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Southern CA Saltwater Fishing Report

Great weather, tough fishing, familiar faces

San Diego’s top saltwater tournament is claimed by the familiar team of Burlason and Howerton, but it took a final kicker fish to claim their third title

BY PAT McDONELL/WON Staff WriterPublished: Feb 07, 2012

San Diego Anglers Open Bay Bass Tournament

ed howarton

ED HOWERTON AND DENNIS BURLASON won the San Diego Anglers Bay Bass open for the third time on Saturday, weighing in 5 sand bass for 13.91 pounds, beating Tony Gilbert and Travis Hargis who had 12.81 pounds of bass. Howerton and Burlason won the  Drew Ford-sponsored first prize of $1,500.

WON Staff Writer

SAN DIEGO — Dennis Burlason and Ed Howarton found a kicker fish of 3.69 pounds in the last hour on the seventh drift over a spot just yards from the Shelter Island launch ramp breakwall entrance, and that last fish won them their third San Diego bay bass title.

The longtime San Diego-based tournament team on Saturday weighed in 5 sand bass that totaled 13.91 pounds to wrestle the win from the second place finishers Tom Gilbert and Travis Vargis who posted 5-bass weight of 12.81 pounds at the 150-team, 17th annual San Diego Anglers Open Bay Bass Tournament at Shelter Island.

Despite a steady 6-foot tidal drift from high to low over several hours and little wind and clear skies, the fishing was called “slow,” “ tough,” “extremely brutal” and a host of other unflattering descriptions, and as a result, the top 25 teams in the money were a who's who list of regular high-finishing teams.

None  were more identifiable than Howerton and Burlason who have teamed up to win dozens of saltwater team titles. Interestingly, the pair have never placed second in the Bay Bass Open tournament, but have won it two times, and as Burlason told WON, “filled up every other position over the years, but we’ve  never placed second.”

They might have taken that second spot, or even placed third if not for their landing of their kicker fish at the 11th hour, a 3.69 grumpy sand bass Howerton hooked right in front of the breakwater just a short distance from the launch ramp/on their seventh drift over a structure spot.

Said Howerton: “We started at the jetty in the hopes of getting a kicker fish, didn’t get it and then went to  Seaport Village. It was a lot of pressure back there with about 60 boats, but the big fish was right in front of Shelter Island. It took seven drifts but we got it.”

They used 5-inch green/brown MC swimbaits, 12-pound green Maxima line, Shimano Calcutta reels, and ¾-ounce Owner leadheads. “That’s what we use and that’s how we roll," said Howerton. It’s no secret.”

The weather made the fishing tough. Very tough, said Burlason and Howerton, and it was echoed by every other team. There were not as many fish as in past years, and those in the bay were not particularly hungry. The cable area at the bay entrance by the submarine base is usually a productive spot on an outgoing morning tide for teams looking to catch five bass before moving to spots inside the bay for “kicker bass.” But the cable was particularly slow, and thus many teams moved into the interior of the bay, particularly in drifts just off Seaport Village.

“We think it’s because this winter we haven’t had enough bad weather on the outside of the bay that would force the bass into the bay,” said Burlason. “We just haven’t that many storms.”

There were many familiar faces in the event in the top 25, with last year’s winners Karl Erbacher and Josh Dunlap, taking fourth even though they had only about two hours fishing time when Erbacher’s boat broke down and had to be towed back to the harbor dock. They fished the outermost edge of the bay for their 12.37 pounds. The third place husband/wife team of Tom and Valerie Handzus are regulars in the top echelon of the event, three-time winners Brian Hyder and Warren Plaisted finished 12th, and well-know bay guide Bill Schaefer and his teammate Joel kind finished 10th with the help of the event’s biggest bass, a 3.90 sandie.

Of course, the biggest draw of the event is that it boasts dozens of sponsors prizes given away in raffle drawings doled out by annual emcees Rick Maxa and Pete Gray of Let’s Talk Hookup radio show on XX-1090-AM. And, of course, free beer from Ballast Point and  a free BBQ for entrants and guests hosted by the San Diego Anglers fishing club volunteers. You can see more photos and results at  


Place    Names                                        5-fish Weight       Biggest fish           

1st          Ed Howerton, Dennis Burlason,       13.91            3.69 sand bass

2nd        Tony Gilbert, Travis Hargis                12.81            3.45 sand bass

3rd         Tom Handzus, Valerie Handzus        12.32            3.27 sand bass

4th          Karl Erbacher, Josh Dunlap              12.32            3.27 sand bass

5th          Richard Hodge, Kerry Peter              11.44            3.49 sand bass

6th          Ken Crull, Douglas Macurda             11.30            2.65 sand bass

7th          Neil Barbour, Chris Robinson             10.7            unknown

8th          Larry Heron, Scott Summersgill        10.36            2.55 sand bass

9th          Robert Reinhert, Derrel Fontenot      10.31            3.02 sand bass

10th        Bill Schaefer, Joel King                      10.01            3.90 sand bass

Largest sand bass: Bill Schaefer, Joel King, 3.90
Largest Spotted Bay Bass: Doug Bury, Dennis Earley, 2.79
Largest Halibut: Peter Colonelli, Kris Kinsella, 14.45Top Kayak Angler: Tom Rosburg, 9.31 pounds

the bay bass

ASIDE  FROM THE  organization, great lunch, a smooth weigh-in and dozens of raffle drawings and paydowns to 25th place, the San Diego Bay Bass Tournament organizers  at Shelter Island do all they can to keep bass alive and release them into the bay. Here, an angler uses the weigh-in trough to keep his bass alive while he waits his turn. There is no penalty for dead fish, but the emphasis is on catch and release. More than 150 teams of two people and kayakers competed Saturday. 

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