boaters at TroutfesT, and extra Techron went out to the three anglers who won Suzuki motors at Sunday’s awards.

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HIGH-END LEW’S rods and reels are set to go out to the top-placing anglers prior to Sunday’s awards.

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SKB TAK-PAK Backpacks were dished out to the first place winners in each division and to some lucky anglers during the general raffle.

roostertailROOSTER TAIL LURE packages went out to each division’s second place finisher and to a handful of lucky winners at Sunday’s raffle.

englecoolersENGEL COOLERS AWAIT their new owners to claim them just prior to Sunday’s awards ceremony.

servinupdogsSERVIN’ UP DOGS — TroutfesT staffer Sarah Abbott cooked up a storm serving all those in attendance at Sunday’s awards ceremony.

whilethelakeWHILE THE LAKE isn’t at full pool, the level was up about 10 feet higher than it was in 2018.

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