John Murray, a 46-year-old pro who has spent more than half his life competing in professional bass fishing tournaments, nipped Dean Kreuzer of Mesa by a miniscule .48 pounds to win the Western Outdoor News (WON) Bass Tournament pro event.
The angling fray was held Feb. 12 and 13 at Roosevelt Lake.
Murray, of Phoenix, weighed in a 10-fish limit that tipped the scales at 27.80 pounds and was worth 125 tournament points on the WON scale.
Kreuzer boated a limit that weighed 27.32 pounds and scored 124 points.
For Murray’s win, he pocketed $7,396 in prize money, $1,000 in Top 5 option money and a designer watch valued at $400.
Kreuzer’s second-place finish earned him $4,706 and $700 in Top 5 option money.
Murray and Kreuzer also both earned Big Fish prize money. Murray landed a 3.71-pound largemouth and Kreuzer hooked a 4.45-pound lunker.
DeWayne Jackson of Bloomfield, N.M. caught the overall Big Fish of the tournament, a 5.74-pound lunker.
While those catches are nice sized, they pale in comparison to the 14.4-pound trophy bass that pro John Foqua caught Feb. 8 while pre-fishing Rosie in preparation for the tournament.
Murray said he caught his big fish on a River2sea crankbait that dives about 18 feet.
His strategy also included moving to deeper waters with a football jig in 25 feet and he also “did some flippin’.”
The battle between Murray and Kruezer was nip and tuck over the two days with Kruezer finishing opening day as the tournament leader with 16.29 pounds.
Murray was a close second with 16.03 pounds.
Murray’s catch the second day was enough to overtake Kruezer.
Payson pro angler Clifford Pirch finished 33rd in the 61-angler field with 17.18 pounds.
Among the AAA anglers, John Bitting of Westminister, Calif. was first with 26.51 pounds that earned him $1,177.11 in prize money.
Payson’s best showing among the AAA anglers was turned in by Keith Hunsinger with 21.14 pounds and a fifth-place showing.
Also in the AAA field, Bobby O’Donnell was 13th with 18.96 pounds and Bob Hayn weighed in a 10-fish limit of 18.28 pounds that earned him an 18th-place finish. Tracy Purtee caught 11.66 pounds and was 55th.
The final weigh-in was held Sunday afternoon at the Mazatzal Hotel and Casino, which also was the headquarters for the tournament.
The turnout of boats for the event, 61, was short of the 100 that tournament director Billy Egan was hoping for, but he said WON would most likely return next year to host another tournament.
Although the fishing at Roosevelt during the tournament wasn’t great, almost perfect weather conditions and warming temperatures of 70 degrees greeted anglers on both days.
The tournament was the second in a series of pro tournaments that will be held on the WON South Division circuit during 2011.
The first was held Jan. 8 and Jan. 9 at Lake Shasta in California. Following the Roosevelt tournament, others will be held March 26-27 at Lake Havasu, April 16-17 at the California Delta, Sept. 17-18 at Clear Lake, Calif. and Oct. 15-16 at Lake Mead.
For the final 2011 standings, WON will award to winners five fully rigged boats from Nitro Boats and Mercury Outboards.
Although the WON tournament is now in the record books, there is no down time for the Payson Bass Tournament Committee that helped Billy Egan and other officials host last weekend’s event.
Committee members have now turned their attention to an FLW Everstart tournament to be held Feb. 17 to 19 at Roosevelt.
It is expected to draw about 300 anglers.
The tournament festivities kick off 6 p.m. to 8 p.m., Tuesday, Feb. 15 with an “Anglers’ Appreciation Dinner” at the Mazatzal Hotel and Casino.
Activities wrap up at 4 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 19 at Walmart with the final weigh-in.