For decades, Central Coast aspiring bass fishermen have honed their skills in club tournaments like the San Luis Obispo County Bass Ambushers, Tri Valley and the defunct Gold Coast Bass Club.
Once they have pronounced themselves ready for stiffer competition they opt for American Bass, WON Bass and the newcomer, 101 Bass, a series that debuted this year and starts again in two weeks.
Austin Bonjour, the 2012 Ambushers’ Angler of the Year, plans to partner with Graham Grove in ABA, 101 Bass and the emerging Outdoor Heritage series, which begins in 2013.
“I’ve been fishing Ambusher events since I was 12 years old,” noted the June graduate of Atascadero High. “Steve Bereda taught me a lot when I was fishing from the back of his boat in club tournaments. Everyone I ever fished with has enabled me to become a power fisherman. I learned to keep my head down and keep fishing.”
Bonjour, who turns 19 later this month, earned Angler of the Year laurels despite the fact his 1988 16-foot Skeeter boat was not equipped with any electronic devices. Things will be different in the upcoming season thanks to a third-place finish he and his dad, Larry, carved out in the 101 Bass Tournament of Champions in late September.
“The $1,620 we won enabled us to finally purchase some electronics,” Austin Bonjour said. “We bought a Lowrance HDS fish finder. And one of our prizes was a Hydro Wave that hooks up to our trolling motor and gives off sounds like shad moving in the water.”
AOY points are awarded for the best eight finishes. The two lowest scores are discarded. Bonjour had one win at Santa Margarita in June when he weighed a 25.37-pound, five-fish limit. His 817-point total gave him a 14-point edge on runner-up Jeremy Lewis, 16, another Atascadero angler.
Lewis, won the final Ambushers’ tournament, a two-day event at Nacimiento Lake on Oct. 20-21.
The four-year participant in Ambusher competition registered his first win although he failed to log a limit Saturday. The Atascadero High junior caught a Sunday limit to finish with a 14.23-pound bag that enabled him to best runner-up Bonjour by 85-hundreths of a pound.
“I prefer the finesse technique of fishing and had my best results with a half-ounce brown and purple football jig in 10 or less feet of water,” Lewis said.
Jeremy and his brother, Jacob, 18, fish from a 17-foot Bass Tracker boat. Jacob had the Sunday big fish, 4.17 pounds, in placing fourth in the 19-angler field.
Marc Hazuka of Atascadero was the lone double winner during the 10-event Ambushers’campaign. Both his wins were at Lake San Antonio. He also had the big fish of the year, 7.22 pounds at Santa Margarita in June.
Ambushers’ 2-Day Tourney, Top 10, Number of Fish, Weight, Winnings
1. Jeremy Lewis, Atascadero, 9, 14.23 pounds, $115; 2. 2. Austin Bonjour, Atascadero, 10, 13.38 pounds, $169; 3. Erik Zillig, Paso Robles, 10, 12.98 pounds, $106; 4. Jacob Lewis, Atascadero, 7, 12.78 pounds; 5. Graham Grove, Atascadero, 10, 12.75 pounds, $40; 6. Jim Keeney, Paso Robles, 8, 12.27 pounds; 7. Dino Comes, Paso Robles, 8, 10.50 pounds; 8. Ken Meeks, Atascadero, 8, 8.77 pounds; 9. Burt Lund, Atascadero, 6, 8.53 pounds; 10. Craig Zillig, Cambria, 7, 8.20 pounds.
Saturday Big Fish, 2.13 pounds, Jim Keeney, $95; Sunday Big Fish, 4.17 pounds, Jacob Lewis, $95.
Ambushers’ Angler-of-the-Year Top 10
1. Austin Bonjour, Atascadero, 817 points; 2. Jim Keeney, Paso Robles, 803; 3. Marc Hazuka, Atascadero, 800; 4. Jeremy Lewis, Atascadero, 796; 5. Ken Meeks, Atascadero, 792; 6. Jacob Lewis, Atascadero, 790; 7. *Burt Lund, Atascadero, 775; 8. Joey Davis, Ataacadero, 775; 9. Jeremy Donk, Atascadero, 769; 10. Allan Branson, Paso Robles, 746.
*Tie broken by heavier fish.Albacore outlook
Today should be fishable for private boaters seeking albacore, says Harrell Kimball from his perch on the Nipomo Mesa.
“The full moon meant a late bite on Tuesday for some boats fishing above The Donut,” he said. “Ten fish was the average. Working the same area Monday, the average was three or four tuna. There were boats at the same location Wednesday. Winds are predicted beginning Friday. They are not horrible but the conditions make for sloppy fishing.”
