Payson’s most accomplished home-grown professional bass tournament angler, Clifford Pirch, was hoping most of last week that rain and snow runoff would help swell the declining waters of Roosevelt Lake, which over the winter has been just about 50 percent full.
With the rain and snow that drenched the Rim Country over the weekend, Pirch’s hopes might have been fulfilled.
More water would mean better fishing for the hundreds of professional fishermen and co-anglers who will descend on Roosevelt for an FLW Everstart Tournament that tips off Feb. 20 with a mandatory pre-race briefing and wraps up with the final weigh-in on Feb. 23 at the Cholla ramp site.
“A little more rain will fill the river ends and the popular (fishing) sites, which will spread everyone out and they won’t be (fishing) right on top of each other,” said Pirch, a former Payson High three-sport star who now makes his living on the professional circuit.
In the tournament, professional anglers will be competing for a top prize of $40,000 and a high-tech bass fishing boat with 200 horsepower outboard motor.
The winning co-angler will earn $5,000 and a bass boat.
Pirch, sponsored by HPR ammunition of Payson and Scottsdale, will enter the tournament as will several other seasoned pros including Roy Hawk, John Murray and Jimmy Reese.
While Pirch and Hawk are close friends, the two have sometimes had to put aside their friendship while they battled for tournament honors and prize money.
Such was the situation in the spring of 2009 when the pair were among the pros entered in the inaugural FLW Stren Series bass showdown at Roosevelt.
After three days of ferocious fishing, Hawk emerge victorious with a catch of 42 pounds, 6 ounces. For his victory, he received $20,000-plus in prize money and a bass boat, motor and trailer.
Pirch, the hometown favorite, finished second just four pounds behind Hawk. For his silver medal finish, he pocketed $8,000-plus in prize money.
While Pirch didn’t come out on top in that fray, he has shown well in plenty of other tournaments having been a five-time Forest Wood Cup qualifier and the winner of the 2011 Chickamauga FLW Tour major tournament.
This year, Pirch indicates he will fish both professional circuits having accepted an invitation to compete in the Bassmaster Elite Series.
The invitation to compete in the Elite series was extended after his second place finish in Bassmaster’s Northern Open points race
Hawk, of Salt Lake City, was 2008 WON Bass Angler of the Year and has several FLW wins under his belt.
Murray has fished about every FLW circuit including the Tour Majors, Western, Northern, Central and Colorado River Divisions. He has 22 top-10 tournament finishes and locally is one of the most well-known professionals partly because he hails from Phoenix.
Reese of Winter Springs, Calif., has FLW career earnings of over $353,000, has won four tournaments and has finished in the top-10 in 19 tournaments.
Next week’s FLW tournament fishing begins each day at 7 a.m. at Cholla and weigh-ins will be held sharply at 2:30 p.m., also at Cholla, which is located five miles northwest of Roosevelt Dam on SR 168.
The Mazatzal Hotel and Casino will host the pre-tournament meeting and is the official headquarters for the tournament.
In addition to the Everstart tournament, FLW will host a college event from 7 a.m. to 1 p.m., Saturday, Feb. 23 at Roosevelt.