Payson angler Levi Armstrong leaped into the FLW pro bass tournament standings lead on opening day, Feb. 21, at Roosevelt Lake, but by the third and final day had fallen to ninth overall.
Despite the drop, the former Payson High School three-sport standout pocketed $2,791 in prize money.
Armstrong was the only Rim country angler to qualify for the third round of fishing by earning a top-10 finish in the first two days.
At the conclusion of the first round, Armstrong weighed in a 5-fish limit that tipped the scales at 15-pounds, 7-ounces to easily take first place over runner-up Joseph Caporuscion who had caught 13-pounds, 3-ounces
But on the second day, Armstrong caught just one fish that weighed 3 pounds, 7 ounces. On Saturday, he did not catch a fish.
Oddly enough, it was a California angler who dominated on the Arizona lake winning the top prize of $27,912.
Over the course of three days, John Fuqua weighed in 10 fish at 31-pounds, 3-ounces to take first in the 50-angler field that included some of Arizona’s finest professionals including Brett Hite, John Murray and hometown angler Clifford Pirch.
Hite was 26th, Murray 34th and Pirch 27th.
While fishing conditions were brutal the first day of the tournament, they turned even tougher as the fray wore on.
Out of the top 10 pros to make the cut and fish the third day, only four caught their 5-fish limits. A pair weighed in just one fish each and Fuqua caught just three fish.
Some anglers said their strategy was to fish deep with crank baits in tight patterns.
Armstrong’s opening day catch proved to be the best of the tournament, but after vaulting into first place he fell to third on the second day with his single largemouth.
Armstrong told tournament officials that second day fishing was extremely tough and he didn’t catch his one fish until about 2:40 p.m., just before weigh in, “Time was running out.”
He did, however, say he had a 5-pounder ready to pull into the boat before losing it.
Among the Arizona anglers to show well was Gilbert’s Josh Bertrand who finished second with 25-pounds, 13-ounces. His catch earned him $10,467 in prize money.
In the co-angler competition, Todd Cline of San Clemente, Calif. weighed in three, 5-fish limits of 25-pounds, 15-ounces to finish first and win a Ranger bass boat.
Also in the co-angler field of 80 entrants, Kyle Randall - a PHS graduate with the Class of 2011 - was 42nd with three fish that weighed 5-pounds, 6-ounces.
John Browning, who’s been fishing local tournaments — both pro and amateur — for decades, was 45th overall with three fish that weighed in at 4-pounds 11-ounces.
Hard working organizers
To host the tournament at Roosevelt, members of a Payson volunteer committee headed by Jim Goughnour and Dennis Pirch worked tirelessly for months insuring the event would go off with out a hitch.
The two and committee members agree the dedication to hosting a quality tournament is partly due to the financial impact the events have on Northern Gila County.
Goughnour is adamant that the tournaments are important contributors to the economy calling them “huge successes.”
While financial results are not yet available on last weekend’s tournament, records estimate that a 2011 FLW tournament’s impact was $535,000, which is the same amount as a 2009 Stern bass fishing tournament at Roosevelt. The Stern event drew 535 visitors and the EverStart attracted 480.
A FLW college tournament held in conjunction with the 2011 EverStart drew 40 boats.
A two-day Western Outdoor News (WON) tournament in 2011 drew 100-plus visitors and contributed $122,200 to the county economy. In addition to the tournaments showcasing the Rim Country and having an economic impact, they have spurred an interest among young anglers.
Just three years ago, a Payson High School bass club was formed and a first-ever high school tournament held at Roosevelt.
Currently, Arizona WON tournament director Tracy Purtee continues to host high school tournaments that draw fledgling anglers from around the state.
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