It took Payson pro angler Clifford Pirch five attempts before he finally won the prestigious WON Bass U.S. Open.
"I've been fifth, sixth, 11th and bombed once," he said after winning the tournament, held Sept. 6-12 at Lake Mead near Las Vegas.
For his victory, Pirch pocketed $70,000 in cash, a new Ranger/Mercury boat package, a Ford F-150 truck and a custom-designed championship ring.
Pirch's prize winnings represented the largest single payday of his pro career.
The U.S. Open, which is stationed out of the Sunset Hotel and Casino in Henderson, Nev., is now in its 24th year and draws some of the country's best tournament anglers. Considered the marquee event in the West, its first-place payday of more than $150,000 is the greatest single award in western U.S. fishing.
"The tournament is definitely one that western fishermen want to win," he said. "It goes good on the resume."
In winning the tournament, Pirch weighed in 29.81 pounds of bass that was more than four pounds greater than the catch of runner-up Shaun Bailey of Lake Havasu City.
Pirch said he was successful by combing strategies of target fishing along windy banks and doing some top-water angling.
"I had 12 rods and I had to have a bunch of strategies, because some of the water was clear, some was stained," he said. "I had to fish my instincts."
At the conclusion of day one, Pirch's five-fish limit of 11.45 pounds was good enough for second place in the standings.
On the second day, his 10.22-pound catch --hich included a nice-sized three-pounder --ropelled him to a three-pound lead in the standings.
Sitting in first place with a day of fishing remaining can fray the nerves of the most seasoned of competitors. Pirch, no stranger to fierce competition, having been a three-sport star at Payson High School, said the pressure is much different in tournament angling.
"You compete, knowing your livelihood is on the line," he said. "It's not that way in (high school) sports."
Pirch's catches during the first two days eventually proved large enough to carry him to the championship, despite the fact he had his smallest tournament bag, 8.14 pounds, on the third day.
Rendering the tournament a huge challenge for Pirch and his fellow anglers was the stingy fishing in Lake Mead and the 105-degree temperatures.
"Mead doesn't have a ton of fish and the heat can take it out of you," he said.
Pirch compared maneuvering a bass boat at 70 mph through the searing desert heat to "sticking your face in a blow dryer."
On to the Golden State
With the win at Lake Mead in the rear view mirror, Pirch traveled to Clear Lake near Kelseyville, Calif., where he is now participating in the final U.S. National Guard Western Division tournament of the season.
Pirch is a pro member of Team National Guard that competes on the $10 million Wal-Mart FLW Series tour.
The Clear Lake tournament, hosted by the Konocti Harbor Resort and Spa began Oct. 24 and will wrap up tomorrow, Saturday.
Pirch arrived at Clear Lake four days before the tournament tipped off to begin his practice fishing rounds. In pre-fishing, he was joined by his father, Dennis, a retired Payson High School teacher-coach and the current Payson Roundup outdoor columnist.
Clifford Pirch calls Clear Lake, "a fun place to fish, because there are so many fish."
Prior to the onset of the tournament, he predicted local anglers would have a slight edge in the competition because they know the lake well.
"But, I'll go out there and see what I can do against them," he said.
Coverage of the Clear Lake FLW Series tournament will be broadcast to 81 million Fox Sports Net subscribers and will be part of the FLW Outdoors television program, airing Dec. 30.
The program is also broadcast internationally to 350 million households in Europe, Africa and Asia.
In addition to Pirch being sponsored by the National Guard, he also represents Yamaha, Ranger Boats and Rogue fishing gear.
Pirch, who has earned more than $276,000 in FLW outdoors events, has been featured several times on FLW television, which usually airs locally on Sunday mornings.