State qualifier set for Lopez Lake on Friday

Forty bass fishermen will endeavor to keep alive their dreams of being crowned California’s first recognized state champion.

Their playground on Friday will be Lopez Lake, one of four regional sites leading to the coronation of a Bass King next month at Clear Lake.

The 40 have already cleared one hurdle — placing in the top 10 in earlier competitions at Castaic Lake in January, Cachuma Lake in February, Pyramid Lake in April or Lake Nacimiento in May.

Friday’s assignment: Place in the top 10 at Lopez. Associated bonuses are: No. 1, a berth in the two-day championship event at Clear Lake; No. 2, a guaranteed minimum check for $1,000; and No. 3, an exemption from having to qualify via a local tournament during the 2011 California Bass Championship series.

They will begin competition already qualified for a regional. Fourteen are residents of San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara or Monterey County.

Darrin Bishop of Paso Robles won the Nacimiento event, which attracted a field of 26, by more than a pound over Jason Letterman of Salinas. Other qualifiers from that event in order were: Ken Sauret of Paso Robles, Mark Hinson of San Luis Obispo, Chris Rains of Soledad, James Keeney of Paso Robles and Damon Meeks of Atascadero.

In the Cachuma qualifier Nipomo’s Larry Zepeda placed second less than a pound back of champion Brandon Ober of Camarillo. Stan Skou of Los Alamos was sixth, Clark Small of Solvang was seventh, Doug Chessmore of Santa Barbara was ninth, and Tai Martin of San Luis Obispo was 10th.

Bryan Vogt of Paso Robles placed seventh and Casey Langley of Arroyo Grande was eighth at Pyramid to earn a Lopez berth.

The six-hour Lopez competition begins at 6 a.m. when the first of two flights will blast off. Flight two takes off 20 minutes later. Spectators are invited to watch the weigh-in ceremonies, which will commence start around noon. It’s an opportunity to witness the pomp and circumstance associated with big time bass tournaments.

Each entrant fishes alone. The majority of the field has honed their skills over many seasons of competition. Both Bishop as well as Bakersfield’s Randy McAbee, Jr. have won bass boats in end-of-the-year tournaments at Clear Lake. Halibut Derby Planning

Planning for the 17th Annual Halibut Derby out of Port San Luis, scheduled for August, is under way. Contact Port San Luis Boatyard co-owner Marty Codorniz for details.

Pablo Chagolla, San Luis Obispo, was Whopper of the Week winner with a 14.9 halibut caught Sunday. The leader this week is Greg Cobb of Oceano. He caught a 41.4-pound halibut Monday.

Seventy-eight boats were launched last week when three-quarter to full-limits dominated. Forty-two lingcod and one halibut were in the catch. Virg’s Landing

A 7-pound red rockcod caught by Jon Hughes of Bakersfield was the big fish of the week. An overnight trip is scheduled this weekend, departing at 3 p.m. on Saturday and returning late Sunday afternoon. The fare is $205. Anglers may return with two limits of fish. For reservations, more information Call: 772-1222. The Cayucos 4th of July Fireworks were viewed from the sea by 129 people aboard three of Virg’s boats.

Other jackpot winners were: Byron Humphrey, Woodlake, Rick Evans, Oregon, and Kristian Pugo, Bakersfield, all 6-pound lingcod; Kane Davis, Morro Bay, 5-pound lingcod; Bruck Lamsses, Fresno, James Taftt, Atascadero, both 5-pound red rockcod.

The catch by 314 passengers included 11 lingcod, 584 red rockcod, 1,562 assorted rockfish, 38 bocaccio, 148 coppers and 63 bolina. Patriot Sportfishing

Visalia’s Darrin Fagunde had last week’s big fish, a 14-pound lingcod. Thus far this season, 10 free passes have been gifted to anglers who have caught a lingcod 10 pounds or larger and released it alive. When accompanied by an adult, children 12 and under fish free on Wednesday and Thursday half-day trips. Call: 595-7200 for reservations. Eighty-four passengers viewed the July 4 Pismo Beach Fireworks aboard Patriot boats.

Other jackpot winners were: Charles Cleveland, Santa Maria, 11-pound cabezon; B.J. Johnson, Pismo Beach, 10-pound lingcod; James Farris, Bakersfield, 7-pound vermillion; William Puckett, Lompoc, 6-pound lingcod; Joe Barazza, Santa Maria, 5-pound red rockcod; Dave Navaro, Nipomo, 4 ½-pound copper; Bruce Van Vord, Santa Maria, Jamis Parker, Bakersfield, both 3-pound red rockcod; Julie Cesare, Bakersfield, 3-pound vermillion; Dillon Dambley, Fresno, 3-pound copper.

Last week 323 anglers caught 19 lingcod, 1,043 red rockcod, 944 assorted rockfish, 614 bolina, 26 bocaccio, and 8 cabezon. Central Coast Sportfishing

Winners of the June Big Fish Contest were: 1. Ells Warner, Paso Robles, 10.94 pounds, $500; 2. Jim Webb, Cambria, 10.50-pound lingcod, $250; 3. Tom Payne, Templeton, 9.70 pound lingcod, two Long Range passes. Monthly contests will continue through August 2010.

Delano’s Gloria Garcia was the jackpot winner aboard the Rita G on Saturday. She caught a 7-pound lingcod. Twenty-five anglers caught two lingcod, 78 red rockcod, 75 assorted rockfish and three bocaccio.For reservations, call: 772-3474 or 704-2084.

Santa Margarita Lake

Creston’s Ted Ratcliff caught a 17-4-pound catfish on mackerel while fishing by the dam. Marina operator Don Lopez said there’s an evening topwater bite for bass. Crappie are being caught early in The Narrows. Bluegill and redear are also biting. Lopez Lake

Santa Maria’s Gary Swell harvested a 5-pound largemouth bass with a mealworm for bait. The June 26 catch was made fishing by the bridge. Austin Minnich, 7, San Clemente, and Israel Pineda, 6, Bakersfield, caught largemouth weighing 1 ¾ and 1 ½ pounds, respectively.

Live bait — nightcrawlers, red worms and mealworms — are in demand in the marina. Crappie, bluegill and redear all are active. Lake San Antonio

Most of the boat traffic consists of water skiers. The marina’s Nick Pena says shad are scattered in small groups. Bluegill fishing is good in warm, shallow water. “There’s probably some action by the dam.” Whale Rock

The trout count is stuck on 13 fish after the second consecutive open period, when seven people were blanked. The reservoir has been open for 54 days and has attracted 159 anglers. Fishing opportunities are from Wednesdays through Sundays.