By Wayne Kruse Special to The Herald
When it comes to bass fishing — real, hardcore bass fishing — Washington is, relatively speaking, a black hole.
In this land of the salmon, the trout, and the steelhead, the funny green fish with all the spiky stuff can’t come close to generating the avid following it enjoys in sunnier climes. Reading the home towns of top finishers in major bass tournaments around the country is like thumbing through a Confederate Army regimental roster.
Washington is truly — as the then director of the Bass Anglers Sportsmen Society (B.A.S.S.) once said on a visit here years ago — a bass-ackward part of the world.
So when a two-man team from January’s frozen Columbia Basin dares to cross rods with bass-savvy Californians on their own turf, and come out money ahead, it’s noteworthy.
The Eastern Washington University team of Moses lake’s Jarred Walker and Lacey’s Nick Barr won the Forrest L. Woods College Fishing Western Conference championship qualifier two weeks ago on California’s Lake Oroville. The pair, representing the EWU Sportsman’s Club, caught and released five bass weighing a total of 9 pounds, 8 ounces for first place, $2,000, and entry to the FLW College Regional Championship this fall at Clear Lake, also in California.
The duo outfished 49 other teams despite never having been on Lake Oroville before. They beat the top rods from Oregon State, UC Davis, Nevada and Fresno State, among others.
Barr is a marketing major who loves to fish, and has found a way to enjoy both pursuits, guiding anglers on Potholes Reservoir the past two summers while handling public relations chores for MarDon Resort owner Mike Meseberg.
“It’s hard to drive 15 hours to a lake you’ve never seen and put together a coherent game plan,” Barr said, “so we basically tried different things until we found something that worked. Our lakes are frozen over and we hadn’t touched a rod for weeks until we were packing to leave.”
“Our first fish came on a Yamamoto Hula grub,” said Walker, a construction management major. “We ran around and caught another on a drop-shot Senko. Then, within the last hour, we took three in a row on the drop-shot rig. Those fish, later in the day, had started to come up shallower, and we were catching them in 15 to 25 feet of water.”
“It was slow, brutal fishing,” Barr added. “We literally let the Senko sit for over a minute. We were using the new 5-pound Sufix Fluorocarbon, and we think the light line was key to catching those extremely pressured fish.”
The bass were taking so lightly that the line and Barr’s Lamiglas Infinity dropshot rod were key to feeling the soft strikes, he said.
The top 15 teams from three qualifying tournaments earn a berth to the regional championship on Clear Lake, and the top 10 from there will face off against schools from around the country and a shot at the $50,000 national championship prize.
Barr founded Eastern’s sportsman’s club three years ago and has watched it grow to over 60 members from campus and the community. Barr said activities are organized for all skill levels and include fishing tournaments, hunting trips, archery, community service, hunter safety, rod building and much more.
Barr said that as far as he knows, the group is the only collegiate fishing and hunting club in the Pacific Northwest. For more information, find the club on Facebook or at www.ewusportsmansclub.org. Contact Barr at email@example.com.
Anacortes Derby tickets
The limited supply of 1,000 tickets for the Anacortes Salmon Derby was sold out in about 22 days last year, according to event coordinator Jay Field of Anacortes. And Field expects the pattern to continue for this year’s derby, scheduled for March 30-31. The $60 tickets go on sale Friday at John’s Sporting Goods, Everett; Ted’s Sport Center, Lynnwood; Ace Hardware, Anacortes and Friday Harbor; Holiday Sports, Burlington; LFS, Bellingham; Outdoor Emporium, Seattle; and SportCo, in Fife.
Participants will vie for $25,000 in guaranteed purse money and thousands more in merchandise prizes, with special prize categories for women, youth, and active military personnel. Also included in the ticket price is free launching at Cap Sante Marina (bunk trailers OK); three night’s moorage, a free Friday night fishing film festival; a Saturday night no-host social, with snacks; and a Sunday BBQ lunch.
Hosted by volunteers of the Fidalgo-San Juan Islands Chapter, Puget Sound Anglers, the event raises funds for scholarships benefitting students in fishery management and related science. Over $163,000 in scholarships and grants has been awarded to date.
This is one of those winters in the Columbia Basin where tempting ice forms on Potholes Reservoir and attendant smaller lakes, but never quite thick enough to be safe for fishing. “We see a few folks trying it, but I would not recommend going out on any of our lakes right now,” said Mike Meseberg at MarDon Resort on the reservoir.
There are higher lakes in the north Basin with colder temps and thicker ice. Roses Lake near Manson, north of Lake Chelan, is one such, and it’s putting out good fishing for planted rainbow in the 12-inch range. Anton Jones of Darrell &Dad’s Family Guide Service in Chelan said anglers are using sinking baits like Pautzke’s Balls ‘O Fire or an old-fashioned worm to entice strikes. Those using floating bait are putting it on a bare 1/16th ouncejig head to keep it down.
Area 9 remains slow for winter blackmouth. The east end of the Strait of Juan de Fuca is better, but the best winter salmon fishing remains in the San Juans. WDFW creel checks at the Washington Park ramp west of Anacortes showed 24 anglers on Saturday with 12 chinook, and 47 anglers on Sunday, with 17 fish.
All Star Charters owner Gary Krein of Everett was elected secretary of the National Association of Charterboat Operators over the weekend, at the group’s annual convention in Baltimore. This will be Krein’s fourth year in the office.