Without question, the greatest annual accomplishment by members of one of the oldest fishing clubs in the state of California is winning Angler of the Year honors.
Come Dec. 7, a club member for 18 years will be awarded the Don Foge Angler of the Year trophy, which he will get to keep for a year.
This year’s winner, Ken Meeks, 70, of Atascadero didn’t win a tournament. His best finishes were both at Lopez Lake, where he placed third in a March tournament and second in June. Entering all 10 tests and finishing fourth, fifth and sixth helped pave the way to the crown.
The San Luis Obispo County Bass Ambushers is an institution that has been around for decades. I’ve been writing for The Tribune since the mid-1980s. One of my key contacts during those early years was Ambushers tournament director Don Foge. His day job was with this newspaper.
Upon his passing, the club named its annual AOY trophy in Don’s honor.
In Ambushers events, the entry fee is a mere $25 with $5, $10 and $20 options.
Only the top three place winners win cash, provided they enter options.
Obviously, the emphasis in Ambushers tournaments is not on seeking big purses. The joy of competition, learning varied techniques and the camaraderie of it all takes precedence.
“This is the first time I’ve won this award,” said Meeks, who retired in 2008 after 30 years as a plumber at Cal Poly.
“Now I get to fish three mornings a week at Nacimiento and Lopez.”
By working two days a week at Jim’s Pro Bass Tackle in Paso Robles, he acquires further knowledge about his sport through customer contact.
Ken’s son Damon has delved deeper into tournament bass fishing. Last month, he teamed with Templeton’s Jay Short to win the $20,000 first prize in the Best Bass Tournament of Champions.
Ambushers’ AOY Top 10 1. Ken Meeks, Atascadero, 810 points, 2. Jim Keeney, Paso Robles, 803, 3. Burt Lund, Atascadero, 799, 4. Paul Bailey, Creston, 779, 6. Jerry May, Paso Robles, 718, 7. Bryan Vogt, Paso Robles, 717, 8. Michelle Duncan, Bakersfield, 606, 9. Marc Hazuka, Atascadero, 513, 10. Joan Lund, Atascadero, 503. Top 10 Year End Ambushers Tourney at Nacimiento
Number of Fish, Weight, Winnings
1. Michelle Duncan, Bakersfield, 10, 16.13 pounds, $147; 2. Jim Keeney, Paso Robles, 10, 14.20 pounds, $88; 3. Jerry May, Paso Robles, 10, 14.08 pounds, $59; 4. Burt Lund, Atascadero, 10, 13.48 pounds; 5. Erik Zillig, Paso Robles, 10, 13.28 pounds; 6. Bryan Vogt, Paso Robles, 10, 13.25 pounds; 7. Joan Lund, Atascadero, 9, 11.62 pounds; 8. Ken Meeks, Atascadero, 7, 9.61 pounds; 9. Al Rush, Paso Robles, 7, 8.78 pounds; 10. Greg Potruch, Paso Robles, 4, 6.20 pounds.
Day 1 Big Fish, Duncan, 3.17 pounds, $50; Day 2 Big Fish, Potruch, 1.75 pounds, $50.
Combination rockcod and crab trips will be offered beginning Nov. 17. The crew pulls Patriot pots at the start of these 6 a.m. to 2 p.m. trips. The catch is divided among paid adult passengers. Cost is $74.
On Tuesday’s Veterans Day, veterans may board the all-day trip for a reduced fare of $41.
A rarity occurred aboard the Sea Angler on Sunday. Two customers — James Chen and Sisovath Kenoi — tied for jackpot honors with a 10-pound lingcod and both are from Lompoc.
Other jackpot winners included Jimmy Low, Los Angeles, 12-6 lingcod, John Norris, Thousand Oaks, Krystal Hall, Orcutt, and Sal Rocha, Sr., Paso Robles, all 12-0 lings, Abel Cortinas, Corona, 11-0 ling, Rex Awalt, Paso Robles, 9-0 ling, and Basil Gonzales, Orcutt, 6-0 ling.
Last week, 177 anglers caught 144 lingcod, 318 red rockcod, 825 assorted rockfish, 301 bolina and 19 cabezon.
For trip schedules and reservations, go to www.patriortsportfishing.com or call 595-7200.
Art Brazen from the Los Angeles area, La Cienega to be specific, became qualifier No. 26 for the Dec. 6 John Rowley Lingcod Extravaganza. He gained entry into the big cash event by cranking up an 18-pound, 8-ounce lingcod, which was the heaviest bagged by 173 customers last week. Only four weeks of qualifying remains.
Currently, prize money totals $8,356. The Dec. 6 winner will receive 50 percent of the pot with the second- and third-place finishers earning 30 percent and 20 percent of the money, respectively.
Other jackpot winners were Lee Moura, Atascadero, 17-3 ling, Jeff Reed, Burbank, 16-0 ling, Jim Webb, Cambria, 15-5 ling, Levi Wilson, Paso Robles, 14-5, Jose Serrano, Firebaugh, 14-3 ling, Steve Fisher, Fresno, 12-7 ling, Rulen Lopez, Avenal, 10-5 ling, and Benjamin Rivera, Delano, 6-8 sheephead.
The breakdown of last week’s catch was: 256 lingcod, 710 red rockcod, 1,214 assorted rockfish and one sheephead.
For reservations and trip schedules, go to www.virgs.com or call 772-1222.
Port San Luis Boatyard
The catch last week included 32 lingcod, 14 white seabass and two halibut.
Because no fish were weighed, there was no Whopper of the Week. Forty-three boats were launched, but rough seas prompted private boat owners to be landlubbers Tuesday and Saturday. Full rockcod limits were registered Monday and Thursday, three-quarter limits Wednesday and Friday and only half limits Sunday.
Morro Bay Landing
There were no trips last week. Thus far, the only trip held this week was Tuesday.
For trip schedules and reservations, go to www.morrobaylanding.com or call 771-5500.
This season’s most successful angler, Jeremy Harkins, ended two weeks of no catches by adding three more trout to his stash for the season. He caught an 18-inch and a pair of 19-inchers with nightcrawler bait Saturday to bring his 2014 individual total to 39 bows. He’s caught more than that but during the year his name has been linked to partners and their catches were not delineated. Only two anglers showed up bringing the angler total to 498, and the catch to 113 trout.
Whale Rock is open for fishing Wednesdays through Sundays.
Heritage Ranch’s Dave Rymal reports: “Last Saturday, starting at first light, Doug Rice and a friend used spinnerbaits for spotted bass up to 3 1⁄2 pounds while fishing adjacent to the main marina. Later they moved to Bee Rock Cove and switched to drop shotting for continued good spotted bass action.”
Last week Griffin Horton of Arroyo Grande caught a 4-pound, 8-ounce bass fishing off the docks with a green pumpkin jig with twin tail grub trailer. From the marina he reported: “Crappie and bluegill have moved to rocky points where they are dining on meal worms and crappie jigs.”
Anglers are calling the catfish bite “the best they’ve experienced in years.” That’s what marina manager Ken Hemer is hearing.
“Travis Erway from Lompoc had a limit last Thursday with fish up to seven pounds,” Hemer reported. “He was fishing in Johnson Bay using cut mackerel for bait. Another limit was bagged by Patrick Fournier of Santa Ynez. The bass bite varies day-to-day. Lately the best action has been late in the afternoon with reaction baits fished on main lake points.”