April 27, 2003 by Jeff Schroeder
Washington pro beats Californians with biggest sack of the tournament
CLEARLAKE, Calif. - All week long at Clear Lake they were doing it. Anglers were lying in the weeds, saving their big fish so they could pop them in the final round when it really counted. That's what pro Luke Clausen did Saturday when he won the third EverStart Series Western Division tournament of the year with a five-bass limit that weighed 25 pounds, 5 ounces.
Well, sort of. Clausen wasn't so much lying in the weeds as he was stranded in them. The 24-year-old native of Veradale, Wash., quietly made the cut out of the opening round with two solid but otherwise unremarkable Clear Lake stringers. Then in Friday's semifinals, his boat broke down and he barely made the final cut in 10th place.
But with a borrowed boat and a new strategy, Clausen went out Saturday and won the Pro Division by over 5 pounds. His 25-pound, 5-ounce weight was the biggest stringer caught by anybody throughout week in one of the heaviest EverStart tournaments all season.
"I used Brett Hite's boat (the Phoenix pro who won at EverStart Lake Pleasant and also made the Clear Lake semifinals)," Clausen said. "He really saved me today, otherwise I would have been fishing off the dock."
It's been a fortuitous few weeks at Clear Lake for the Washington native, who beat eight California pros for the title in their home state (plus an Oregonian). In addition to the $7,500 winner's check and Ranger boat he earned at this week's EverStart event, he placed third in a BASS tournament here two weeks ago.
Not bad for an angler whose first visit to big, bad Clear Lake was just last year. Not only that, this was Clausen's first EverStart tournament, which he says he entered merely because "I was in town and really didn't have anything better to do."
"I don't know what it is. This lake's always been good to me," he said. "I grew up in Washington, and this is lot like the natural lakes I fish there. I'm excited and glad to finally win here because I've been so close so many times before."
Like many anglers who battled the cold, windy, wet weather all week, Clausen said he struggled much of the tournament. He started the week by trying to sight-fish, but that strategy ultimately petered out with the weather. It wasn't until Saturday - when it counts - that something clicked for him.
"I finally figured it out today," he said. "I found out what to look for, and that was just deeper water adjacent to spawning areas. I fished near deeper retaining walls at about 6 to 8 feet, and I was drop-shotting really slow. After that, I got the confidence to run around to other places just like it. I went to an area that really didn't get fished that much earlier in the week."
While he changed worm colors everyday on his drop-shot rig, Clausen caught the bulk of his fish in the finals with an Aaron's Magic Roboworm on 8-pound fluorocarbon line. He said he burned nearly 40 gallons of gas a day running to his locations.
"Everyday I almost did a lap around the whole lake," he said.
Local favorite, points leader also top-five
Second place in the Pro Division and $7,200 went to Wayne Breazeale of Kelseyville, Calif., a town just up the road from the tournament outpost at Redbud Park. The weigh-in crowd cheered wildly for the local favorite as he weighed in his five bass for 19 pounds even.
"It's just been a really good week," Breazeale said. "I found a lot of good water and a lot of fish."
Brent Ehrler found himself in familiar territory when finished in third place and collected $6,400 with a five-bass limit weighing 16 pounds, 14 ounces. The pro from Redlands, Calif., has finished all three Western Division tournaments to this point of the 2003 season in third place. That accomplishment has put him solely into first place in the division standings with 594 points.
"It's my first year fishing these tournaments," said Ehrler, who mainly used an Osprey swim bait. "It's awesome. I can't believe how good it feels. I just wanted to make the top 20 so I could get points. I don't know the (California) Delta very well, so I was hoping to do that here."
Rounding out the top five pro finishers were Thanh Le of El Cajon, Calif., who placed fourth (worth $5,600) with five bass weighing 16 pounds, 4 ounces and Rusty Salewske of Alpine, Calif., who finished fifth ($5,100) with five bass weighing 13-14.
"I just used small finesse worms all week," Salewske said. "I fished around rocks, tules, everywhere."
And the rest
The rest of the Pro Division top 10 finished as follows: Larry Hopper of Tustin, Calif., took sixth place with a five-bass weight of 10 pounds, 10 ounces (worth $4,600); opening-round leader Gary Dobyns of Yuba City, Calif., took seventh place with a five-bass weight of 10-8 ($4,100); Bill Case of Orange, Calif., took eighth place with a four-bass weight of 8-15 ($3,600); semifinal-round leader Dennis Kolender took ninth place with a two-bass weight of 7-4 ($3,200); Dub Lashot of Walterville, Ore., took 10th place with a three-bass weight of 4-13 ($2,800).
The next EverStart Series tournament is an Central Division contest at Kentucky Lake in Gilbertsville, Ky., April 30-May 3. The fourth and final Western Division tournament of 2003 will be held at the California Delta in Oakley, Calif., May 28-31.
Wickham wins Co-angler Division at Clear Lake