PEORIA, Ariz. – Drawing the largest team tournament field to the area more in than a decade, the Surprise Ford Open hosted by Wild West Bass Trail (WWBT) boasted 144 teams to Lake Pleasant this past weekend, where Tai and Vu Au claimed victory, earning the guaranteed $10,000 first place prize and crediting the majority of their fish to a Yamamoto Senko.
Fishing with his older brother Vu from Tucson, Ariz., General Tire pro Tai Au of Glendale, Ariz. felt making the right adjustments, finding the right combination of features in creek arms and the Yamamoto Senko were the factors to the win at this event.
“There was a cold front the week leading up to the tournament and that pushed the fish off; so, they weren’t exactly where I thought they would be,” said Tai. “Understanding the fish’s seasonal pattern, with the days as long as they are, I felt like they wanted to spawn; but the water temperature indicated that they weren’t all ready to lock on.”
The majority of Team Au’s weigh fish, including their 5.62 kicker was caught with a Yamamoto Senko in natural colors. Tai named Green Pumpkin, Dark Green Pumpkin and Watermelon Red as the most productive.
“We fished the Senko in five and six-inch, depending on the area – a five in the shallower spots and if I wanted a faster sink rate, I opted for the six-inch,” explained Tai.
They wacky-rigged the stickbait and presented it both with and without a nail-weight.
“The first day, I caught a handful with it weighted – maybe 20 percent of the fish,” Tai revealed; but on the 2nd day, they were just not eating it. We were using the smallest Tungsten nail-weight and putting it in the nose to speed up the fall and make it dive nose down, instead of horizontally.”
Tai also credited the G-Funk Desert rig for two of the bass that went to the scales.
The overcast conditions on the first day had Tai make the decision to hit the Humbug area.
“In my opinion, most of the big fish are in that location; but the conditions have to be just right to catch ‘em,” he explained. “I thought they were; but I made the wrong call. We spent the time idling back there and couldn’t even fish my areas; because, it was jam-packed full with boats.”
Two hours later and no fish in the box, they decided to come back to the main lake, hitting the back of creek arms and secondary points, with what Tai called the “right ingredients” for the fish.
“This early time of year, you want to look for creek arms and coves that are not too deep, but have some deep water by them,” explained Tai. “If it is shallower, it warms up faster. In the deeper cuts and coves, they just weren’t spawning yet. I also look for some wood. There is usually a bed next to wood.”
They filled out a limit with a bag of 15.62, finishing Day 1 in 4th place, approximately four-pounds behind the leaders.
The brothers found the final day of competition to be tougher. The highly pressured conditions had them targeting a wide depth range of 3- to 20-feet.
“The bed fish had mainly all been caught and the ones that were ready to move up’ were barely ready; so, they were skiddish and it was hard to find one locked on,” said Tai. “We continued throwing Senkos with my brother throwing out deep and me throwing shallower – about where the males would be.
“One thing I noticed is that they didn’t really want the Senko moving. It was like if you shook it, they knew what was up. We had to just throw it out there and let the Senko do its thing by shimmying down. They really just wanted a slow fall, without a weight in it to speed it up or alter its action. They got educated that first day and so realizing that was a key to catching them on the last day.”
Their Day Two limit added 13.26, giving the Au’s a tournament total of 29.48 and the win, including the $10,000 first place prize guaranteed by Surprise Ford.
"This was a professional, well-run event that we were excited to be a part of," said Surprise Ford General Manager Rob Hubler. "We are already looking forward to next year."
The husband and wife team of Justin and Jamie Patti hauled up the event’s only double-digit catch, earning the Big Fish honors with their 10.28.
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REST OF THE BEST TEAMS
2nd 41.60 Elias/Bebawy $5,000
3rd 41.49 Shura/Armel $2,800
4th 41.01 Coppinger/Sisemore $1,800
5th 40.13 Randall/O’Donnell $1,000
The following contingency payouts were also awarded:
Dwyer/Dwyer $100 Run with Lucas (7th)
Patti/Patti $500 Big Fish, $100 Run with Lucas (12th)
Ramsay/Mack $100 Run with Lucas (16th)
Crutchfield/Suzuki $100 Run with Lucas
Kettner/Loudon $100 Run with Lucas
The WWBT debuted in 2016. The trail includes a Pro/Am circuit and two Teams circuits – one based in California and the other in Arizona. For 2018, the WWBT will also host the Surprise Ford Lake Pleasant Team Open.
A special thanks to all of the WWBT sponsors – Evinrude, Dobyns Rods, Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits, General Tire, Lowrance Electronics, Lucas Oil, Protect the Harvest, P-Line, Power-Pole, Ranger Boats, SuperClean, and Trapper Tackle.