Less than a month after winning his first FLW Tour tournament, Payson pro angler Clifford Pirch tacked on a third-place finish to his resume, winning the bronze at an Everstart Series Western Division event on the California Delta.
In the three-day fray, which wrapped up May 7, Pirch boated a limit of 15 bass that tipped the scales at 65 pounds, 10 ounces and earned him $8,983 in prize money.
The winner of the tournament, Sean Minderman of Spokane, Wash., weighed in a limit of 68 pounds 5 ounces.
The catch of second-place finisher Charlie Weyer of West Hills, Calif., was just three ounces heavier than Pirch’s limit.
Pirch’s daily weigh-ins were 26 pounds, 8 ounces, 20 pounds, 4 ounces and 18 pounds, 14 ounces.
Following the tournament, the Payson angler told EverStart officials he was fortunate to finish as high in the standings as he did.
“God blessed me with some good fishing. Things could have gone any which way because I blew up my engine right at check in,” he said. “If that happened way out in the middle of the Delta, you don’t get to weigh in those 20 pounds.”
Pirch also told officials he caught most of his fish by drop-shotting a Roboworm.
When sight fishing, he pitched Texas-rigged Senkos and creature baits.
He attributed his sight-fishing success to one of his sponsors — Typhoon Polarized Optics.
The Payson firm of HPR (High Precision Ammo) also sponsors Pirch.
Remembering firefighting roots
Although Pirch has experienced considerable success fishing in Northern California, there is one tournament episode that will probably remain etched in his mind forever.
A few years ago, Clifford relived the incident to this reporter.
It occurred during a 2004 tournament on a Northern California lake.
There, Clifford was trolling a delta waterway when he noticed a small group of workers welding a pipeline on a nearby bank.
A few minutes after first seeing them, he spotted smoke and flames rising from where the men were working.
As the blaze grew in size and intensity, the men labored frantically to put it out.
“They were using their shovels to scoop water and throw it on the fire,” Clifford said. “The wind was blowing and I could tell they were stressing.”
Although the area was remote, a restaurant was only about 200 yards down a gully, directly in the path of the flames.
After realizing the workers were not going to be able to extinguish the wildfire, Clifford went into firefighting mode, partly because he knows the extensive damage wildfires can cause. As a student at Northern Arizona University, he took up summer work as a U.S. Forest Service firefighter.
Calling upon some very creative firefighting moxie, Clifford expertly maneuvered his bass boat close to where the fire was raging. He then popped the gears in reverse and edged to very near the shore.
After lifting the motor part way out of the water, he angled the Yamaha 225 so it was pointing directly at the wildfire.
His next strategy was to hit the throttle and rev the motor to maximum rpms.
The high-powered engine roared and sent a rooster tail of what Pirch estimates was about 1,000 gallons of water directly into the inferno.
It only took a few seconds of the drenching before the blaze was completely extinguished.
Just to be sure the fire was out, the ever-cautious Clifford revved the high-tech engine a second time and sent in another huge wave of water.
The second burst from the boat motor, about another 1,000 gallons, drenched the entire burn area.
Clifford’s quick thinking left the workers who accidentally started the fire staring in comic disbelief.
Tournament wins pay the bills and are what pro fishing is all about, but extinguishing a threatening blaze with blasts of water from an outboard motor is sheer genius.