A 22-year-old Paso Robles angler in only his third season of tournament fishing earned SLO County Bass Ambushers’ Angler of the Year honors for 2009. Clay Gates finished among the top five in eight of the club’s 10 tournaments. Included were two championships, four second-place finishes, a third and a fifth.
Clay edged 2008 winner Steve Bereda by eight points.
Two Atascadero teenagers finished among the top 10. Graham Grove placed sixth and was accorded the club’s Non-Boater award. He spent the entire season fishing at the back of various club members’ boats. Austin Bonjour placed ninth.
Final standings are computed by eliminating the points from the two poorest tournament performances and counting the other eight. Forty-three people participated this season.
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Ambushers’ Top 10 finishers, hometown, points: 1. Clay Gates, Paso Robles, 830; 2. Steve Bereda, Santa Margarita, 822; 3. Mitch Wasley, Paso Robles, 813; 4. Al Rush, Paso Robles, 810; 5. Marc Hazuka, Atascadero, 797; 6. Graham Grove, Atascadero, 797; 7. Neil Franklin, Atascadero, 788; 8. Ken Meeks, Atascadero, 788; 9. Austin Bonjour, Atascadero, 751; 10. Alan Branson, Paso Robles, 751. (Note: the 7th place tie was resolved on the basis of Franklin having caught a bigger fish.) Hangover Tournament: An informal bass tournament that has been around for 30 years will once again be held New Year’s Day at Nacimiento Lake. Two person teams pay an entry fee of $50. Blast off will be at 7 a.m. and weigh-in at 3 p.m. All are welcome. No affiliation with any tournament series is necessary.
Virg’s Landing, Morro Bay: Whale watching trips are scheduled Friday, Saturday and Sunday. The New Year’s Day trip will be from 11 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Beginning Saturday, trips will be at the regular times of 9:30 a.m. to noon. Fares are $39 for adults, $29 for ages 15 and under. When there are a sufficient number of reservations, afternoon trips departing at 1:30 p.m. may be arranged. Call: 772-1222 for more information.
A combination sanddab and crab fishing trip is scheduled for Sunday from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. The fare is $59.
Patriot Sportfishing: Whale watching trips will be offered Saturdays only from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Fares are $35 for adults, $15 for ages 4-12 and $10 for children 3 and under. Group trips may be arranged by calling 595-7200.
W.O.N. Bass Tournament No. 4 will take place Saturday at Nacimiento Lake.
Highlights of 2009January — The Gold Coast Bass Club disbanded after 34 years because no members were willing to assume leadership roles.
Because he refused to listen to his inner voice and didn’t switch from jigs to spinnerbaits soon enough, Steve Bereda of Santa Margarita lost an Ambushers’ bass tournament at Santa Margarita Lake by 0.2 pounds.
Tip Martin of San Luis Obispo recalled where he’d won a tournament some 15 or 20 years ago at Nacimiento Lake. He returned to Dip Creek and caught a 4-pounder that gave his team a second place W.O.N. Bass finish.
February — The Twomey brothers, Bill and Pat from Lompoc, won their first tournament in ages among a record field of 40 boats in a Tri Valley test at Nacie. Their payday: $1,030.
Brayden Kahler, 5, won the key to his dad’s heart six days before Valentine’s Day. He showed his dad, Dusty, how and where to catch a big fish in practice. Dusty Kahler and Mark Hinson won the ABA tourney and $2,150. Brayden received a nice financial tip from Hinson, who was unable to practice due to job demands.
While fishing at his leisure, Bereda came to the rescue of a 13-9 bass at Santa Margarita Lake. The bass was choking with six to 10 inches of catfish protruding from its mouth. Using pliers he removed the catfish. The bass swam off but the whiskerfish expired.
March — Arroyo Grande’s Jared Lintner launched his fourth season on the Bassmaster Elite tour with what was to be his best tournament of the year. He placed third at Lake Amistad in Texas, earning $20,000 for his 76-10 bag weight for 20 bass.
Atascadero’s Herm DeLore and Matt Messina weighed a massive 38.86-pound, six fish limit in winning a Tri Valley tournament at Santa Margarita Lake.
The catch of 18 pounds of fish in a span of 10 minutes catapulted a rookie duo of Shawn Wilson and Paso Robles’ Mark Gomes to a W.O.N. Bass win at Santa Margarita Lake with a 27.09-pound limit worth $2,600.April — Jay and Matt Short, a Templeton father and son team, registered a winning limit of 23.20 pounds to take home $2,405 in ABA money at Lopez Lake.
