UPCOMING EVENT: FLW SERIES - 2020 - Toledo Bend Lake

Western shootout

Western shootout
Stren Western top-10 anglers look to the flag for the playing of the National Anthem on the final day at Clear Lake.

KELSEYVILLE, Calif. - It all comes down to this: Eight hours of final fishing for largemouth bass on beautiful Clear Lake. Not a bad day at the office. Showing up for work on a misty Saturday morning were the top 10 pros and 10 co-anglers who are vying for a win in the season opener of the Stren Series Wester Division.

And these are the kinds of employees for which most bosses would trade their holiday bonus: skilled, thoughtful and eager to greet the task at hand. In this case, the anglers' job is to sack the heaviest five-bass limit possible before quitting time. The payday is substantial, with the top pro winning a prize package worth as much as $65,000, and co-anglers competing for a winning prize worth up to $35,000.

Pro leader Steve Ericksen of San Jose, Calif., exuded confidence as he prepared for takeoff at Redbud Park in Clearlake, Calif., and was happy to be carrying nearly a 7-pound lead into the final hours of competition.

"I feel really good; I'm fishing an unpressured area," he said. "I'm pumped."

Ericksen has been fishing mostly on the north end of the lake this week, and he'll be "flipping dirty water" today with "a heavy jig with a ton of scent on it." He'll target tules and trees like he did yesterday, but said he is ready to fish some backup areas and to "adjust my baits by downsizing and changing colors" if need be. With today's new launch location on the south side of the lake, Ericksen will face a long run to his sweet spot to start things off.

No. 2 pro Randy McAbee Jr. of Bakersfield, Calif., has a steep hill to climb, but he seemed ready to face the challenge as he made last-minute tackle preparations before takeoff this morning. When asked if the 7-pound deficit was too daunting, he said, "Not on this lake," where the big bass of the day can approach 10 pounds.

Pro Randy McAbee Jr. prepares his rods in the No. 2 boat as co-angler Kyle Baker awaits the final day of competition in the Stren Western season opener on Clear Lake."I'll be flying all over," he said. "I need to find that active school of fish; once I do, I can catch five or six fish - hopefully the 4- and 5-pounders I've been catching - but I need to find that one big one."

A co-angler champion will also be crowned at today's weigh-in. Out in front to start the day was Tommie Goldston of Gardnerville, Nev., who held a much slimmer lead - 1 pound, 1 ounce - over second-place co-angler Kyle Baker of Lancaster, Calif.

To make things even more interesting for back-boaters, only 4 pounds, 11 ounces separates first from 10th in the Co-angler Division, so it's anybody's game to win.

Anglers will compete in agreeable weather on Clear Lake today, with a high of 60 degrees forecast along with clear, sunny skies and no wind. This is a stark departure from the cold-front conditions these men faced earlier in the week during practice. For some, who have been eager for the bass to move shallower into warmer water, that's a good thing; for others, especially those who have been Anglers bow their heads in prayer before takeoff on Clear Lake.fishing for reaction bites, the beautiful weather could be detrimental.

Logistics

Pros are fishing for a top award of $25,000 plus a 198VX Ranger powered by an Evinrude or Yamaha outboard and equipped with a Minn Kota trolling motor and Lowrance electronics if Ranger Cup guidelines are met. If the winner is not a Ranger Cup participant, Ranger will award $7,500 to the highest-finishing Ranger Cup participant in the contingency program.

Co-anglers are casting for a top award of a 177TR Ranger powered by an Evinrude or Yamaha outboard and trailer. If the co-angler meets the Ranger Cup guidelines, they will earn an additional $5,000. If the winner is not a Ranger Cup participant, Ranger will award $2,500 to the highest-finishing Ranger Cup participant in the contingency program.

Competitors are also vying for valuable points that could earn them a trip to the Stren Series Championship on Pickwick Lake in Florence, Ala., Nov. 5-7 for a shot at $150,000 in the Pro Division and $60,000 in the Co-angler Division. After four qualifying events are complete in each Stren Series division - Central, Northern, Southeast, Texas and Western - the top 40 pros and 40 co-anglers based on the points standings from each division will advance to the championship.

Pro Roy Hawk and co-angler Mark White motor toward final competition on Clear Lake in the No. 8 boat.Weighing in

Today's final weigh-in will be held at the Walmart store located at 15960 Dam Road in Clearlake beginning at 4 p.m. Pacific time. It is free and open to the public.

For bass-fishing fans unable to attend the festivities in person, you can catch all the weigh-in action live at FLWOutdoors.com with FLW Live.

Saturday's conditions

Sunrise: 6:34 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 32 degrees
Expected high temperature: 60 degrees
Water temperature at the ramp: 49 degrees
Wind: light and variable
Maximum humidity: 80 percent
Day's outlook: clear skies and abundant sunshine

Tags: patrick-baker  morning-story  2009-03-05-clear-lake 

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