Feature Article: Troutfest Recap

13th annual TroutfesT offers up splendid weather along with its usual fun and great prizes

TroutfesT doesn’t exactly yield parade of rainbows

BY BLAKE WARREN/WON Staff WriterPublished: Sep 20, 2017

Near-6 pounder takes Big Fish honors, yet another trout-hunting Klamath aluminum given up as grand raffle prize

nofishnoproblemTROUTFESTER KRIS OLAFSON poses with his new rig, the grand raffle prize 15-foot Klamath Advantage rigged with a 20hp Suzuki tiller motor.

BIG BEAR LAKE — In a general sense, with Labor Day Weekend comes a sense of renewal, a changing of the aguard from summertime to fall, bringing a fresh slate for the new season shortly upcoming. After what was a pretty slow summer of trout fishing at Big Bear Lake on the whole, the coming and going of the Labor Day holiday spurred new hope in area trout anglers and the optimism of a resurgence in the bite on the trout front. Alas, Big Bear’s rainbows must not have been paying much attention to the calendar and remained reluctant to jump on anglers’ hooks for the 13th annual edition of the WON/Big Bear Lake TroutfesT, Sept. 9 and 10, and the “catching” side of things continued to fall on the tougher end of the spectrum.

In spite of conditions slightly improving for two consecutive weeks leading up to the two-day event and cooler night temps inspiring hope of an uptick in rainbow activity, the ’bows just wouldn’t fully cooperate and for the most part remained in the largely lethargic state of their 2017 endless summer. Perhaps the trouting onslaught at Big Bear Lake will have to bide its time until autumn this year.

When the scales officially opened for business at noon on Saturday, things looked to be just about as optimal as one would hope for — heavy cloud cover, temps in the 60s and not a heavy load of boat pressure on the lake. The first fish weighed at this year’s event perpetuated some hope, a 1.74-pound rainbow by youngster Alec Kern, who would be upended by the slightest of margins less than an hour and a half later by Jeremy Northam with a 1.75-pound trout for the Day One lead in the Junior Male Division.

karenbeltranseaeagleKAREN BELTRAN OF Temecula had her lucky number called to win the Fishing Inflatable SUP from Sea Eagle during the raffle.

In between those two 1¾-pound trout came the show-stopper of Day One — and the entire tournament — when a 5.73 pounder hit the scales that was delivered by lady angler Karen Morones of Running Springs.

“I certainly didn’t expect this!” Karen said of the catch, which was made on a trolled Thomas Buoyant spoon near the floating outhouse known as S.S. Relief at the west end of the lake.

“We stopped there a little earlier than we expected to after drinking too much coffee,” husband Greg said. “The next thing I know, right after we pull away from the dock, she’s hooked up!”

Just after, showing his knack for both catching and conservation, was youngster Hayden Metz, who brought up a live rainbow in a bag half-filled with water as if it were a local bass tournament or such.

“‘We can’t keep that!’ he said when we caught it,’” relayed father Bryan Metz. “‘We’ll just weigh it in and we’ll let it go.’ We had a livewell on our boat so that’s just what we did.” A fine display of resource preservation and sportsman consciousness in any case.

Less than an hour later, Larry Moreno of Pomona would haul up a 3.09-pound rainbow to claim tops in the Adult Male Division, while the Junior Female Division remained a clean slate at the conclusion of the Day One weigh-ins at 4 o’clock. The challenging late-summer trout bite was clearly apparent when the final tally was rung up: 33 fish weighed for a total of 35.78 pounds, including the near-6 pounder.

Some brief thunderstorms on Saturday evening which dropped a wee bit of rain over the lake brought out the “fingers crossed” for the drop in barometric pressure to help things along a tad on Sunday, but that optimism too was met with a much harsher reality, as just 15 rainbows made their way onto the scales on Day Two — it was clearly an optimum example of the classic (though tired) “fishing not catching” axiom.

adultmaletop5ADULT MALE TOP 5 (From 5th to 1st, from left to right): Robert Benjamin, Chad Kloeppel, Bill Hoffman, Larry Moreno and Todd Karl.

