Berkley BIG BASS Challenge Tests California Anglers’ Big Fish Strategies

BETHEL ISLAND, Calif. – It took two days and nearly twelve competitive hours to name California’s first Berkley® BIG BASS Challenge champion, but as the competition was about to conclude a Northern California man used a Berkley® Hollow Belly swimbait to best the field with an 8.30-pound Delta bruiser.

The event was the first annual Berkley BIG BASS Challenge hosted by the Future Pro Tour. The event featured a unique format that matched an anglers fishing skill with an hourly weigh-in strategy. Each competition day was a six-hour period, where anglers could weigh-in one fish each hour. Anglers with the heaviest five fish during each hour would receive cash awards, with the overall biggest fish for the two days crowned the Berkley® BIG BASS Challenge champion.

Anglers arrived at Russo’s Marina and converged on the ‘Berkley® Experience’ trailer to register as well as receive their complementary bags of Berkley® products including new PowerBait® Hollow Belly swimbait, Heavy Fat Sinkworm, Trilene Maxx line, Berkley hat and other exciting products. After each participant received the mandatory live-well check, they were then allowed to take off and go big bass hunting.

Amateur angler Pete Moore, of Tracy, Calif. brought the event’s overall big bass to the scales during the fourth hour on the tournament’s second day of competition. The catch was especially significant because Moore, had not caught a single fish during day one, and while struggling to put something together in the waning hours of day two, found an area with converging current – a perfect place to throw the new Berkley® 5-inch Hollow Belly swimbait he had received during registration.

“I only made four turns of the handle and that fish just about ripped the rod out of my hand”, noted Moore, still dazed from the encounter of fighting the biggest fish he had ever caught, winning the first annual Berkley BIG BASS Challenge, and taking home a check for $4,000 dollars and an additional $250 for winning the hour.

While the title of the two-day event was the Berkley® BIG BASS Challenge, the unique format allowed several people to win “big” fish awards and a wad of cash for weighing in bass under two pounds on the California Delta.

Anglers found that the hourly weigh-in provided a challenge, as well as opportunity. “I’ve got some good fish going all the way up in Sycamore Slough,” noted Charlie Almassey prior to the start and a perennial favorite in many of the Delta events he fishes throughout the year. “But, I’m going to have to think about whether that long run will be a good move given the hourly weigh-in format; this is gonna be interesting!”

While Almassey wound up weighing a 7.35-pounder caught on a Berkley® Hollow Belly swimbait that claimed hourly big fish honors during day one’s fifth hour, other anglers who won hourly big fish honors, did so with bass that weighed less than two pounds.

“Heck, this is like playing Texas Hold ‘em,” noted an excited Dave Sanchez ,who grabbed a 5th place big fish check during the 5th hour of day one with a bass that only weighed 1.76 pounds. “I had bigger fish in my livewell that I could have weighed in, but for that hour they would not have beat the top four places. So I waited till the hour was about to close and played my hand!” And in playing that hand, Sanchez earned a check for $100.

But as with any competition that requires strategy, as things progress, the field gets wiser and makes adjustments. As on the second day of competition, the weights got bigger, and more anglers came dashing to the scales before the hour’s close, with fish both big and small.

2008 Forrest L. Wood Cup qualifier, Rob Riehl, quickly made the adjustment, and brought fish to the scales nearly every hour, scoring a 1st place check of $250, in the first hour of the second day. He found that fish responded to swimbaits. “I throw a lot of swimbaits but had never tried Berkley’s Hollow Belly model’. These baits have a unique action, and I caught lots of fish on them all day long,” he added. Riehl also claimed 3rd place overall with a 7.58-pound largemouth.

It just goes to show you that when it comes to catching big fish you don’t have to be a pro-level angler. All you have to do is be in the right place, at the right time….with the right bait!

“We’ve had a Berkley Big Bass tournament in Texas for the past 3 years”, stated Andrew Marks, Sr. Marketing Manager for Berkley, “and it has grown to be a classic”. “Our purpose for having these tournaments is for anglers to have fun and a chance to win some cash and prizes while also being exposed to all of our great baits and other Berkley products” Many of the fish were caught on PowerBait 10” PowerWorms, Frenzy Flicker Shads and the new pro designed jigs. Andrew Marks added, “While the big fish are great, I actually get very excited over the small 1 and 2 pounders that anglers bring in and are able to cash a check,”

After the event, anglers were treated to a huge raffle, for premium Berkley products, along with other sponsors products including Abu Garcia, Fenwick, Stren, Navionics, Humminbird, and a chance to win the grand raffle prize, a day on the water fishing with Berkley Pro Staffer and 2007 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the year Skeet Reese.

FLW Series National Guard Western Division pro Jason Barofka of Salinas, Calif. was the lucky grand prize winner (his wife actually had the winning number, but gave him the prize) and will have the opportunity to fish with this top Berkley Pro and learn some new angling techniques.

We would like to thank all participants, associate sponsors, Russo’s Marina and Hook, Line and Sinker for contributing to making this event a great success, and a whole lot of fun. We look forward to announcing the dates for the 2nd annual Berkley® BIG BASS Challenge in 2009.

For more information about Berkley® products, visit, and for more about the Berkley BIG BASS Challenge! Go to

Vince Harris
President/Director, Future Pro Tour Tournament Trails

3117 Merrywood Dr.
Sacramento Ca, 95825