The 32nd US Open will kick off Monday September 8th and conclude after 3 days of heated competition on one of bass fishing’s most punishing bodies of water. With one day left to register, the field is nearly full, with at least 167 pro anglers and 167 AAA anglers set to lock horns.
Among those are at least 19 pro anglers from San Diego County and an additional half-dozen or so competing as AAAs. That set of local anglers are looking to replicate what Ramona’s John Kerr pulled off in 2003, the only San Diegan to win the event.
The US Open is the only western event that garners recognition worldwide in professional bass fishing circles. It is often considered the toughest tournament in the world to win, even over the crown jewel of tournament bass fishing – the Bassmaster Classic. Rick Clunn, who is a two-time winner of the US Open, and considered one of the best bass fisherman of all time is on record saying, “if you do not have a US Open title on your resume, you really can’t call yourself a true champion.”
Among the big names competing this year are national touring pros Jay Yelas and Luke Clausen, and western based bass fishing legends Mike Folkestad, John Murray, and Gary Dobyns. Clausen and Yelas are both former Bassmaster Classic Champions, Clausen being one of 5 anglers that have won both the Classic and the Forrest Wood Cup, the two biggest prizes in professional fishing. Yelas has also won both the Bassmaster Angler of the Year and FLW Angler of the Year (twice).
Clausen and Yelas have won nearly all there is to win in bass fishing, but both are looking for the last big feather in their cap – a US Open win. The aforementioned Folkestad will be looking to win the Open for the fourth time, he and Bassmaster Elite Series Pro Aaron Martens are the only 3-time winners. Murray is a 2-time Open Champion, and Gary Dobyns won the event in 2010.
San Diego will be well represented, sending a group of pros ever bit capable of topping the biggest name of the sport at Lake Mead, just as John Kerr did in 2003. Among the contingent are several anglers who not only have past US Open experience, but also have narrowly missed winning the whole thing.
Poway’s Justin Hanold will be fishing his 3rd US Open this year, and he finished 4th in last year’s Open. His 3 day total weight was 29.66 pounds, only 1.59 pounds behind the winner, Rusty Brown who had 31.25 pounds. Hanold is already out at Lake Mead practicing for the event next week, “I plan to spend 6-8 days prefishing this year, I’m there to win” he said.
Young Wade Strelic of Alpine is unquestionably already one of San Diego’s most talented fishermen and will also be out there fishing to win. Wade finished 8th in the 2010 US Open, a tournament that was held in July in grueling daytime high temperatures of 126 degrees.
Santee’s Tom Lowery has mostly taken the year off of tournament competition, but has had his sights set on the US Open all year. Lowery will be fishing in his 4th Open this year, and said “If I could only fish one tournament the rest of my life it would be the US Open. It’s the ‘big one’ in the west and features the best fishermen around.”
“To win would be a dream come true, it’s Lake Mead and it’s the most challenging water I have ever fished.”
Marco Fenelli will be fishing his first US Open, and looking forward to the challenge. “I am excited to get outside of San Diego and compete on a larger playing field,” Fenelli said. He’ll be able to dedicate about 4 days of practice out there, and plans to cover as much water as he can in that time.
Chris Studinger is another young angler looking to prove himself on bass fishing’s ultimate proving grounds. “I’m looking forward to fishing the largest tournament on the West Coast and competing against some of the best anglers around,” he said.
Kerr set the precedent in 2003, and these guys are looking to reinforce San Diego’s reputation as one of the west’s hot beds for tournament talent.
San Diego area anglers fishing the 2014 US Open as pros;
- Ed Arledge
- Klayton Belden
- Gabe Bolivar
- Adam East
- Marco Fenelli
- Ron Hammett
- Justin Hanold
- Elliott Holsbo
- Tom Leedom
- Tom Lowery
- Michael McLernon
- Daniel Price
- Mark Rauenzahn
- Josh Rhodes (recently moved to Havasu City, AZ)
- Tony Richards
- Rusty Salewske
- Wade Strelic
- Chris Studinger
- Melvin Williams
San Diego area anglers fishing the 2014 US Open as AAAs;
- Brent Benish
- Alex Galvin
- Bryan Klem
- Stephen Lamb
- Carl Limbrick Jr.
- Matt Menzel
- Dustin Tingle