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Feature Article: Troutfest Recap

It’s good to be home

BY BLAKE WARREN/WON Staff WriterPublished: Oct 19, 2018

Big Bear Lake TroutfesT returns to traditional place in October, ‘catching’ significantly improved all around throughout 14th annual event

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THE STAGE IS set and loaded with the bounty going to the top 5 anglers in all four divisions. With the TroutfesT trophies were Lew’s rods and reels, Costa shades, Plano tackle bags, Rapala and Rooster Tail lure assortments, Sierra Slammers jig packages, Hi-Seas line and more.

BIG BEAR LAKE — It’s good to be home. Rather, it was good for TroutfesT to recently be back in its traditional fall spot on the calendar in early October, and all indications are that the two-day Big Bear Lake trout derby is there to stay for the foreseeable future. After a trial move to September a year ago saw tough fishing conditions and a scratchy bite, the difference just one month can make was clearly evident by the significantly improved trout action over the recent Oct. 6-7 weekend, with much better catch numbers and a lot more quality rainbows hitting the scales in 2018 than one year ago.


The usual throng of anglers totaling over 300 in number flocked to the San Bernardino Mountain alpine trout fishery the first weekend of the month and were rewarded with considerably fuller stringers and a good showing of 2- to 4-plus-pound ’bows, not to mention some spectacular early fall weather throughout the duration of the event with no rain to speak of.


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THE HOPEFUL CROWD gathers just prior to Sunday’s awards ceremony.

It was clear in the early going of day one’s weigh-ins that this was going to be a bounce-back year after 2017’s tough bite in September, as anglers proceeded to put good counts of multiple-fish stringers on the scales accompanied by a handful of stout limits. The biggest rainbow checked in on day one came via a red and green wedding ring that enticed a 4.36 pounder near the Observatory for Herb Potter, while it was a no-brainer who had the biggest limit of the day — nearly 9 pounds of Big Bear ’bows for eventual Adult Male champion, Robert Horn, who bested the closest competitor on the leaderboard by nearly 5 whole pounds when the dust finally settled.


The youngsters were heard from fairly early too, two young men in particular. Last year’s Junior Male winner, Hayden Metz, showed strong with a 5-fish limit just under 5 pounds, while Christopher Robin weighed a quartet of trout good for 5½. Day two would see the 15-year-old Metz outcatch Robin 4-to-1 to close out his Junior Male eligibility in style with back-to-back first place finishes.


The TroutfesT ladies also took advantage of the improved fishing and brought their fair share of rainbows to the scales in 2018. Last year’s 4th place finisher in the Adult Female Division brought her “A” game to Big Bear this year, posting consistent weights of over 4 pounds on each day of the annual trout derby to take this year’s crown by over 2 pounds. Just a trio of Junior Female trout were weighed at the event, topped by the 3.44-pound rainbow brought in by Elizabeth Jara to earn the top spot in her division.


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THE KLAMATH / SUZUKI GRAND RAFFLE PRIZE PACKAGE went to Bob Blaydes of Clovis, who despite not catching a single trout at the event, had his lucky number called and towed a brand new 15-foot aluminum back home from Big Bear. PHOTOS BY BLAKE WARREN


After two great days of fishing and fun, it was time to ring in a whole new host of TroutfesT winners at Sunday afternoon’s awards ceremony. As usual, the premier sponsors of TroutfesT unloaded their goods on the anglers. The general raffle saw dozens of lucky winners called out for the likes of Costa sunglasses, Rapala and Rooster Tail lure packs, Lew’s rods and reels, Plano tackle solutions, Hi-Seas line and complimentary boat rentals courtesy of Pleasure Point Marina.


Ten Blind Bogey winners also made their way to the stage after each came closest to the pre-selected two-day total weights without going over, with every angler walking back to their chair an extra $153.50 richer, while all the juniors in attendance got their fair share of the fishing gear bounty with Plano tackle boxes and rods.


Then it was on to the heavy hitters: the massive Big Fish Prize Package, the Panther Martin / Sea Eagle Raffle and the granddaddy of them all, the most coveted Grand Raffle Prize of a 15-foot Klamath aluminum boat armed with a 20hp Suzuki outboard and a 5-inch Lowrance Hook2 electronics unit.


The Big Fish Prize Package, taken home by Laverne angler Gary Cole with his 4.82-pound rainbow creeled from the banks of the north shore in the early hours of Sunday morning on a nightcrawler, was quite the haul in 2018. With his near 5 pounder, Cole took home a trout-hunting Sea Eagle 10.6 inflatable boat, a 9.9hp Suzuki outboard, a $250 Yo-Zuri lure assortment, a replica of his winning fish courtesy of Global Fish Mounts, and a sweet Big Bear vacation package con­sisting of a two-night stay at Shore Acres Lodge, a com­plimentary boat rental from Big Bear Marina, a $100 gift certificate to local steak and seafood restaurant Captain Anchorage, and a $50 gift card to Big Bear Sporting Goods — not too shabby for putting a single quality fish on the stringer.


