Western Outdoor News (WON) tournament fishing returns to Roosevelt Lake this weekend for a pro-am tournament that is expected to draw top-notch anglers from around the west as well as most of Payson’s finest.
“Many of those from out of state will come from California,” said Tracy Purtee, Arizona’s WON tournament director.
Payson entrants include Clifford Pirch, Kyle Randall, Bobby O’Donnell, Keith Hunsinger, Buddy Randall, John Browning and Purtee.
The field is an interesting mix, especially Pirch and Kyle Randall, both Payson High School graduates and former Longhorn athletes.
Pirch has been fishing the professional tournament circuits, including FLW, B.A.S.S. and WON for a decade, and has enjoyed plenty of success.
Randall, however, graduated from PHS just last year and is a relative newcomer to competitive fishing. But last year, while still a senior at PHS, he teamed with classmate Cameron Geske to win the inaugural Open High School Bass Tournament at Roosevelt Lake.
With that win, he has turned his attention to further honing his skills for perhaps a run at professional competition.
This weekend’s tournament is the second on WON’s Pro Am circuit that began Feb. 11 and 12 at Lake Havasu and will wrap up Sept. 29 and 30 at Lake Mead.
At the Lake Havasu tournament, hometown angler Billy Skinner took top honors, boating a limit of 10 fish that tipped the scales at 34.24 pounds.
Purtee is unsure if Skinner will enter the Roosevelt tournament.
Early registration for the tournament began yesterday, Thursday, at The Tackle Box in Tonto Basin and continues today at the Mazatzal Casino.
After refreshments and Hors d’Oeuvres at 5:30 p.m. today, Friday, a mandatory meeting and partner pairing will begin at 6 p.m.
The tournament tees off at 4:30 a.m. tomorrow, Saturday, with boat inspections, and continues at 6 a.m. with the presentation of colors.
The first flight of anglers is expected to take off from the Cholla ramp at safe light, or about 6:30 a.m.
After two days of competitive fishing, the awards ceremony, which is open to the public, will begin at 5 p.m. in the Mazatzal Casino bingo room.
Local fishing reports indicate the best chance to catch bass appears to be shallow, especially for post-spawn fish off major points, islands and reefs of main lakes. Drop shots off points are reported to be effective, but there should be some top-water action, especially at first and last lights. Currently, the lake level is 66 percent.
The WON tournament is not the first to be held at Roosevelt.
In February 2011, 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 a WON pro event at Rosie.
Among the Payson anglers entered, Hunsinger boated 21.14 pounds and was fifth in the amateur or AAA field.
Also in the AAA field, O’Donnell was 13th with 18.96 pounds and Purtee caught 11.66 pounds and was 55th.
A field of 61 boats turned out for the tournament, prompting WON tournament director Billy Egan to declare his organization’s goal was to