Until Saturday’s final round, the first of three Western Opens had been hotly contested. Johanson ended day two with a mere 10-ounce lead. The Benton City, Wash., angler widened the gap by returning to Big Break, the secret spot that helped him boat 20-13 on Friday. On Saturday, it helped him build the foundation for his eventual 16-10 catch.
“It was pretty tough,” he said. “I was throwing a Senko in weeds at Big Break, right dead in the middle.”
Johanson Texas-rigged the same watermelon Senko worm that worked on Friday in the area he describes as a soft-bottomed largemouth factory that’s not too popular with other anglers, probably because it’s “a lot weedier than it used to be.”
“On the first day, I really didn’t fish it,” he said. “I brought a couple of fish out of there but it just wasn’t right. I ran to a bunch of nostalgia spots and they were terrible, so it was really the only spot I had.”
The only spot, except for one Sherman Lake that helped him round out Saturday’s final catch with a pair of heavyweight largemouths. When he got there, Johanson said he threw a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver crawdad in a color called “peanut butter and jelly.” With it, he got his first strike in 10 minutes, once the tide had a chance to roll into the shallow fishery.
“I gave Big Break every chance to produce today,” he said. “I was waiting until one o’clock for Sherman. I knew what the tide was going to be and that would give me an hour. I figured I had time for one good bite and I got two. Sherman, it’s hard to get five bites there, but you always get two.”
With this win, Johanson picked up a $46,100 prize purse and earned the lead in the point standings for the Western Open circuit. At the end of the three-event season, the top 20 boaters and non-boaters based on point standings earn berths in the 2004 CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship presented by Busch Beer. The top 5 boaters in the championship will earn berths in bass fishing’s world championship, the CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer.
On the non-boater side, Scott Head of Knightsen, Calif., won a $24,000 prize purse with a 32-10 total. Although he has finished in the top 10 at local tournaments, he has never won before.
“This is my first major tournament,” he said. “My grandfather’s construction company called me and asked if I’m going to fish. They told me they were going to pay my entry and there it is. I’m here for the moment. I’m enjoying the moment.
“This,” he said, hefting his trophy, “this is the most important thing right now.”
In addition to trophies, tournament officials also handed out the Purolator Big Bass of the Day awards on Saturday, handing over a $1,000 check to Kevin Wiggins of Las Vegas, Nev. Wiggins landed a 10-8 largemouth using a 6-inch watermelon/red flake Senko worm. It was his very first catch of the day, hitting his lure at about 8 a.m.
“It was a good start,” he said.
The non-boater Purolator Big Bass of the Day award went to Robert Higgins of Clearlake Oaks, Calif. Higgins boated a 5-14 bass that earned him Purolator’s $400 prize.
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail 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, Purolator, Triton Boats, Skeeter Boats, Mercury Marine, Yamaha Outboards, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.
Associate Sponsors include G3 Boats.
The tournament is sponsored locally by Russo’s Marina.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com.