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biggestoveralltrout2BIGGEST OVERALL TROUT at this year’s TroutfesT scored angler Gary Cole of Laverne quite the prize haul. His day two catch of this 4.82-pound rainbow earned him a Sea Eagle 10.6 inflatable, a 9.9 hp Suzuki outboard, a $250 lure assortment from Yo-Zuri, a certificate for a Global Fish Mount of his winning fish and a Big Bear vacation package consisting of a two-night stay at Shore Acres Lodge, a four-hour boat rental from Big Bear Marina, a $100 gift certificate to seafood and steakhouse Captain Anchorage and a $50 gift certificate from Big Bear Sporting Goods PHOTOS BY BLAKE WARREN

Sea Eagle also chipped in big for the Panther Martin Raffle, in which each and every empty Panther Martin lure package with an angler’s name and angler number on it was thrown in the hopper as an eligible raffle ticket. The Sea Eagle FishSUP FS126 up for grabs in this sweet, good-odds deal ultimately went to “Trout Gangsta” team member, an annual attendee who was pumped to take home the new inflatable platform.


Last but not least, it was down to the big-time Klamath / Suzuki Grand Raffle Prize boat. This was only his second-ever TroutfesT that he’s attended, the last being in 2010, however, it was Clovis angler Bob Blaydes that scored big time when his lucky raffle number was bellowed out by tournament director Billy Egan, popping up out of his seat to have a much closer look at the new rig he’d shortly be towing back down the hill to Clovis.


“Oh, man!” Blaydes exclaimed just moments after getting off the phone with his wife and letting her know they’d soon be having a new fish toy in the driveway. “I can’t believe it. I brought two trailer hitches from home with me just in case, but I didn’t think I’d really be using either of ’em. This is unreal. This is great.”


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THE PANTHER MARTIN raffle was won by a TroutfesT regular who took home a brand new Sea Eagle FishSUP FS126 after his lure package was drawn from the hopper.


As the crowd slowly dispersed with all the goods now in the hands of dozens of Troutfesters, there was a resounding sense that the family-friendly trout tour­nament had bounced back in a big way from the slow fishing in 2017, and it was clear that TroutfesT — like all the great World Series champions in baseball of the past — was indeed built for October, its rightful home. And it prominently figures to stay put right there.


“Oh yeah, it’ll be back in October next year,” said tournament director Billy Egan. “That’s just really where it belongs.” And so it will be.


With the across-the-board numbers of catches, smiles and winners up significantly in 2018, that seems to be about as no-brainer as it gets, and we’ll be kicking off the fall season in traditional TroutfesT style in 2019 and celebrating the 15th anniversary installment of the Big Bear trout derby in just less than a year from now. We’ll see everyone back on the mountain next year!


Western Outdoor News and the entire TroutfesT team would like to especially thank its terrific event home base, Hillcrest Lodge, along with all of the tournament’s generous and loyal sponsors: Klamath Boats, Suzuki, Sea Eagle, Costa, Lew’s, Lowrance, Rapala, Yakima Baits, Sierra Slammers, Plano, Hi-Seas, Big Bear Vacation Rentals, Big Bear Sporting Goods, Global Fish Mounts, Big Bear Marina, Pleasure Point Marina and Big 5 Sporting Goods.


adultmalefirstplaceADULT MALE FIRST PLACE finisher Robert Horn put together this 8.85-pound stringer on day one — the biggest limit of the whole event — to help catapult him to the top of the leaderboard with a two-day total weight of just over 13 pounds.


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THE TOP FIVE Adult Male finishers: 1st – Robert Horn; 2nd – David Bell, 3rd – Todd Karl, 4th – Gary Judd, 5th – Michael Olivas.


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THE ADULT FEMALE TOP FIVE: 1st – Brandy Finch, 2nd – Christina Briceno, 3rd – Debra Marty, 4th – Karen Morones, 5th – Olga Adams.


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ONE FISH APIECE was all it took to make the top three in the Junior Female Division for Elizabeth Jara, Kendra Romero and Jenasys Villalva.


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TOP SPOTS IN the Junior Male Division went to: 1st – Hayden Metz, 2nd – Christopher Robin, 3rd – Joe Griffith, 4th – Roman Duenas, 5th – Joshua Scott.


debramartywithDEBRA MARTY WITH a pair of stout rainbows that helped her scoot up the leaderboard in the Adult Female Division. She ultimately wound up in third place.


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A 5½-POUND STRINGER for Christopher Robin, who finished second in the Junior Male division as a result of his strong day one.


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HERB POTTER COAXED this beefy 4.36-pound rainbow with a red and green wedding ring off the Observatory on day one and was ultimately the runner-up for the Big Fish to Gary Cole’s 4.82 pounder.

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A SOLID PAIR of rainbows going 5¼ pounds on day one for Michael Olivas, which was just enough to help him hold on to 5th place in in the Adult Male Division when all was said and done.


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MATCHING RAINBOWS FOR Junior Female sisters, Journey and Jazleen Villalva.


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