January 13, 2008 by Gary Mortenson
REDDING, Calif. - Local pro Chris Laskowski of Anderson, Calif., knew coming into today's finals that it was his tournament to lose. And he didn't disappoint. Although a few anglers in the top-10 made modest runs at the title, Laskowski's 6-plus-pound cushion held up as he claimed the Stren Series Western Division tournament title on Lake Shasta with relative ease. "It feels great," said Laskowski. "I'm just excited to have had an opportunity to fish a tournament like this. With that kind of lead it made it a little easier for me. I was able to go out and look for more spots to fish all week. I had my limit today by around 11 a.m. and I hardly fished the rest of the day - mostly to give my co-angler an opportunity to catch more fish. But I'll tell you what, I'm glad we didn't have one more day of fishing. Bret (Gouvea) was really starting to come on strong." Laskowski was referencing the tremendous effort made by second-place finisher Bret Gouvea, who turned in the second-largest sack of the finals. However, despite Gouvea's best efforts, the ultimate winner of the tournament title was never really in doubt. After netting an 18-pound bag on day one, Laskowski followed it up with a 13-pound stringer on day two. From that point on, realistically speaking, the rest of the field was competing for second place given how tough the bite was all week. Amazingly enough, Laskowski said he relied on just one bait for the entire tournament to snag his very first FLW Outdoors title. "I only threw a green-pumpkin Senko all week," said Laskowski, who finished in 15th place at the Stren Series event on Lake Shasta in 2007. "I knew I was going to live or die with that bait. I pretty much had five points that I kept going back and forth on all day." Unlike many pros who were pulling bass out of depths ranging from 40 to 50 feet, Laskowski stayed relatively shallow - landing all of his fish in 20 feet of water or less. Fishing in only the second FLW Outdoors event of his career, Laskowski said the win couldn't have been any sweeter. "This is my best finish by far," said Laskowski, who ended the tournament with a four-day catch of 46 pounds, 12 ounces. "You only get one chance in a lifetime to win a tournament like this. I couldn't be happier right now." Gouvea nets second with gutsy effort Although Bret Gouvea of Redding, Calif., didn't take home the title, his 11-pound, 8-ounce catch on the toughest day of the tournament to date showed that he was a worthy competitor nonetheless. "It really hasn't sunk in yet," said Gouvea of his finish. "It feels really good though. I've just had a great last two days." Fishing a 5-inch Yamamoto Senko in 38-feet of water, Gouvea landed a monster 5-pounder at approximately 8:30 a.m. It would turn out to be the catch that would ultimately propel him to the runner-up position in the finals. "The fish were scattered all over the place," said Gouvea, who finished the event with a four-day weight of 41 pounds, 13 ounces. "Over the course of the tournament, I noticed that the fish were pulling out deeper and deeper so I decided to fish a little deeper. And that made a difference." In the end, Gouvea said he was more than happy with his finish. "This is the best finish I've ever had at this level," said Gouvea, who walked away with more than $13,000 in winnings. "It's going to be great for my career." Lee nets third after pattern dries up Day-two leader Robert Lee of Angels Camp, Calif., knew he had some serious ground to make up if he was to challenge the leader during the final day of competition. However, in the end, he just ran out of productive water. "A lot of these guys in the top five know this lake pretty well. But I'm not that familiar with it," said Lee, who finished the event with a total catch of 40 pounds, 11 ounces. "And when you go to a lake you're not that familiar with, you really have to put together a good pattern. I had a good pattern but it just ran out in the end." Lee said that he used two primary baits all week - a 1/2-ounce jig with a Reaction Innovations Smallie Beaver and a Reaction Innovations Flirt Worm. Lee said he targeted chunk rock on the deeper side of points, fishing in water anywhere from 5 to 20 feet. Lee won more than $12,000 for his efforts. Riley grabs fourth place Using a four-day catch of 39 pounds, 9 ounces, Jim Riley of Shasta Lake, Calif., snagged fourth place overall as well as nearly $6,500 in prize money. "I missed a lot of fish this week but I never did lose a big fish," said Riley, who targeted bass with a combination of jigs and Senkos. "I think that had I fished a little slower, I might have done a little bit better." Townsend ekes out top-five finish Bill Townsend of Redding, Calif., used a four-day catch of 38 pounds, 12 ounces to win fifth place by virtue of a tiebreaker over Denny Goldston of Gardnerville, Nev., who also turned in an identical weight. "It's pretty cool to make a top-10 in my hometown," said Townsend, who walked away with over $5,600 in prize money. Townsend also echoed the sentiment on many finalists that the lake was as difficult to fish as it's been in a great while. "The lake has changed every single day," he said. "It was definitely tough out there all week." Best of the rest Rounding out the top-10 finalists at the Lake Shasta event: 6th: Denny Goldston of Gardnerville, Nev., 38-12 7th: John Maes of Roseville, Calif., 36-2 8th: David Rush of Palermo, Calif., 36-0 9th: Stephen Leatz of San Bernardino, Calif., 35-15 10th: Dewayne Bonham of Brentwood, Calif., 35-10 Stren Series Western Division action continues Feb. 20-23 at Lake Havasu in Lake Havasu City, Ariz.