March 12, 2005 by Gary Mortenson
LAKEPORT, Calif. - Was it ever really in doubt? After clobbering the pro field on Clear Lake for three consecutive days, Sieg Taylor decided, "Why not make it a fourth?" Using a whopping two-day total of 45 pounds, 3 ounces over the final two days of competition, Taylor overcame a spirited comeback by pro Jimmy Walker of Alpine, Calif., to capture the prestigious EverStart Series Western Division crown on Clear Lake.
In the end, Taylor walked away with $51,000 in cash and prizes - including a brand-new, fully rigged Ranger boat - as well as his first major tournament win and a mind-numbing four-day total of largemouth bass weighing 94 pounds, 11 ounces.
"Every day went almost perfectly," said Taylor, who broke down in tears after being overcome by emotion immediately after being declared the winner. "I'm almost speechless right now. When people talk about being in a zone, I now know how they feel. After I caught my first big fish on day one, my confidence level soared. I was in a zone pretty much all week."
Ironically, during practice, Taylor said he couldn't have felt worse about his chances.
"I really had to overcome some adversity this week, and that's what makes this win so enjoyable," he said. "My boat broke down and then I had to put my truck in the shop. And that only gave me two days of practice, where I was only able to catch four fish total. If you had told me last week that I was going to win this tournament, I would have told you that you were crazy."
Taylor said that he used a LV 500 Lucky Craft Rat-L-Trap in a ghost-minnow color to land the majority of his catch. The Clearlake, Calif., native said that the key was targeting staging bass on deep ledges in about 4 to 8 feet of water.
"I pretty much did the same thing all week," said Taylor, who had his limit by 8:30 this morning. "I had a really productive area, and I had success there every day."
Overall, Taylor said he couldn't have been happier with the way the tournament finished.
"I had a fantastic week. I had some great co-anglers, and I learned a lot from them," he said. "This is my first major tournament win from the front of the boat, so I couldn't be happier right now."
Walker nets a hard-fought second place
Jimmy Walker knew coming into the finals that he'd have to make a big move if he were to have any chance of winning the title. With only 14 pounds, 8 ounces heading into the final day of competition, Walker was a full 10 pounds behind the leaderboard. However, today he rallied, producing the biggest stringer of the afternoon for a two-day total of 40 pounds, 13 ounces. Unfortunately for Walker, it wasn't enough to overcome the juggernaut known as Sieg Taylor.
"If I was going to finish in second place, I couldn't have lost out to a nicer guy," said Williams, who brought a whopping 26 pounds, 5 ounces to the scales in the finals. "It was just incredible out there today. I didn't catch as many fish as the first day, but boy I got some big bites."
In addition to winning $9,800 in prize money, Williams - a homicide detective from Alpine, Calif., - had something else very important to celebrate.
"This is my 16th wedding anniversary today, and my wife came all the way here to watch me in the finals," said Williams. "It's just been a great week."
Williams also said that he won't be forgetting his experience on Clear Lake any time soon.
"We have big fish lakes in San Diego," he said. "But you just don't have the numbers that they have here. This is definitely one of the best lakes in the country."
Rex finishes the day in third place
Fred Rex of San Jose, Calif., used a two-day catch of 36 pounds, 7 ounces to grab third place overall in the Pro Division and walk away with $8,700 in prize money.
"I think I was the only guy out there flipping all week," he said. "For the first three days, my spot held up. But today, the fish just died on me. But overall, I had a lot of fun."
Reese reels in fourth
On the strength of a two-day catch of 33 pounds, 2 ounces, Jimmy Reese of Witter Springs, Calif., finished the tournament in fourth place, winning a check for $7,700 in the process.
"I had a great week," said Reese. "I probably caught about 100 fish this week on swim baits. This is just a fantastic fishery. But the best part of it is that the old Jimmy Reese is back."
Ballesteros grabs fifth place
Jerry Ballesteros of Burbank, Calif., used a two-day catch of 31 pounds to capture fifth place and walk away with $7,200 in prize money.
"I love clear lake," said Ballesteros, who works full-time for the L.A.P.D. when he's not fishing. "I've struggled in tournaments before, but I was finally able to put four good days of fishing together in a row. This is such a great fishery. I live in southern California, and we have good lakes there. But I'd drive eight hours just to come up here and fish again."
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top 10 pro finalists at the EverStart Clear Lake event:
6th: Brent Lyon of Reno, Nev., 28-6
7th: Bernie Gaunt of West Sacramento, Calif., 28-5
8th: Tom Kilduff of Dewey, Ariz., 26-8
9th: Jon Strelic of Alpine, Calif., 26-3
10th: Rus Snyders of San Mateo, Calif., 22-9
EverStart Western Division action resumes April 6-9 at Lake Mead, located in Henderson, Nev.