Before he weighed in, Arizona's Dave Mehalechko fidgeted next to a holding tank, estimating whether his final catch would be enough to help him finally beat Utah Federation angler Jim Bishop of Grand Junction, Colo. Although both anglers were all but guaranteed berths in the Federation Championship, Mehalechko wanted to be the best angler in the west.
"When the scales close, that's when it's done," he said. "Right now, I have a chance to beat Jim and, if I do that, that would be so awesome. He's such a good fisherman."
Bishop struggled slightly on the third day, bringing in only four bass weighing 5-13 and said the day had been a battle. He spent the tournament flipping Pepper Hawg Jigs and spinnerbaits, using colors from chartreuse to black in order to tempt Powell's bass.
"We tried some holes," he said. "They didn't work out."
When Mehalechko's 7-14 proved 7 ounces shy of Bishop's 27-7 benchmark, Mehalechko was philosophical.
"Well, we all knew Jim was the angler to beat on Lake Powell," he said, swiftly turning his focus to his championship berth. "But I'm ready. Let's leave now!
"I've been (to the amateur world championship) before, so I wanted to come back and do it again," added Mehalechko, who topped his closest Arizona competitor by 6 pounds, 2 ounces. "I'm very excited that I came back and did it. Last night, I was dreaming about it."
The tournament's $13,000 prize purse will be divided among the state teams, based on their anglers' cumulative catches. The eventual distribution of the prize money is determined by each state's Federation. Arizona finished in last place, but Mehalechko said all of his team's share of the prize purse goes directly back to the state Federation's coffers.
"We're just fishing for a spot at the championship," he said, beaming.
Mehalechko, an insurance salesman for AIG from Glendale, Ariz., and Bishop, the owner of Jim Bishop Painting, will be joined by Oregon's Dave Palmer, an electrician; California's Mike Rold, a soils technician for Wallace Kuhl and Associates; Colorado's Joe Conway, a general contractor with Ty-rex Construction; Brent Shores, a television host from Idaho; immunologist Jay Evans of Montana; New Mexico's Bob Lechel, an environmental scientist with Los Alamos National Labs; Washington's Paul McKenney, an auto mechanic with Quick Auto Clinic; and University of Wyoming electrical engineering major Tyler Swaney.
New Mexico's team walked away with top honors in the event after catching a cumulative 214-2, and will take home the largest portion of the prize purse.
The other much-coveted prize was also awarded Friday after Marco Rodriguez of Nyssa, Ore., brought in a 6-pound, 10-ounce lunker that became the Purolator Big Bass of the Tournament. Rodriguez, an Idaho Federation team member, said the $1,000 from Purolator is earmarked for a new trolling motor.
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. 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 BASS Federation Western Divisional 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.
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