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BY PAUL LEBOWITZ/WON BASS ContributorPublished: Mar 21, 2019

Debunking the myth that only a local can win the California Open

LAKEPORT — In the wake of Wayne Breazeale’s back-to-back California Open wins in 2016-17, scuttlebutt reigned that “only” a local can win. That’s a myth. Take it from Breazeale himself.

“I’m the only local that’s won a California Open. The guy who won it last year (Doug Mcka) was living here but not actually a local. If you go back, Howard Hughes won it, Justin Kerr, Matt Shura. I say bull to the claim only a local can win,” Breazeale said.

When Hughes, Kerr and Shura won representing Redding, Calif., and Arizona (twice), the tournament was contested later in the year, in June when the bass were post-spawn. Yet traditionally, as Paul Bailey of Big Bait Guide Service points out, locals have failed to close the deal in most tournaments held on Clear Lake, even when the fish are pre-spawn such as when Breazeale posted his two victories.

IN 2017, WAYNE BREAZEALE ended the three-day Cal Open as strong as he started and claimed the Open championship at Clear Lake for the second consecutive year.

“When you look back at history, WON BASS, Angler’s Choice, ABA… a local never wins. Every time FLW comes here, a non-local wins. Last year when Breazeale won was the first time in 20 years a local won FLW. Traditionally, tournaments here aren’t won by locals. It’s hard. It’s anybody’s game on Clear Lake,” Bailey said.

Kent Brown, the host of the Ultimate Bass radio show, acknowledged that Clear Lake locals should have an advantage, particularly earlier in the year during pre-spawn, the expected conditions for this year’s California Open. “Large schools are moving up at that time of year. There are multiple areas of the lake you can get on a winning school of fish. While it doesn’t matter where you live, Clear Lake guys understand where those areas are, and they have a lot of experience on the lake. They understand not only where they move up, they understand the timing and when the fish are going to bite. With the California Open as a 3-day competition, it puts the ball in their court a little bit, they don’t run out of areas,” Brown says.

But not so fast! “There have been Clear Lake locals expected to win that go up in smoke. They know who they are. They sometimes miss fish in the current conditions and get caught up in fishing spots. I’ve got 40 years on the lake, and I guarantee I do that, sometimes missing the current conditions. Nostalgia fishing…” he said.

Perhaps no one has a better perspective on the odds of a local winning (or not) than Terry Knight, a longtime outdoor writer for the Record Bee. When posed with the question can a non-local win, Knight doesn’t hesitate.

“Oh yes, a non-local can win. I’ve done stories on that. Non-locals win as much as the locals win. Clear Lake is not a hard lake to learn. Clear Lake is one of those lakes experienced tournament fishermen can get on fish. Even if they come from Arizona they know the lake. Most guys who win big tournaments here are on fish already, they find the fish while pre-fishing. This is one lake where pre-fishing is extremely important. Most pros recognize this is a vital thing to do. It’s extremely rare that a guy just shows up,” Knight said.

2015 California Open winner Justin Kerr hails from Arizona. He’s sanguine regardless of any advantage held by locals. “Of course any time you go to any lake, locals will play a big factor. They are out there all the time, but at Clear Lake, anyone can win at any time. If you get on a big group of fish, you can catch them. And anyway, the local curse can be a bad thing, like at Havasu.

“Being out there all the time will help. I still think especially on Clear Lake, anybody can find them and win. I would think in the last 8 to 10 tournaments I fished on Clear Lake, I believe maybe once or twice besides Wayne Breazeale, the rest of the winners have been Arizona or SoCal guys. And it’s happened a lot. I feel that it can be done. You’ve got to have that in your mind — if you think you don’t have a chance, you’re already beat before you get there,” Kerr said.

Back to Kent Brown, who joked that for a non-local to win, they need Wayne Breazeale to get the flu. Breazeale is a definite X factor in 2019. He finished just out of the top 10 last year, but those looking for him to win again are asking a lot. “It’s brutal. Winning it one time is tough enough. Winning it two times is unbelievable. It’s hard to beat these guys consistently every year. It was a damn good honor to do it one time,” Breazeale said.

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