One lone angler managing to buck the trend and persevere was Palmdale’s Todd Karl, who followed up his 1.74-pound trout from the event’s first day with a pair of rainbows going nearly 2½ pounds on Day Two, putting him in pole position for the Adult Male Division heading toward the derby’s final laps. Junior Male angler Hayden Metz — who brought his fish via bag-half-full-of-water on Day One — did the very same thing on Day Two, only this time with a 1.46-pound trout.

“It was crazy,” he said. “We weren’t getting any bites all day, but then I tied on the Panther Martin we got from our goodie bags (at registration) and I caught the fish right after noon near the Observatory. It was pretty tough fishing but I’m not going to complain about it,” Metz added. An attitude we could all hope to display from time to time, to be sure...

At 2 p.m. the call was made for “scales closed” by Tourna­ment Director Billy Egan and the dust subtly settled as the final tallies were calculated. All eyes and attention would then turn to center stage at Big Bear Marina for the TroutfesT’s awards ceremony shortly to follow, where those anglers reigning supreme amidst the tough bite would be recognized accordingly and in kind, and dozens of fantastic prizes and awards would be doled out from the two-day trout tournament’s many sponsors.

Director Billy Egan kicked off the ceremony with a bevy of great raffle prizes ranging from Plano tackle kits and rod-and-reel combos from Lew’s, to free boat rentals from Big Bear and Pleasure Point marinas, Costa sunglasses, lure packages from Rapala, Yakima Baits and Panther Martin, and much more. The first round of general raffle prizes culminated in a stand-up fishing platform from Sea Eagle going out to one lucky winner, Karen Beltran of Temecula.

With a down year as far as the fish counts went, those anglers who did manage to put a fish or two on the stringer had great odds at pulling a Blind Bogey check at this year’s TroutfesT, and those 10 ’Festers who found their catches going closest to the randomly selected weights without going over found themselves holding Blind Bogey checks for $169.

It was not much of a surprise to anyone when the Big Fish award was set to be announced, as Karen Morones’ 5.73-pound rainbow from Day One had clearly trumped the competition. Morones’ lone bloated ’bow earned her a hefty prize package for the big fish, including a $250 Yo-Zuri lure assortment, a 2½-day sportfishing trip, a pair of Costa shades, and an identical replica of her winning trout courtesy of Global Fish Mounts.

THE TOP 5 adult females of TroutfesT (from 5th to 1st and left to right): Emily Conley, Brandy Finch, Eva Halim, Laurie Yocum and Karen Morones. Lew’s combos, Plano tackle solutions, Rapala and Yakima Baits prize packs was among the top-5’s bounty.

Hayden Metz’ 1½ pounder on Day Two was good enough to vault him atop the Junior Male Division with a total of 1.93 pounds — perhaps out of good Karma for successfully releasing his half-pounder from Day One — and he took the top spot in the division when all was said and done. For the first time in the history of TroutfesT, no Junior Female happened to weigh a fish, and the division’s allotted prizes were dished out to the dozen young ladies who participated to make for smiles all around.

The one big bite Karen Morones managed to get near S.S. Relief on the first day of fishing proved to be more than enough relief to distance herself from the competition in the Adult Female Division, besting second-place lady angler Laurie Yocum by over 4 pounds. On top of her Big Fish prize package, Morones also scored a second set of Costas, a high-end rod-and-reel combo from Lew’s, Rapala and Panther Martin lure packs, Savage Gear May Nymphs, Plano gear and more.

It was the consistency of Todd Karl who reigned supreme atop the Adult Male Division with a total of 4.20 pounds for two days. Karl was the lone angler to check in a trio of Big Bear rainbows at the scales, a 1.74 pounder on Day One and 2 fish for nearly 2½ pounds worth of trout on Sunday. Karl’s 3 ’bows topped second-place angler Larry Moreno’s 3-plus pounder from Day One. Karl was awarded the same conglomerate of prizes as Morones for his TroutfesT title in the Adult Male Division.