Tuna fishing out of Virg’s Landing
The Princess was out Wednesday in pursuit of albacore. Fourteen tuna were caught on a crew trip Oct. 24 with four anglers on the Princess. Bob Bodin’s 40-pounder was the topper. Fourteen anglers on the Black Pearl last week harvested 11 fish.
Trips are scheduled to be leaving at 11 p.m. Saturday and Sunday for fishing the next day. Cost is $180.
Call 772-1222 for more information and reservations.
A 5 a.m. to 5 p.m. albacore trip is planned for Saturday. A minimum of eight anglers is required for a fare of $200. Should more than a minimum sign up, the fare probably would be reduced.
Call 674-4854 for reservations and more information.
The jackpot winner on the Sunday overnight albacore trip was Dr. Jeff of Huntington Beach with a 28-pound tuna. Thirteen passengers landed 10 tuna.
Rockcod jackpot winners were led by Shawn Fine of Ridgecrest and Gus Castillo of Visalia. Each had a 16-0 pound lingcod. Also winning jackpots were Juan Lopez, Tulare, 14-0 ling; Larry O’Daniel, Hanford, 12-0 ling; Joey Eamon, Santa Monica, 9-0 ling; Russell Barnes, Arroyo Grande, 8-8 ling; Manuel Lemos, Pismo Beach, and Lavonne Holcomb, Fresno, both 8-0 lings; and John Della, Seattle 6-0 red rockcod.
For trip schedules and reservations, call 772-1222.
Last week 228 passengers caught 157 lingcod, 12 albacore, 960 red rockcod and 1,080 assorted rockfish.Patriot Sportfishing
Jackpot winners on three trips last week were: Roger York, San Luis Obispo, 10-0 ling; Mike Juarez, Oceano, 9-0 ling; and Daniel Mann, Bakersfield, 6-0 ling.
For trip schedules and reservations, call 595-7200.
Seventy-seven patrons last week caught 21 lingcod, 176 red rockcod, 145 assorted rockfish, five cabezon and one rock sole.Port San Luis Boatyard
For the first time in three weeks, no albacore or white seabass were in the catch. Three halibut and 64 lingcod were caught by fishermen aboard 73 launched boats. Capturing Whopper of the Week honors with a 13-pound lingcod caught Oct. 28 was Nipomo’s Phil Silver.
Dungeness crab opener
The highly anticipated annual dungeness crab sport fishery opens statewide Saturday. At this time every year, recreational crab fishing enthusiasts set out in pursuit of the tasty crustaceans. Some set hoop nets and crab traps from boats and piers while others fish crab loop traps on the end of a fishing rod. Still others will dive in to take the crabs by hand, according to the California Department of Fish and Game.
Last week no trout were caught for the second time in the past three weeks. A total of 105 rainbows have been taken in the 26 other weeks (134 days) the reservoir has been open. Ten anglers tried their luck, bringing the season’s total turnout to 627. Counting today, the reservoir will be open just 11 days until closing for the year after fishing Nov. 15.
Santa Margarita Lake
Steve Clark of Santa Margarita, caught a 13-pound, 1-ounce largemouth bass on a Rat-L-Trap last week. A nearly 10-pound catfish was harvested by Atascadero’s Richard Capper landed a catfish weighing nearly 10 pounds Sunday. He used chicken liver and hot dog for bait. Six crappie were landed by Dave Widger of Atascadero on Wednesday.
Marina manager Aaron Boyd reports an unidentified local angler reeled in catfish weighing 21, 20 and 17 pounds Oct. 24, using mackerel and hot dogs as bait. A female angler from Santa Maria bagged a 2 1⁄2-pound redear fishing from the F dock with crawlers.
Josh Wyckoff of Santa Maria caught a 13-pound catfish on mackerel. He was fishing in Cottonwood Cove. On Saturday, Santa Maria’s Gerry Rodriguez reeled in a 57⁄16-pound largemouth on a 5-inch watermelon Senko.
Today is a red-letter day for trout fishermen. The Calaveras Trout Farm is scheduled to plant 4,000 pounds of trout including several hundred pounds of 8-pound trophy fish. Most plants this season will include sterile fish that get bigger than the typical plant of rainbows.
Call 688-4040 for a complete schedule of trout plants.
Catfish continue to be the lone species graded as “good,” marina manger Ken Hemer said. “Most people who fish for catfish are being rewarded for their efforts in The Narrows, Jackrabbit Flats and Little Cachuma Bay. Mackerel and nightcrawlers are the baits of choice.”
Most of the bass action is happening in the evening using crankbaits, spinnerbaits and bottom bouncing techniques. Experienced crappie anglers are catching fish up to 3 pounds in The Narrows and Santa Cruz Bay using C.D. Rapalas, Panther Martins and Roosterails. With extra effort bow fishing for carp can be rewarding.