By Mark Fong
Following a week of unseasonably hot weather that saw temperatures hover in the triple digits, the 240 plus anglers that made their way to the seventh annual Yamamoto Big Bass Challenge were greeted with cooler temperatures and changing weather conditions. At stake were 60 big bass cash prizes, entrance into the Super 12 Grand Prize Drawing for biggest bass weighed in during each official tournament weigh in period, and a cash award for the biggest overall bass of the two day event.
Despite the windy conditions, fishing was excellent. “The anglers weighed in as many as eighteen fish in an hour,” said Andy “Cooch” Cuccia, the Tournament Master of Ceremonies and longtime Delta Fishing Guide. “The bite was really good. Most of the big fish that were caught were still prespawn. The big snow melt has kept the water temperatures unseasonably cool.”
The first day of competition started off strong with a pair of 7lbers taking the first two hourly weigh in periods. However the best was yet to come as Terry Odom brought a 9.30lb Delta largemouth to the scale. The big fish fell victim to a 7-inch Senko in color #194J. Odom's lead in the overall big fish competition did not last long as Scott Hellesen surpassed him with a 9.83lb fish weighed in the following hour. When the scales closed for the day, Hellesen remained atop the leader board, but not before adding another hourly win to his tally with a 7.64lb fish.
The morning of Day 2 started with a bang when Top Western Pro, Ken Mah came to the scales with a 9.18lb bass that bit a Flappin' Hog in color #021. An hour later Joey Roland topped Mah with a 9.55lb fish that ate a 5-inch Senko in color #297. Two hours later it was Hellesen again, this time with a 9.07lber that also fell victim to a 5-inch Senko in #297. When the scales closed on final weigh in period of day two, Hellesen's day one big fish held on to capture the big fish of the event.
When all was said and done the story of the event was written by the team of Scott Hellesen and Nick Nourot. For his efforts, Nourot cashed three hourly checks worth $1,050 and earned entry into the Super 12 Grand Prize Drawing.
But it was Hellesen who stole the show, winning three of the hourly weigh in periods and cashing two additional times for a total of five hourly checks. Hellesen's two biggest bass weighed 9.83lbs and 9.07lbs respectively and were both caught on a 5-inch #297 Senko. His 9.83lb bass took home the award for the largest bass of the event. To top it off, Hellesen was the lucky winner of the Super 12 Grand prize drawing as well. His winnings totaled $9,500.
The Senko Again
As it has done in each of the six previous editions of the Yamamoto Big Bass Open, the Senko dominated the event. Of the 60 hourly cash prizes, the Senko accounted for 25. This year, the 5-inch Senko played bigger than in previous years. The Flappin' Hog maintained a strong presence with 10 placings and the new Zako swimbait accounted for 7.
The Super 12 Qualifiers with the weight of their catch and bait used:
Day 1 - Saturday
Hour 1 Kevin Chen 7.09 Flappin' Hog #208
Hour 2 Nick Nourot 7.16 5” Senko #297
Hour 3 Terry Odom 9.30 7” Senko #194J
Hour 4 Scott Hellesen 9.83 5” Senko #297
Hour 5 Joey Price* 7.40 Kut Tail #301
Hour 6 Tay Miguel 6.70 7” Senko #194J
Day 2 - Sunday
Hour 1 Casey Vanier 6.41 Flappin' Hog #208
Hour 2 Ken Mah 9.18 Flappin' Hog #021
Hour 3 Joey Roland 9.55 5” Senko #297
Hour 4 Seth Bowman 5.65 Yama Frog
Hour 5 Dylan Waldrop** 7.39 Zako
Hour 6 Lenny Espinoza*** 4.77 7” Senko #297
* Scott Hellesen captured the hourly prize with a 7.64 bass caught on a 5-inch 297 Senko. Because Hellesen qualified in Hour 4 day 1, per tournament rules, Joey Price was award entry into the Super 12 drawing.
**Scott Hellesen captured the hourly prize with a 9.07 bass caught on a 5-inch 297 Senko. Because Hellesen qualified in Hour 4 day 1, per tournament rules, Dylan Waldrop was award entry into the Super 12 drawing.
***Dylan Waldrop captured the hourly prize with a 5.84 bass caught on a Zako. Because Waldrop qualified in Hour 5day 2, and both the next two anglers, Nick Nourot and Scott Hellesen had already qualified as well, per tournament rules, Lenny Espinoza was award entry into the Super 12 drawing.