BETHEL ISLAND, Calif. — This wasn't the first time that California's Russ Meyer and Arizona's John Murray tangled on the final day of a bass tournament. Fortunately for Meyer, this time on the California Delta he was buoyed by a substantial 7 pound plus lead, and in the finals, the Californian didn't flinch. He came to the scales with a solid limit — 13 pounds, 9 ounces — and ended up by beating Murray and the rest of the competition by better than 8 pounds.
"John and I have had some battles," Meyer said. "Last time we were close together going into the final day, I thought I needed a big bag to beat him, and I went for broke."
"I lost a bunch of fish that day," Meyer continued. "It turned out all I needed to do was catch a limit and I would have won."
This time Meyer got his limit, but his lead was substantial enough after two days that he needed little more than to merely show up. After that earlier blunder, though, Meyer wasn't taking any chances.
"I lost a few early, and I started to feel a little nervous," Meyer said. "I knew that John probably needed a twenty-pound sack, so I stayed calm and just went fishing."
Meyer (56-12) finally broke through to BASS victory after close calls in 2004 at Clear Lake (8th) and Lake Shasta (2nd), the sites of the final two events in this year's Western Open series, Oct. 13-15 and Nov 17-19, respectively.
"Shasta and Clear Lake are two of my favorite fisheries," Meyer said. "I'm really looking forward to fishing those tournaments."
Meyer keyed on shallow, wind-protected bays on the final day at the Delta. On days one and two, Meyer started by throwing a crankbait and then went flipping as the sun got up. On Day Three, Meyer started with a Zara Spook and flipped the remainder of the day. He caught all of his fish in shallow water (2-5 ft.)
"I feel great," Meyer said. "I had a good feeling that I was going to do well before we started on Thursday, but I never thought I would do this well."
It would have been an excellent tournament for Murray, if not for Meyer. His margin over third place was better than five pounds. Nonetheless, Murray was happy with 48-8 and a runner-up performance.
"Russ and I have had some great shootouts prior to this," Murray said. "Even though I fell short today, I had a great tournament."
Much like Meyer, Murray is looking forward to the rest of the Western Open Series. His goal is to qualify for the 2005 Open Championship on the Alabama River, Dec. 1-4. Murray won the Open Championship in 2003.
"I placed very well this week, and this sets up well for the rest of the Open season," he said.
Murray was especially happy about two hours of fishing he experienced on Saturday. Each day, he changed his strategy from the previous one, and on the final day, he found a flat where he saw no less than 50 bass swimming around his boat! Murray lit up the area throwing a Yamamoto Senko and a buzzbait.
"My partner and I caught 40 to 50 bass in two hours," Murray said. "I had a ball, but I probably should have left that area."
"I just couldn't leave though," Murray said. "I was having way too much fun."
The best catch and biggest bass of the day belonged to California's Jim Davis. Davis' four bass limited weighed in 17-13 and included the Purolator Big Bass of Day Three, a 7-14 lunker he caught flipping a Roboworm. The big bass earned Davis an extra $1,000 and helped to vault him into third place with 43-7.
"I had a pretty good day," Davis said. The wind was blowing, and I keyed on protected areas where I could fish slowly and methodically."
Rounding out the top five on the boater side were a pair of Californians, Steve Sapp (41-15) and John Varanai (41-7). Murray was the only non-Californian in the top five.
Californians ruled the roost on the non-boater side as well. First place and a fully-rigged Triton boat went to California's Gary Haraguchi (30-10). Rounding out the rest of the top five were California's Jack Farage (30-4), Hideki Maeda of Japan (30-2), Idaho's Scott Neely (30-2) and California's Scott Burke (29-13). Farage finished in second place on the strength of a Day Three largemouth that weighed 7-2. It was good enough for the Purolator Big Bass of the Day on the non-boater side and an extra $400.
The remaining events in the Western Open series will take place on Clear Lake in Lakeport, Calif. (Oct. 13-15) and Lake Shasta in Shasta Lake, Calif. (Nov. 17-19).
Sponsors of the Bassmaster Open Series include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Toyota, Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Berkley, Lowrance Electronics, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops and Cialis (tadalafil).