In 1988, my son Aaron and I started fishing on multiple team circuits. We competed until Aaron went pro around 1996, so I also went pro.
I fished the US Opens, Everstart, National Bass, and the North and South divisions of Won Bass. While Crown Royal sponsored me, I fished Bassmasters and BASS when they were out west. In addition, I fished as a non-boater with Won Bass, ABA, Redman, and Western Bass. Most of the time, I was one of the few, if not the only, women and always liked the distinction.
It has been about seven years since I have fished a bass tournament due to my late husband’s illness. But this year, I was persuaded to participate in the Won Bass US Open on Lake Mead again last October. It was a massive event with 224 boats, 443 guys, and five ladies anglers.
I’ve fished this tournament about seven times as the only lady pro and around ten as a non-boater. My friend Liz and I went as non-boaters and Rachel Uribe and Akiko. Chris Zaldain's wife, Trait, fished as the only lady pro.
Akiko came from Japan to fish, as she often does with or without her associates. She does very well in tournaments in Japan.
This year was a family affair because my son Aaron drove his rig out from Alabama to defend his 3 US Open titles. My other son, Chris, came from Lancaster, California, with his wife Trish to fish as a non-boater. So on that first day, we were able to spend quality time together and catch up on our sleep as well.
This event has always been considered a grueling event. There’s a week of pre-fishing followed immediately by the 3-day tournament. It’s also quite a drive from Vegas back and forth each day. In the past, it seemed I never had time to do anything but prepare for the next day, take a shower, try to eat something, and go to bed for a few hours’ sleep. Because it used to be held during the desert summer, fighting the elements and the genuine possibility of heatstroke added to the difficulty of this tournament. So moving it to October was a welcome change.
We were all disappointed when the first day was canceled due to high winds this year. I don’t recall this event ever canceling a day.
With all the pre-fishing pressure plus a weather system that moved through, the fishing was on the tough side. Steve Tosh Jr won the event with 24.94 lbs. Guys from BASS and FLW showed up, and most of them got checks. Kurt Dove 4th, Kevin Short 6th, Randy Blaukat 10th, Steve Kennedy 14th, Chris Zaldain 16th, Aaron Martens 37thand Luke Clausen 42nd.The non-boater winner was Matt Pangrac from Ok. And Rachel Uribe, out of the five women, finished 48th.
I didn’t break the top 100, but I’m already looking forward to next year. I can’t begin to tell you how wonderful it was for me to be on Lake Mead again and see it from a boat instead of an airplane!
Most of us know that water levels have continued to drop year after year. I’m probably one of the few who got to fish it back in the old days when the lake was full. Believe it or not, I think the fish and the lake are better now.
When the lake was full, the water was gin clear. I distinctly remember seeing a fish swimming under the boat on a reef at least 50 ft. or more down in the Overton Arm. I dropped a Texas Rigged worm down and watched the fish swim over and eat it, and then I caught it. Aaron remembers seeing the shadow of our boat on a reef over 70 ft. down because the water was that clear.
But the bass were few and skinny due to a lack of nutrients and bait, among other things. We had seven fish limits in the past, and it was good if you came in with 7 lbs.!
Now the lake level is lower, and it has more bait and nutrients. You can usually only see a few feet down now. I was surprised to see all the weed beds, trees, and brush in the water.
The lake is stunning and nothing like I expected. It stirred my emotions and memories looking way up a dry creek or canyon and remembering how I fished there with Aaron and many old friends.
As nostalgic as I can get, it’s exciting to look forward to the future knowing that Mead is thriving and the largemouth and smallmouth are two and three times bigger than they were in the past. If you’re a striped bass angler, you can catch a boat full easily almost anywhere and anytime.
Previously I wrote that the Texas Rig is my favorite setup. I’m happy to report I caught all my fish at the Open on a Texas Rigged Robo worm.
Since the Open, I’ve been fishing Castaic weekly and using what I’ve learned. In my opinion, the Texas Rig is still king at Castaic. Last week among all the bass, I caught a nice striped bass on a Texas rig. He went in the frying pan!
Last week my friend Liz caught a six lb. largemouth on a Texas rig, her biggest bass this year. We think it may be time to try a jig for the winter. Of course, if that doesn’t work, we can always go back to my favorite you-know-what rig.
In closing, you should know I had several concerns about taking on a 3-day tournament, not knowing who I would draw and what the conditions might be. I can honestly say I drew a couple of great guys, Tom Nokes and Steve Molinari. I’ve fished with hundreds of people and made many friends, which I consider a bonus when it comes to drawing tournaments.
This tournament was so enjoyable, and I could physically handle it, that Liz and I decided right away to fish the US Open at Lake Havasu in Jan. 2019. As a senior and great grandmother, I never dreamed I would fish tournaments again, but here I am!
After 30 years, I still love fishing, people, and competitions, so don’t be surprised if I show up on one of your lakes someday in my white and purple Ranger boat. I’m still fishing around and loving it!