LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. - Clifford Pirch will be telling this story long after the boats are trailered, the bass are returned to Lake Havasu, and the trophies are distributed at the CITGO Bassmaster Western Open presented by Busch Beer.

Pirch, of Payson, Ariz., dropped jaws Thursday when he captured the day one lead at the bass tournament with an 11-pound, 13-ounce pair of fish, one of which was a bruising 9-pound largemouth bass. Pirch stole the lead from California's Clayton Meyer, who built a five-fish limit of 11-12.

"I thought (the big bass) was about a 4-pounder," Pirch said. "That's about as big as they get here. When I got it into the boat my partner was pretty shaken. Well, I was shaking plenty myself."

The stakes are high in the tournament, which is the final of three Western Opens. The 20 anglers with the best season points standings will fish the no-entry-fee CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship on Toledo Bend Reservoir, Dec. 4-7. The top three boaters in the points standings after this event will also earn berths to bass fishing's world championship, the CITGO Bassmaster Classic, slated for July 30-Aug. 1, 2004, in Charlotte, N.C.

None of the anglers are confident about their ability to lock up the tournament, let alone the season points standings.

"Usually, day two (of a tournament on Lake Havasu) is extremely tough," Pirch said. "It was day two, day three conditions out there today."

Meyer, just one ounce out of the lead, agreed.

"I'm in a good position but I have no idea what the bite's going to be like tomorrow," he said.

In addition to Pirch and Meyer, the top five boaters include California's Michael Bennett, 10-12; Washington's Chris Lambert, 10-11; and Nevada's Jack Gadlage, 10-7. The top five non-boaters are California's Sieg Taylor, 10-7; California's Mike Lander, 6-12; California's Loren Serda, 5-3; Oregon's Jason Eastman, 4-15; and California's Patrick Wilson, 4-9.

Daily weigh-ins take place at Windsor State Park at 3:15 p.m. Anglers launch daily at 7 a.m.

There will be a CastingKids event Saturday, Nov. 22 from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Children between the ages of 7 and 14 are invited to compete for a chance at a scholarship.

BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. In 2004, BASS will introduce the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 Series, a four-event, no-entry-fee circuit featuring a $1.6 million prize purse for the world's best anglers. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass-fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.

Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Chevrolet Trucks, Yamaha Outboards, Mercury Marine, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, Kumho Tires, Progressive Insurance, Abu Garcia, Berkley, Diamond Cut Jeans, MotorGuide Trolling Motors, and BankOne.

Associate Sponsors include Bryant Heating and Air Conditioning and G3 Boats.

Local sponsors include Lake Havasu Tourism Bureau.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375.