Local lady angler wins big bass tournament

  • By Wayne Kruse / Herald writer
  • Wednesday, April 26, 2006 9:00pm
  • Sports

I had this note on my desk to call Bonnie Ward in Snohomish. She wanted to talk about bass, the note said.

So I figured her husband had asked her to tell me about a nice largemouth he had taken in Big Lake, or a hefty smallmouth in Lake Stevens. Yeah, I know that’s sexist, but in this biz, 90 percent of the calls, letters and e-mail I get concern male-caught fish or male-shot critters.

Well, I got nailed to the wall on this one.

Seems Bonnie Ward was the fisher.

No, change that to super-fisher. Tournament fisher. Tournament-winning fisher. Major tournament-winning fisher.

Ward has fished bass in this area for over 20 years, very successfully. She pretty much picked it up on her own, but became so good at it that she dabbled off and on in tournament fishing, such as the Bassin’ Gals circuit.

She heard from a friend that the Bassmasters organization was starting a ladies’ tournament series this spring, and she decided to give the inaugural event a shot, on Lake Neely Henry, an impoundment of the Coosa River in Alabama. She entered in the “non-boater” category, meaning she would be drawn to fish from the extra seat in another woman’s boat.

She weighed a three-bass limit on each of the two qualifying days, totaling 10 pounds, 13 ounces, to stand second going into the final day. She ended up with a total of 18 pounds even (nine fish, all later released), to win the event. She also won the large-bass competition, with a fish of 3 pounds, 2 ounces. Most of the fish, she said, were taken on a Gary Yamamoto Senko, casting to shore.

Ward ended with quite a pile of loot, particularly for someone without a southern accent and without a mailing address in Georgia, or Louisiana, or Tennessee.

She won a $25,000 Triton bass boat with a 90 hp Mercury outboard, a Motorguide trolling motor, and Lowrance electronics. She won $1,000 cash. And she won $500 for the large fish of the tourney.

Not half shabby for a woman from the trout-, salmon-, and steelhead-dominated Pacific Northwest. An area the president of the B.A.S.S. organization once termed “bass-ackward.”

Ward said she will be on ESPN2 this Saturday, on the B.A.S.S. program, 5-5:30 a.m., and/or the Bassmasters program, 7-8 a.m.

Trout: Warmer weather this week has raised water temperatures and prospects for a first-class trout opener on Saturday morning. If you missed the opener preview in Sunday’s newspaper, we tapped the following lakes as top bets, in order of preference: Lake Ki, Heart Lake, Lake Erie, Lake McMurray, Lake Riley, Lake Sixteen, Lake Armstrong, Storm Lake, Lake Howard, Crabapple Lake, and Wagner Lake.

Lake Cavanaugh is a year-arounder in south Skagit County, known for a few large rainbow and cutthroat in spring and fall, and a pretty good fishery for small kokanee during the summer months. Lake resident George Hays trolled the deep, rocky north shoreline on April 19 with downrigger and a 50-50 chrome and brass Dick Nite spoon to nail a 24-inch, 4.8-pound cutthroat, indicating that the spring fishery is underway.

Also on the trout front, Bob Ferber at Holiday Market Sports in Burlington reports pretty good cutthroat and Dolly Varden fishing now on the lower Skagit.

On the eastside, Mackinaw action on Lake Chelan has been up and down, according to Anton Jones (antonj@aol.com), guide and Chelan resident. The kokanee bite has picked up, however, and Jones reports smallmouth bass being caught around the pilings on the lower lake. Roses Lake has been good for rainbow from 10 inches to 4 pounds, he added, and channel catfish up to 10 pounds.

The City of Everett/Fishing Kids event, CAST For Kids, has filled up this year, with 600 young people registered and ready to go on May 13 at Silver Lake. Remember this one next year – it’s a popular event.

Another popular one for kids (12 years and under) and definitely on tap, is the free fish-in this Sunday morning, sponsored by the Sky Valley Chapter of Trout Unlimited, and Lavro Boats, starting at 8 a.m. on Lake Tye, on the west edge of Monroe, off Fryelands Boulevard. Lots of big fish, including a sprinkling to 6 or 8 pounds, lots of fun prizes, and gear available for those without their own. The adult derby starts at 2 p.m. with a cash prize of $250 for largest trout and a bonus of $1,000 for anyone catching the special tagged fish. Derby entry fee (adults) is $10. Call Lavro Boats at 360-794-5525.

Chinook: Adult kings, running 10 to 18 pounds or so, continue to drift into Marine Area 8-2, bound eventually for either Tulalip Bay or the Snohomish River system, and anglers have one last weekend to target the fish. The Tulalip area will close with the rest of the blackmouth season at the end of the month, but reopen June 2 for clipped or unclipped kings.

All Star Charters owner/skipper Gary Krein said fish have been taken off and on at Columbia Beach, off south Hat Island, and off the mouth of Tulalip Bay, but that the fishery has been very inconsistent. He has had his best luck trolling flasher and either green squid or red racer Coyote spoon, he said, for chinook suspended 20 feet or more above bottom.

A few springers are being caught on the Cowlitz, Lewis and Kalama rivers, but the numbers on all three reflect a depressed run which was closed to fishing on the mainstream Columbia. A total of 174 adult spring chinook had returned to the Cowlitz salmon hatchery through April 19, compared to 500 at this point each of the last two years.

Clams: The final razor clam dig of the spring season is a go April 28-30 on four ocean beaches – Long Beach, Twin Harbors, Mocrocks and Copalis – for morning tides only, and for a fourth day of digging May 1 on Twin Harbors and Mocrocks beaches.

Most diggers have been gathering 15-clam limits on all four beaches so far this season, said state biologist Dan Ayers, and he expects the same on this dig, for some 20,000 people. Buy your new 2006 licenses before driving down, he said, because local outlets will be overwhelmed.

The tides are: April 28, minus 1.8 feet at 7:36 a.m.; April 29, minus 1.8 feet at 8:21 a.m.; April 30, minus 1.6 feet at 9:06 a.m.; and May 1, minus 1.1 feet at 9:50 a.m.

Lingcod: The in-Sound ling season opens Monday, but the tides that day aren’t favorable. Lings can be found in small holes and rockpiles all across Possession Bar, and even off the edges in 100 feet of water. The Double Bluff area offers the same scenario, according to charter skipper Gary Krein. Foulweather Bluff is a good bet; the areas north and south of the Edmonds Underwater Park hold lings; the artificial reef just south of Hat Island has been silted in badly, but still holds a few fish, as does the reef at Onomac Point.

The best local ling habitat by far is in the San Juan Islands. Bob Ferber said just look for any rocky bluff or cliff which translates into a drop to deep water, and you should find ling. Deception Pass is prime habitat, but currents can make it dangerous for those not familiar with the area. Biz Point, north of the pass has ling, as well.

“Or, if you want to run that far,” Ferber said, “the whole west side of San Juan Island has lots of fish.”

Storm Swimming Shad jigs are popular for lingcod, and Berkley has come out with a scented, similar lure which has been very productive. Leadhead jigs with splittail worms in browns and other dark colors are popular, in 4- to 6-ounce weights.

Halibut: Good tides over the weekend resulted in an improvement in halibut action at most of the usually productive spots. State checks at Ediz Hook on Saturday and Sunday showed 158 boats with 65 halibut. At the Cornet Bay ramp on Sunday, it was 53 boats with 12 halibut, and at the Port of Everett ramp it was 152 boats Saturday and Sunday with 10 halibut and 12 rockfish. Checks at Olson’s Resort in Sekiu tallied 3 boats with 9 lings and 37 rockfish.

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