Best anglers converge on Lake Mead for U.S. Open bass tournament

SAN CLEMENTE — The WON BASS Miller High Life U.S. Open is more than just the richest bass tournament in the West. It’s also the largest U.S. bass tournament on an international scale, drawing over two dozen anglers from the nation of Japan each year. Japan’s best bass anglers, including several who have their own television programs on bass fishing or own major tackle companies in their nation, travel to the U.S. to compete in the U.S. Open.

The tournament in the past has also drawn anglers from Mexico, 24 different states of the U.S., and last year the first entrant from Australia.

“It’s the richest bass tournament in the West, with more than $450,000 in cash and prizes up for grabs. We expect another big field of international bass anglers again despite the low water levels at Mead,” said Mike Kennedy, WON BASS Director.

This year’s U.S. Open is slated for Sept. 8-10 at Lake Mead. The entry fee for the U.S. Open is $1,600 for Pros and $600 for the AAA anglers. These fees include automatic entry into the Miller High Life big fish awards daily — with the 5 largest bass each day worth $1,000 apiece to the top 5 anglers. There are also daily “big stringer” awards with $2,500 each going to the Pro and AAA angler weighing in the day’s heaviest catch.

“This has been an amazing benefit to the anglers,” noted Kennedy. “We have very few anglers who do not fish all three days. Even if they get blanked the first two days, an angler can still catch the big fish on the final day, and possibly the heavy stringer, too, which would earn $3,500 for one day of fishing. Several anglers have picked up $1,000 in the last couple of hours of the tournament.”

No tournament in the country has a better “big catch” prize structure than the WON BASS U.S. Open, which will award a total of $60,000 in big fish and big stringer prizes at the 2003 version of the Open. And these prizes are all included in the basic entry (no option fee) and all anglers, both Pro and AAA, are eligible to win.

Each day the Open features $2,000 cash prizes for the anglers catching the five largest bass — a total of $10,000 each day and $30,000 in total cash for the tournament. The U.S. Open also features something unique in bass fishing tournaments, a daily “big stringer” cash award of $5,000 to the Pro/AAA pairing weighing in the heaviest stringer of the day — $2,500 each to the Pro and AAA angler. In addition to the daily prizes, that angler who catches the largest bass of the tournament will be given the “Big Bass Award” from Forrest L. Wood, founder of Ranger Boats — a special Signature Edition of a Ranger 175VS with a Mercury 90 horsepower engine, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide trolling motor and Trojan batteries — a package valued at $20,000. The winning angler will receive a certificate for this rig and can apply the value of the boat and motor to upgrade to a larger Ranger boat and Mercury outboard.

Last year there were over anglers from Japan who entered the U.S. Open, along with anglers from 17 U.S. states.

The contest was won for the second straight time by Mike Folkestad of Yorba Linda, with winnings of over $115,000 both years. That included prizes each year of $50,000 in cash plus a Ranger boat equipped with a Mercury outboard, Trojan batteries, Lowrance electronics and MotorGuide trolling motor.

The Open will again be headquartered out of the Sunset Hotel & Casino in Henderson, with the tournament running out of Callville Bay Resort & Marina on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, Sept. 8-10.

Official practice for the Open is on Thursday, Friday and Saturday, while Sunday is a day off with all anglers invited to attend “Sponsor Row” at the hotel. Here, representatives from the WON BASS sponsors will set up a mini show of their products and hand out samples of many lures, lines and fishing clothing to all participants. Usually, every angler gets at least $150 in merchandise at Sponsor Row.

In addition to the fishing field, the U.S. Open features several events for the wives and families, including bowling, special breakfast hosted by El Cajon Ford, and free bus transportation to Lake Mead for the daily weigh-ins.

Merchandise awarded to the anglers participating in the U.S. Open will boggle the mind. On Sunday’s day off from practice and tournament competition, all anglers in the tournament will be at the Sunset Station Hotel & Casino for “Sponsor Row” and the “Partner Pairings” in the Club Madrid showroom of the hotel.

In addition to “Sponsor Row,” additional sponsor participation with merchandise at the Sunday afternoon pairings will include many “door prizes” that will continue to swell the promotional package. “We’ve lined up even more prizes than last year when we had over $50,000 in merchandise awarded during the partner pairings,” said Bohn. “Realistically, I think every angler here is going to get over $200 worth of merchandise.”

At Sponsor Row the Open anglers will get a variety of items such as hats, t-shirts, towels, lures, etc. from Owner Hooks, Lucky Craft, Berkley Trilene line, Berkley Power Worms and Frenzy Lures, Ranger Boats, Luhr-Jensen lures, Daiwa, Mercury Outboards, El Cajon Ford, Angler’s Marine, Trojan Batteries, Costa del Mar Sunglasses, Rebel lures, Tackle Logic, Excalibur lures, Quantum, Southwest Boats, Matzuo lures, Kelly Tires, Heddon lures, The Outdoor Channel, Lowrance Electronics, ProLong Lubricants, Water Gremlin weights, Leatherman tools, Banana Boat sunscreen and Acme Trophy spoons.

At the partner pairings, merchandise to be awarded include MotorGuide trolling motors, Costa del Mar sunglasses, Trojan deep-cycle batteries, Pradco Pro Packs, Plano and Tackle Logic tackle bags and boxes, Quantum rod and reel outfits, Daiwa rod and reel outfits, spools of Berkley fishing line, Lucky Craft lure Pro Packs, Lowrance units, Mercury Quicksilver Oil, Owner Pro Packs with hooks and Cultiva lures, Leatherman tools, Matzuo lures, Ranger sales certficates worth cash to new boat buyers, gift certificates from Angler’s Marine, Mad Man lures pro packs, Zip Baits, Extra Edge Scented weights and balance beams, Costa Del Mar sunglasses, Mercury propellers, Mercury oil, Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits, Pro Packs of 6 Lucky Craft lures each, items from El Cajon Ford, items from Miller High Life.