About 300 anglers are living their dream at Roosevelt Lake skipping and hopping over choppy waters in high-dollar bass boats in pursuit of the lunkers big enough to earn the fishermen the FLW Everstart tournament top prize of $35,000.
The anglers, however, will have to wait until 4 p.m. tomorrow, Feb. 19, at the final weigh-in at Payson Walmart to find out if they will be pocketing any of the prize money or be the recipient of another big-time prize — a fully equipped 198 VX Ranger boat with a 200-horsepower outboard motor.
The public is invited to turn out tomorrow at the free weigh-in which almost always turns into festive galas highlighted by anxious anglers carefully removing their catch from bags and gingerly placing them on scales.
The care is because fish must be alive to be counted and are later returned to the lake.
First time weigh-in visitors can be assured there will be plenty of hootin’ and a hollerin’ as fans receive their first glimpses of the bass.
Those wishing to watch tomorrow’s final day take off can catch it at 7 a.m. at the Cholla Recreation site.
The three-day tournament tipped off Feb. 17.
The FLW tournament, which is being hosted by the Town of Payson and the local bass tournament committee chaired by Jim Goughnour and Dennis Pirch, is the third to be held at Roosevelt Lake in the last three years. Last week, the committee also helped host a Western Outdoor News (WON) tournament at the lake.
Representing Payson in the FLW Everstart professional field are Clifford Pirch, Buddy Randall and John Browning.
Local anglers Tracy Purtee, Chris Perkes and Bobby O’Donnell are entered in the tournament as co-anglers.
Other recognizable names include pros Roy Hawk, John Murray and Mark Kile.
Hawk won an FLW tournament at Roosevelt last year, Murray took top honors last weekend in the WON tournament and Kile was a regular on the pro fishing tour for years before retiring to his ranch-home south of Payson.
The local anglers and others who entered the pro division paid an entry fee of $1,000. The fee for co-anglers is $400.
The co-angler top prize is $5,000 and a Ranger 177TR bass boat 90-horsepower outboard.
So, where did the term co-angler originate? In last week’s WON tournament the second fisherman in a boat was called a “AAA” angler.
When FLW laid the foundation for its pro-am formats, officials intentionally chose the title “co-angler” to describe the angler who fishes from the back deck rather than traditional monikers like “no-boater” or “amateur.”
In FLW tournaments, the pro retains complete control of the boat and selects the fishing sites.
Clifford Pirch, a member of the National Guard fishing team, has two FLW Outdoors top-10 finishes in the past two years on Roosevelt — a lake he’s fished since early elementary school. Clifford spent time this past week pre-fishing the tournament and says the weather system passing through the area will most likely have an effect on fishing.
“Something is going to change,” he said. “Bad weather does not necessarily mean fishing is not going to be good.”
His experience at the lake tells him that fishing could improve as the system approaches Roosevelt, but might drop off as it moves out.
Clifford also believes, “there are going to be a lot of checks won with the Roboworm at this term.”
The bait he’s referring to is known among anglers as a darn good drop shot that can be purchased in various colors.
The angler’s task is to find which colors bass are biting on and then target that honey hole bass call home.
Roboworm has sold hundreds of thousands of the colored plastic, bass-pleasing ribs, catching as many fish and winning as much money as any company in the industry.
“There are going to be some co-anglers getting checks by fishing Roboworms all tournament long,” predicts Clifford.
Also occurring tomorrow, Feb. 19, at Roosevelt on the FLW agenda is a college fishing tournament open to full-time students at four-year schools who are members of a bass-fishing club.
In the competitions, which are held around the country, college clubs compete for lucrative scholarships and prizes, plus a chance to compete in the prestigious Forrest Wood Cup at season’s end.
The college tournaments are free to enter and boats and drivers are provided to the collegians.
For those unfamiliar with FLW Outdoors, it is named after Forrest L. Wood, the founder of Ranger Boats, and is the largest fishing tournament organization in the world, offering anglers worldwide the opportunity to compete for millions over the course of 189 tournaments in 2010.