SURPRISE, Ariz. – Arizona teammates Matt Shura of Gilbert and Lon Armel from Scottsdale claimed the $10,000 first place guaranteed purse offered by Surprise Ford at the 2019 Surprise Ford Open this weekend at Lake Pleasant hosted by Wild West Bass Trail (WWBT).
After rocketing to the top of the 131 boat leaderboard with 22.60 and a 6-plus pound lead on Day One of the two-day event, the AZ duo narrowly held their lead for the win, adding only 6.35 on the final day.
Their tournament total of 28.95, held off the runner-up team’s weight of 28.55, brought in by brothers Tai and Vu Au – the 2018 Surprise Ford Open champs.
THE BIG DAY
After what Shura called “stumbling on to a pattern in practice”, the team spent their first competition day in Humbug Cove – and it paid off.
“It is a commitment to go there because there are 20 minutes each way of idling time and that alone takes 40 minutes off of your fishing day,” he said.
Shura and Armel decided to make the run, after sticking a couple of nice one in practice.
“We were in the back,” revealed Shura. “We had about a 50-yard stretch of bank that we made several passes on.”
Targeting that stretch, Shura reports getting 12 bites, landing 10 and culling several times.
The event’s Big Bass at 7.59 was included in this Day One limit.
The bait used for all of their Day One weigh fish was a full-size Brush Hog in Watermelon Candy on a Gamakatsu 5/0 Offset hook and a pegged 3/8-ounce Tungsten weight.
“We flipped, pitched and casted the lure,” explained Shura. “We flipped into the trees and structure; but the best locations seemed to the areas around the trees – the lanes – almost like the open water, as if they were on beds.
“I am not certain of that, because the visibility was only about a foot. We had the boat in six-feet and we were throwing up to about a foot or two. So, I am not sure that they were on beds; but it seems like those better fish were.”
Shura described their productive areas as shallow, flatter banks with rocky bottom.
“One of the most important things about what we were doing was to fish what was in front of us,” he said. “If I had a lane, I would side-arm cast that. When I was close-quarters with a tree in front of me, I would flip that.
“Basically, I would go down the bank flippin’ and pitchin’ and when I had the opportunity for a longer cast in a lane, that was helpful as well. Being versatile to fish whatever was in front of us (including the open water) and not just keying in on structure was how we ended up getting those better fish.”
THE NEXT DAY
Day Two didn’t pan out with any bites in their big bass real estate and after about two hours, the team adjusted to the main lake.
“We figured we had a six-pound lead and we could dropshot a limit in an hour two and then go back and try for a big one; but that didn’t work out either,” recalled Shura. “I’ve felt pretty confident dropshotting all over that lake; but it turned out to really be a struggle.
“It was so tough for us that we didn’t get our last fish until 30 minutes to go. We got that one behind the marina and the rest of them on the main lake, over by the 10 lane.”
Their Day Two, weight of 6.35 for a full five-fish limit, underlines their struggle on that final day.
All of the team’s Day Two fish fell to a dropshot rigged with a 51/50 worm in Oxblood, a ¼-ounce weight and a Size 1, light wire Rebarb hook on 6-pound-test with a 12-inch leader (hook-to-weight).
“I like a little bit longer leader,” explained Shura. “I use a lot of slack line, let the worm sink and deadstick; so that’s why the longer leader.”
Thanks to the $10K guarantee from Surprise Ford, Shura and Armel made a total of $15,500 for the weekend of fishing, including a boat contingency and Big Fish payout.
The duo have been fishing together for the past six years and plan to use their winning to continue the fun!
Shura expressed his appreciation for Surprise Ford’s generosity and the WWBT tournament organization.
REST OF THE BEST
2nd 28.55 Au/ Au $2,500
3rd 26.48 Foreman/Crothers $1,300
4th 23.85 Graffa/Dalby $1,100
5th 23.20 Loudon/Creekmore $1,000
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.
A special thanks to all the WWBT sponsors – Ben Green Insurance, Dobyns Rods, Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits, General Tire, Genesis Graphics, Lowrance Electronics, Lucas Oil, P-Line, Power-Pole, Protect the Harvest, Ranger Boats, Super Clean, Top This Premier Accessory Outfitters, Vets 4 Hunting and Fishing.