After a second round of raffles were dished out by Egan, it came time for the granddaddy raffle prize of them all, a 15-foot Klamath Advantage aluminum with a 20 hp Suzuki tiller strapped to the back. After some drama-intended delay, Egan called out the winning raffle numbers one by one, and it was angler Kris Olafson of Yucca Valley, who was the fortunate son to claim the new aluminum trout-hunting rig.

“Man, I never thought THIS would happen,” Olafson said as he walked up to take a closer look at his brand-new boat. “This is just awesome!”

In spite of the catch totals being down this year, TroutfesT maintained its usual charm and fun atmosphere throughout, along with sending countless anglers down the hill with more than they came up with via raffle prizes, awards and memories made. The lack of a hot bite didn’t dissuade the same number of smiles and laughs, and it was a good vibe all around as the festivities concluded.

Western Outdoor News and TroutfesT would like to thank all of the events participating sponsors, including: Klamath Boats, Suzuki, Costas, Lew’s, Yakima Baits, Rapala, Sea Eagle, Panther Martin, Hi-Seas, Savage Gear, Plano, Big Bear Marina, Pleasure Point Marina, Holloway’s Marina, Big Bear Sporting Goods and Frabill.

TEN LUCKY BLIND BOGEY winners each walked away with $169 checks.


ALEC KERN CAUGHT this 1.74-pound ‘’bow on Saturday for a short lived stint atop the Junior Male leaderboard. He would ultimately finish in third in the division.

A TROLLED THOMAS BUOYANT got this 5.73-pound rainbow to pounce for Karen Morones of Running Springs on Day One near S.S. Relief. The fat trout held up as the big fish of the event and vaulted Morones first place in the Adult Female Division. That netted the lady angler tons of prize swag, including a $250 Yo-Zuri lure assortment, a 2½-day sportfishing trip, a Lew’s rod and reel combo, two pairs of Costa sunglasses, a lifelike replica of her winning fish via Global Fish Mounts and much more.

catchandreleaseCATCH AND RELEASE was on the mind of young Hayden Metz, who successfully let this rainbow live to fight another day after being weighed on Day One — Metz caught a bigger trout on Day Two to take the Junior Male title.

lewscombosLEW’S COMBOS WERE a big part of both the top-5 prize packages and the general raffles.

LOTS OF PLANO gear was dished out at TroutfesT.

troutfestgoodybagsTROUTFEST GOODY BAGS were dished out to each and every angler, consisting of a spool of Hi-Seas mono, Thomas Buoyant spoons, Panther Martin spinners, a pack of Savage Gear 3D Mayfly baits, a Frogg Togg Chilly Pad and an official TroutfesT hat.

yakimabaitspack1YAKIMA BAITS PACKAGES containing various Rooster Tails and Lil’ Corky Bait Floaters were dished out to the 3rd and 4th place finishers in each division.

GOOD WEATHER WAS prominent throughout the two-day event.

TroutfesT 2017 final standings

Adult Male Division Total Weight

1) Todd Karl 4.20 lbs.

2) Larry Moreno 3.09 lbs.

3) Bill Hoffman 2.14 lbs.

4) Chad Kloeppel 1.94 lbs.

5) Robert Benjamin 1.86 lbs.

Adult Female Division Total Weight

1) Karen Morones 5.73 lbs.

2) Laurie Yocum 1.47 lbs.

3) Eva Halim 0.56 lbs.

4) Brandy Finch 0.50 lbs.

5) Emily Conley 0.44 lbs.

Junior Male Division Total Weight

1) Hayden Metz 1.93 lbs.

2) Jeremy Northam 1.75 lbs.

3) Alec Kern 1.74 lbs.

4) Ryder Turner 0.42 lbs.

5) Alex Nielsen 0.40 lbs.

Junior Female Division

No fish weighed

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