Anglers with their sights set on championship showings in the 13th Annual Willow Springs Fall Classic trout tournament were left severely disappointed.
At least that’s the opinion of tournament director Tracy Purtee.
“Conditions were tough, very tough,” he said.
In the day-long fray, contested Oct. 6 at the high country lake, the field of entrants weighed in just 52 trout and only seven caught their six-fish limits.
Phoenix angler John Smith, who has valuable experience from fishing other classic tournaments, fished his way to a first-place finish, landing a limit that tipped the scales at 72.30 ounces. His biggest fish weighed 16.90 ounces.
Darren Harper, also a Valley fisherman, was second with a catch of 67.30 ounces.
Former Payson resident Ed Heinecke, now of the Valley, won biggest fish honors with a nice-sized 21.50-ounce trout. Heinecke, a frequent competitor at the fall and spring tournament at Willow Springs, also finished third overall with 60.20 ounces.
Terry Diehl, a Christopher Creek angler who has been fishing the classic since 2000, weighed in a limit of 50.30 ounces and was sixth.
Purtee said he originally intended to compete in the angling contest, but after experiencing problems with his boat, was shut out in his quest to catch fish.
All 52 trout caught during the tournament were released back into the lake.
The fall classic marks the culmination of the trout fishing season in the high country just as the spring tournament, which Purtee also hosts, signals the onset of the season.