A juxtaposition is in progress for the Bonjours of Atascadero with respect to the sport of fishing.
Now it’s son Austin, 20, schooling his father, Larry, in the art of successful tournament bass fishing.
The Bonjours have only participated at the tournament level for two years. This season, they are entering more than one tournament series.
On Saturday at Santa Margarita Lake, they registered their first tournament championship by a mere seven-hundredths of a pound.
That slim margin made an $855 difference at the pay window. Runners-up Jay Short of Templeton and Atascadero partner Damon Meeks came up a bit short once the weigh-in concluded.
“I knew that there would be big bites early in the day due to the weather,” Austin Bonjour said. “That’s what happens when there are high skies and little wind. I targeted subtle, specific structure and on my third cast, I connected with a big one. Heck, we didn’t even have our net out of the storage locker. My dad scrambled for it and netted the fish before it could wiggle free.”
Austin Bonjour cast a crankbait into five feet of water to bag the 8.82-pound bass. Essentially, that fish won the third Best Bass Coastal Region competition.
At that time, the Bonjours didn’t know it, but that catch turned out to weigh better than 2 1⁄2 pounds more than any of the other 67 fish caught in the event by the 25 two-men teams.
Later in the morning, Austin reeled in two more bass that weighed in excess of four pounds, one of them on a Senko.
“We had a limit by 1 o’clock, as my dad contributed a pair of fish by drop-shotting,” said
Austin, who gambled the rest of the day, aiming for big fish by only throwing big baits. “We didn’t catch a fish in the last two hours of the tournament.”
Austin Bonjour said his dad took him fishing when he was only 2 or 3 years old.
“I caught my first bass at Atascadero Lake when I was 4,” he said. “Dad got me interested in fishing, and now he’s learning about bass fishing from me.”
The Bonjours’ winning weight of 23.60 pounds paid $1,755.
Short and Meeks had a 23.53-pound limit that was worth $900. They also had the fourth-heaviest fish, 5.58 pounds.
Only five of the 35 teams entered had five-fish limits. Sixteen teams caught four fish, and 10 teams blanked.
Best Bass. Top 10, Number of Fish, Weight, Winnings
1. Austin & Larry Bonjour, Atascadero, 5, 23.60 pounds, $1,755; 2. Jay Short, Templeton, Damon Meeks, Atascadero, 5, 23.53 pounds, $900; 3. Jason Ballew, Doug Slayton, Hollister, 5, 18.16 pounds, $695; 4. Tai Martin, Pismo Beach, Whitney Uyeda, Buellton, 5, 15.23 pounds, $415; 5. Justin Goodman, Teddy Engdahl, San Luis Obispo, 4, 15.14 pounds, $180; 6. Kaleb Sawdey, Paso Robles, Matt Pigeon, Santa Margarita, 3, 14.66 pounds, $260; 7. Matt Clausen, Troy Tidwell, 4, 12.83 pounds, $140; 8. Brian Beckham, Ty McCutcheon, Bakersfield, 4, 12.40 pounds; 9. Jason Lazzerini, Moss Landing, Geno Lazzerini, Prunedale, 5, 11.31 pounds; 10. Jeremy Black, Jon Langston, 3, 10.78 pounds.
1st Big Fish, 8.82 pounds, Bonjour & Bonjour; 2nd Big Fish, 6.70 pounds, Ballew & Slayton; 3rd Big Fish, 6.65 pounds, Sawdey & Pigeon; 4th Big Fish, 5.58 pounds, Short & Meeks; 5th Big Fish, 5.24 pounds, Martin & Uyeda.
Glenn Fukumoto reports that barred perch up to 21⁄2 and 3 pounds are being caught north of the rock on Morro Strand Beach. Gulp sand worms and even nightcrawlers are productive baits. Rubberlip and Pile perch are being caught by anglers on the North and South T Piers using the same baits.
Whale watching trips are planned for Saturday from 1 to 3 p.m. and Sunday from 10 a.m. until noon. Cost is $39 for adults, $29 for children 12 and younger. For reservations, go to www.virgs.com or call 772-1222.
A crab and sanddab trip is scheduled for Saturday. Cost for the 7 a.m. to 1 p.m. trip is $60 for adults, $50 for children 12 and younger. Adult fares are $35 and tickets for children 12 and younger are $25 for Sunday’s whale watching trip from 9 to 11 a.m.
For reservations, go to www.patriotsportfishing.com or call 595-7200.
“We’ve got spring-like fishing happening now,” Dave Rymal reports from Heritage Ranch. “Last Friday, Doug Rice used spinnerbaits to catch and release 30 spotted bass, plus a 15-pound catfish. Also on Friday, Greg Hanley caught and released 20 to 30 spotted bass with Senkos and by drop shotting. A few white bass have shown up in Las Tablas Cove.”
Reporting from the marina, Mike Palmer said last week’s activity was highlighted by two catches. Roger Vogel from Avila Beach caught a 6-pound largemouth on a nightcrawler while fishing at Marina Point. Arroyo Grande’s Arthur Machado used a spinnerbait to bag a 3 1⁄4-pound smallmouth at Strawberry Flats.
Santa Margarita Lake
Ted Radcliff of Creston is a regular customer at the lake, showing up a couple days each week. He’s catching catfish ranging from 6 to 12 pounds employing hot dogs for bait.
Trout fishing earned only a “fair” rating last week. Trollers experienced the best results at the dam and along the wall between Santa Cruz and Cachuma Bays. The most productive approach was flat-lining Rapalas and Kastmasters. Shore fishermen connected with rainbows with PowerBait and inflated nightcrawlers at E Point as well as beyond the buoy line in the marina. The next 4,000-pound trout plant from the Calavaras Trout Farm will be March 20.
Crappie fishing was rated “good” by marina manager Ken Hemer. They were biting in Santa Cruz Bay on trolled or drifted mini jigs. The bass bite remained “slow.”