The Payson angling team of Keith Hunsinger and Robert O’Donnell has qualified for the Western Outdoor News (WON) Tournament of Champions to be contested in September at Lake Mead.
The duo earned the coveted berth by finishing third in the WON Arizona circuit tournament final standings.
The duo competed in all six Arizona tournaments racking up 581 points with 24 bass that tipped the scales at 50.22 pounds.
The two, however, didn’t catch the truly lunker-sized fish that some other competitors hooked.
Their big fish of 2.74 pounds was much smaller than an 8.42-pounder weighed in by the fourth place team of John Sneed of Tonto Basin and Jerry Kirkpatrick.
The Arizona winners, Steve Foutch and Lon Armel of Apache Junction, finished with 592 points and 25 fish that weighed a total of 60.60. Their big fish was 6.12 pounds.
Star Valley resident Kirk Russell also qualified for the Meet of Champions by finishing fifth in the season-long standings. He and partner Brandon Hartman earned 469 tournament points with 49.73 pounds of bass.
Season-ender at Apache
The inaugural Arizona circuit wrapped up May 19 at Apache Lake in what WON tournament director Tracy Purtee calls “great fishing conditions.
“Anglers were fishing their hearts out to see who would qualify for the tournament of champions.”
The Rim Country team of Buddy and Kyle Randall fished their way to first place to tie for 12th in the season’s standings.
At Apache Lake, they boated a five-fish limit of 15.26 pounds that included a 7.05-pound “Big Bass” that was the second largest caught during the six WON tournaments.
“They had a great morning bite,” said Purtee.
Last year, Kyle Randall — then a Payson High senior — teamed with longtime friend Cameron Geske to win the inaugural Open High School Bass Tournament at Roosevelt Lake.
The win qualified the then-students for the High School World Championships held two months later in Russellville, Ark.
Although Randall and Geske didn’t win there, another Arizona team claimed the national title.
Also at last week’s season-ending WON tournament at Apache Lake, Hunsinger and O’Donnell stayed in the top-10 race by finishing ninth overall with three fish weighing 5.79 pounds.
Jake Randall of Payson joined forces with Rod Nelson to take third with 13.10 pounds.
For more about WON tournament fishing, call Purtee at (928) 978-3659.