A lawsuit filed against the DFG in 2006 caught up with fishing at Camp Roberts. The suit will prevent trout plants in the Nacimiento River. Without trout to catch, the season was cancelled.
Five smallmouth bass helped Oceano’s Jeff Rose and his father, Craig, to a Tri Valley Bass win at Lake San Antonio. The duo won by better than two pounds.
May — After being shuttered for 151 days, the rockcod ocean fishing season began on May 1.
Atascadero’s Tammy Story won the top prize, $3,000, in the 8th Annual Lopez Lake Trout Derby. She caught the highest numbered trout, No. 88.
On May 28, Roger Haas of Morro Bay caught a largemouth and smallmouth bass on the same cast at Cachuma Lake. The catch powered Haas and Todd Livermore of San Luis Obispo to an ABA win and $2,935 check.
On the same day, on separate Patriot boats, the largest lingcod and halibut jackpot fish of the year were caught. Louie McCombs landed a 20-12 lingcod while Lompoc’s John La Pointe caught a 31-9 halibut. Virg’s Landing’s biggest lingcod were 17-pounders caught in May by John Van Dam, Tipton and in August by Danny Means.June — A 42-pound halibut caught by Atascadero’s Sean Bernardino on June 26 was the heaviest fish of the year aboard the Rita G out of Central Coast Sportfishing. Cambria’s Jim Webb landed the biggest lingcod, 12 pounds, on June 5.
A trio of anglers were pursued by a bear swimming toward their boats during an Ambushers tourney at Lopez. The animal first wanted to get up close and personal with Austin Bonjour and later swam toward Clay Gates and his dad, Paul. The anglers motored out of the bear’s domain. The next day lake rangers discounted any danger. Of course, they weren’t at the scene.
July — Largest halibut caught aboard Virg’s boats were 17-pounders by Ray Bulthuis in July and Darlene Stepp in August.The actual column detailing the 16th Annual Halibut Derby on July 25-26 did not appear until several months later due to a gall bladder attack that put this columnist on the disabled list for a protracted period of time.
Nipomo’s Andy Koch placed first with a 54-pound, 2-ounce flattie on Sunday. It was nearly 15 pounds heavier than the previous derby record. Atascadero anglers Greg Malik and Bob Hardy caught their second- and third-place fish on Saturday. Their weights were 26-2 and 15-2, respectively.
August — The largest lingcod of the year capturing PSL Boatyard Whopper honors was a 25-pounder by Nipomo’s Joe Mylan on Aug. 28.
September — PSL Boatyard had a tie for the largest white seabass taking Whopper honors. Greg Malik of Atascadero was the winner with a 35-pounder on Sept. 20 and Orcutt’s Charlie Ussery duplicated that on Sept. 26.
The heaviest albacore caught out of Patriot Sportfishing was a 17-pounder by Santa Maria’s Joe Torres on Sept. 28.
Darrin Bishop of Paso Robles and his dad, Del of Templeton, earned the championship at Clear Lake in the two-day W.O.N. Bass Tri States tournament, an event that drew 108 teams. The 44.93-pound, 10-fish weight earned the Bishops a certificate for a 2010 Nitro Z7 bass boat, a package worth $30,000.
The heaviest albacore caught out of Virg’s were 28-pounders by Evan Beckett and Dan Holtzman of Atascadero.
October — Jared Lintner earned a $32,328 check by placing third at Clear Lake in an FLW National Guard bass tourney. He had a four-day weight of 82-5 for 20 bass.
The largest halibut of the year earning PSL Boatyard Whopper honors was a 34-pound, 6-ounce fish caught by Scott Hollingsworth of Morro Bay on Oct. 11.
First time W.O.N. Bass winners at Nacie were Dan Barrios of San Luis Obispo and partner Casey Langley of Arroyo Grande, with an 8.97-pound limit worth $4,450.
November — Craig Gong grabbed first place honors in the Patriot Sportfishing Lingcod Contest with a 21-pound, 9-ounce ling caught on Nov. 12, just four days prior to the end of the 3-month long event. The catch was worth $3,000.
Rockcod fishing ended for the next 5 1⁄2 months on Nov. 15.
December — Cambria’s Erik Zillig and Tim Vaughan of Los Osos, competing as a team for the first time, won a W.O.N. Bass event at Lopez by a margin of 0.12 pounds. The achievement was worth $2,655.