San Diego teams make strong showing at team championships

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National Bass had 96 teams show up at Havasu to compete for their annual championship on October 15th and 16th. Havasu provided their anglers with unquestionably the heaviest stringers, with the winning team weighing a two-day total of 35.73 pounds (five fish limit per day). Those weights rivaled tournaments held at Havasu in the Spring, and were extremely impressive in the Fall. Without question, the population of Smallmouth Bass at Havasu is thriving.

Bailey and Walsh weighed in 9 Smallmouth Bass, and just 1 largemouth. That largemouth was significant though, weighing 5.68 pounds, the biggest fish of the entire tournament. They also caught several smallmouth over 3 pounds to bolster their two-day total to 32.86 pounds and earn them $5,105. They caught all their fish in the lake (as opposed to the Colorado River section that feeds Havasu) primarily on 3 different baits; a small swimbait, a topwater bait, and jigs.

The 5.68 pound largemouth came on a jig, caught by Bailey who is pictured to the right with the fish. Supporting the rule that smallmouth like a bait fished fast, while largemouth prefer it slow, Bailey caught the tournament-topper while his rod wasn’t even in his grasp. “I set my rod down to grab the net when Mike [Walsh] hooked a fish on a topwater, the fish wasn’t going to keep so I put the net down and noticed my line pulling, I picked it up, stepped on the back deck, set the hook and it was a 6 pounder,” said Bailey.

Most of the teams that went to Havasu this year from San Diego were probably familiar with Havasu already, as it has played host to many of the team championships in the West the last few years. National Bass West has held their championship, appropriately titled the “Havasu Bass Classic” there since 2003.

Our San Diego teams that qualified for the WON Bass championship (called the WON Bass Team Tri-States) weren’t awarded the same level of familiarity with the host lake. WON Bass decided to combine their North and South Tri-States this year, and decided to host the tournament at New Melones in Northern California, nearly 500 miles away from downtown San Diego – a 9 hour drive for most local teams. Either the location, or the fact that the tournament fell on the same exact dates as the National Bass Havasu Classic contributed to a low turnout of only 55 teams.

Still the distance, and unfamiliar fishing grounds couldn’t keep the local team of Klayton Belden and Bobby Matthews (pictured at right) from making the trip, and finishing in 3rd place. Several San Diego teams made the trip, but Belden and Matthews led the way with their impressive top three. They actually boated enough weight for 2nd place (15.35 lbs., 2nd was 15.30), but were hindered by two dead fish penalties totaling .40 pounds to give them an official two day weight of 14.95 pounds.

Belden and Matthews stopped at the famed California Delta for one day prior to starting their 4 1/2 day pre fish at New Melones. “It was a blast to unwind at the Delta,” Matthews said.

Neither of them had been to New Melones before, so they relied on two good spots they found in practice for the tournament. Matthews said they caught 90% of their fish drop shotting 6″ [Roboworm] Morning Dawn and Morning Dawn/Chartreuse worms on 2 pound test. “Most of our fish came from 45 to 60 feet, however, we caught them as shallow as 30 and as deep as 100 catching them off the graph,” Matthews added. A photo is shown of the types of marks they were looking for on their graph that contributed to their success.

Matthews and Beldem seemed to enjoy the change of pace that Melones offered, Matthews stated “New Melones was a breath of fresh air to all the Mead and Havasu Championships we have.”

Lowrance shows fish near the bottomHe also acknowledged the neutral playing field that New Melones offered the qualifiers, “it truly was a neutral lake and I wish all the championships would be held like this.” The main complaint with team championship qualifiers from San Diego have been about the locations of the championship tournaments. Havasu has been the most widely criticized host lake because the circuits feature regions that are based on the river, and include Havasu tournaments. Thus, qualifiers from those regions are given a “home field advantage” when the team championship is held at a lake they were able to qualify from (and may live at).

The source of a lot of that criticism has been because Mike Rooke and Shaun Bailey of Lake Havasu City have had an unprecedented level of success, winning the majority of the championships held at Lake Havasu over the last handful of years. They had won the last 3 National Bass West Havasu Classics together, and Rooke won with another partner in 2005. They had also won the 2008 WON Bass Tri-States at Havasu. However, in this year’s Havasu Classic, they finished in 78th place.

American Bass’ year-end championship, the South Team Classic was held at Lake Mead on October 1st and 2nd. San Diegans Nick Adkins and Michael McLernon finished in a very impressive 7th place in the 115 team field. They weighed in 18.81 pounds and earned $3,825 in the two-day final. McLernon is very familiar with Mead, having fished many pro/am format tournaments there over the years, including the US Open.

San Diego teams that deserve recognition for their out-of-town efforts in the year-end championships include;

National Bass West Havasu Classic

  • 2nd – Art Bailey and Mike Walsh
  • 7th – Greg Miser (Captain of the Dolphin II sportfishing boat out of Mission Bay) and Justin Iacino
  • 17th – Donald Riese and Donald Riese Jr.
  • 18th – Tom Leedom and Brian Kowalski (the SD National Bass West 2010 Anglers of the Year)

WON Bass Tri-States

  • 3rd – Klayon Belden and Bobby Matthews
  • 6th – Dennis Saiki and Carl Limbrick Jr.

American Bass South Team Classic

  • 7th – Nick Adkins and Michael McLernon
  • 28th – Shane Spencer and Art Berry

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