May 16, 2009 by Vince Meyer
OROVILLE, Calif. - When David Rush needs a break from the day-to-day grind he makes the 15-minute drive from his home in Palermo to Lake Oroville, fishes for bass and goes home refreshed.
Today he goes home exhausted, but with a check for $16,716 and a Ranger boat package as winner of the third Stren Series Western Division tournament of the season.
Rush topped a field of 109 pros, who almost unanimously limited out each day with spotted bass of nearly identical size, making the battle for No. 1 a true fight to the finish. Rush used sacks of 9 pounds, 12 ounces on day one, 10 pound, 2 ounces on day two and 9 pounds, 10 ounces on day three to accumulate 29 pounds, 8 ounces and win his first tournament since a Walmart Bass Fishing League tournament in 2000.
Rush was pushed to the end by three other pros who finished a combined 17 ounces off his winning weight: Ishama Monroe with 29 pounds, 4 ounces; Jason Bubier with 29 pounds, 2 ounces; and Michael Tuck with 29 pounds, 1 ounce. Even the No. 10 pro, Kurt Walters, was just 3 pounds, 4 ounces off the pace.
It was a close, mentally-fatiguing tournament for all competitors. Rush, who operates two trucks during construction season and also helps his wife run a foster home, knows all about mental fatigue and what it takes to compete and win at this level.
"It normally takes a couple days on the water just to get my head straight, to leave behind what I need to and get into what I'm doing now," Rush said. "It's really tough. Guys who fish all the time have the advantage of not having that headache."
But a lot of other guys at this tournament didn't live 15 minutes down the road.
"This lake is No. 1 for me because I can sleep in my own bed when I fish a tournament here," he said.
Rush was in seventh place after day one and fourth place after day two. His heaviest sack came on day two, and he said he didn't think he had enough on day three to jump over the three pros ahead of him.
"When that sun came out today and the lake flattened out, I thought I was in trouble," he said. "I fished deeper, didn't sight-fish like I normally do and was just grinding it out. I tried to stay away from everybody and fish a little different, a little deeper."
Most of his weigh fish were caught on a Roboworm or a tube rigged with very small jigs on 6-pound fluorocarbon. He threw these baits to the bank and worked them back down to about 30 feet.
"It was a slow go," he said.
But ultimately, it was an approach that eked out the slimmest of victories.
Monroe is most certainly back
It's been five years since Ishama Monroe has fished a Stren Series tournament, and make no mistake about it: Everyone knows he's back.
Monroe took charge early by setting the pace on day one with a leading weight of 11 pounds, 10 ounces, but faltered on day two and fell to third with an 8-pound, 12-ounce sack. Saturday, he almost found that mark again, bringing 8 pounds, 14 ounces to the scales, good for a total weight of 29 pounds, 4 ounces and a second-place check for $6,687.
Monroe found irony in fishing behind Rush.
"Dave was the first guy I ever fished a tournament with," he said. "He beat me so bad, he made me cry. I was 15 years old, and he said to me at about 1 o'clock in the afternoon, `Here, have a worm.' No, Dave's a great guy and an inspiration to me, and I look forward to fishing against him again."
Bubier can't hold on
Oroville's native son started the day in first place but ended up third, as his five-fish sack weighing 8 pounds, 7 ounces was his lightest of the tournament. He had 10-pound weights each of the first two days and just needed to get close again to claim a victory in his first pro tournament.
But it wasn't to be, as Bubier had a combined weight of 29 pounds, 2 ounces. Who knows who's more heartbroken, Jason or his daughter Leslie, who sang the national anthem before each takeoff and at Saturday's final weigh-in and was with him onstage when he realized he had lost.
But Bubier still claimed a check for $5,349 and has a bright future ahead.
Tuck knocks on the door, finishes No. 4
Michael Tuck was another angler who saw his weights go down each day. He pulled 10 pounds, 15 ounces on day one, 9-10 on day two and 8-8 on day three for a total weight of 29 pounds, 1 ounce and a fourth-place finish worth $4,681.
"It's been a tough week as far as making decisions go," he said. "But I never lost a fish, and this might be the first tournament where I could say that."
Tuck spent the week drop-shotting an 1/8-ounce wacky-rigged worm in 15 to 25 feet for spotted bass. He looked for largemouths, but couldn't find the size he needed to win. He said he saw a beauty on a bed Friday, but couldn't get it to go Saturday.
Lake Roosevelt swimbait rescues Michels
Jeff Michels, who placed fifth with 28 pounds, 6 ounces, said his whole tournament turned on a swimbait he found in a bait shop near Lake Roosevelt in Arizona at the last Western Division stop.
"All my big ones came on this bait," he said, showing it to the crowd at the weigh-in. "Then I finished my limit by throwing worms up shallow in the grass."
The swimbait has a unique action, Michels said: "I can't wait to get it on the (California) Delta. They're going to tear it up."
Best of the rest
6th: Dusty Kahler, Atascadero, Calif., 27 pounds, 15 ounces, $3,678
7th: Charlie Weyer, West Hills, Calif., 27 pounds, 15 ounces, $3,343
8th: Cody Meyer, Redding, Calif., 27 pounds, 1 ounce, $3,009
9th: Duane Dunstone, Reno, Nev., 26 pounds, 12 ounces, $2,675
10th: Kurt Walters, Grand Junction, Colo., 26 pounds, 4 ounces, $2,340