|Chris Ricci (US Open AAA Angler Champion) and Clifford Pirch (US Open Pro Angler Champion)|
|Chris Ricci receiving his check for a trip to Lake El Salto|
|Chris Ricci receiving his US Open trophy from Bill Egan (WON Bass)|
The reason was that I only had 4-1/2 hours total pre-fish time. Also involved in the win was the help of my close friends and practice partners, Tami Curtis and my mentor, Mike Folkestad - and my fellow pro staffers from Canyon Plastics, Jeff Klicka and Moses Mokuahi.
I arrived Friday night at the houseboat where we were staying and on the table was a pile of plastics that Mike and Tami had dialed in and that the fish were biting. Saturday I got to prefish for 4-1/2 hours with Folkestad and I only caught 2 shorts and Mike caught a total of 4 shorts. Not a good way to start an event.
Day 1 –
I drew Vern Ridgeway, a very competent southwest pro from Phoenix. Right off the bat I could tell he was a team player. The first words out of his mouth were “Chris, you do what you do, I’m throwing reaction. But, I’m going slow enough so you could do what you do with your plastics.”
Throughout the day, Vern threw topwater, spinnerbait, crankbait, while I chose a ¾ oz. Spider grub, a dropshot, alternating between my go-to hand poured Pro Worm collection, and an Aaron’s Magic Roboworm and a ½ oz. Bayou Tackle crawdad color football jig with a Canyon Plastic twin tail trailer. We went for a while without a bite, until all of a sudden Vern yelled for the net, and we had our 1st fish in the boat on his crankbait. Vern’s boat control and speed with which he operated the trolling motor was perfect as I kept alternating between my 4 rods while I kept trying to find the cadence and the bait that would get me my first bite. My 1st bite came on the ¾ oz. Yamamoto Spider Grub and when I went to reel it up, nothing was there. I kept working the bait and – boom!! – he came back and we had a nice 2 pounder in the boat. As the day progressed, Vern picked up another nice bass on the topwater and he slowed down to almost a stop so we could work this area thoroughly. I alternated between the jig and the dropshot and the dropshot produced 2 quality bass. That put our limit in the boat and the day was almost over. Vern managed to produce 1 more keeper, which did not help. All in all we caught 6 keepers and 2 shorts apiece. Our best 5 that we took to the scales weighed a solid 9.38 pounds and life was good. This put me in 29th place.
Day 2 –
Was an awesome draw – a young gun, and an awesome pro that is coming into Day 2 in 2nd place. His name was none other than Kevin Johnson – who also led Day 1 at the FLW National Guard Lake Mead in May. I can’t go into too much detail of where we fished or what we targeted, because Kevin has a TOC coming soon on Lake Mead. I knew it was going to be a good day because he said the same thing Vern said “Chris, do what you do, I’ll go slow enough so you can work your plastics, while I throw my reaction.”
We started out the morning close by and it didn’t take long before Kevin had the 1st fish on, but it came off at the boat. By the time we left the 1st area, Kevin put a solid 2 pounder plus – in the livewell. We proceeded to his 2nd spot, where we targeted bluffs with deep water. He worked his reaction bait, and gave me plenty of time to work my dropshot, my jig, my Spider Grub, and my Vixen. By the time we left that area, I put 4 fish in the boat – one for each of the rigs I was using. It was still early, and we had a limit in the boat – and 2 of those fish were rats that we needed to cull.
As we arrived at his 3rd area, Kevin was on fire. He knew the area well, and was able to target with pinpoint accuracy where his bait needed to go and produced 5 keepers with 3 of them each over 2 pounds. I only managed to catch 1 more keeper on my plastics that didn’t help. Thanks to Kevin’s reign of terror, his 3 keepers and my 2 that we brought to the scales – gave us a whopping 10.81 pounds! This put me in 5th place.
Day 3 –
You guys often hear me say “It’s all about the draw for us AAA’s to do well”. It doesn’t get any better than when you draw a US OPEN Champion and a well rounded true professional as well as one of the best ambassadors to the sport. I drew a true champion, Rich Tauber.
Tuesday night, a blessing came disguised as an interview by TC Reports of Canyon Plastics pro staff, which included myself, Jeff Klicka, Moses Mokuahi, and of course, the host, Mike Folkestad. My fellow pro staffers sat me down and said Chris “You’re in 5th place – you’re a pound out of the lead, this is the pattern we’re on – hopefully, this will help”. Moses was targeting the bass with the Brush Buster by Canyon Plastics and Klicka was targeting secondary points with the Rio Rico by Lobina Lures. I knew the Rico produced quality bass, and for some reason I didn’t tie one on until the morning of the 3rd day and I never dreamed the Brush Buster would work in a clear water impoundment such as Lake Mead. I left my Brush Busters home, but Moses set me up with what I needed.
The morning came when I met Rich Tauber and I confided in him what my pro staffers told me and that we needed to target and “would you please, sometime throughout the day, give it a try?”. Tauber, being the gentleman that he is, and knowing I had a chance to win, agreed. When I explained the structure, Tauber knew exactly where to go – because nobody knows the lake better than Tauber, except maybe Folkestad. Tauber put on his game face, as he moved from spot to spot, cruising at high speed on the trolling motor, waiting for a sign that bass were in the area. Tauber finally got the blowup on his topwater and put the 1st fish in the boat. I proceeded to throw the Brush Buster, but to no avail. As we moved, from our 2nd to our 3rd to our 4th spot, Tauber put our 2nd fish in the boat and he told me to put that Brush Buster down, and I usually listen to my Pros and he made me tie on a white spinner bait and I thought I’d give that a try. I made 2 casts with the spinner bait and my gut was telling me to stick with the Brush Buster. So, while Tauber was busy up front throwing his topwater, I secretly rattled the spinnerbait so it sounded like I was ready to make a cast, but instead I cast the Brush Buster. After my 3rd cast, low and behold – BAM! Fish on! – and it was a 2 pound plus. As I put the fish into the net, and Rich hoisted it into the boat, he looks and sees the Brush Buster sticking out of the mouth of the bass, and the size of the bass, he said “You sneaky dog – if its producing bass that size go ahead and throw that the rest of the day.” As the next hour and a half went by, that Brush Buster produced quality bass after bass.
It’s 8:20 in the morning, we had our limit in the boat, we’re culling, and while Rich is re-tying, I hopped on the trolling motor because I saw a secondary point, and what echoed in my mind is what Klicka told me and that was to toss a Rico on a secondary point. I put the boat in position, made a long cast, I twitched the Rico twice, and you heard the familiar sound of a toilet flush. I set the hook and preceded to reel in what we both knew was a monster. Tauber’s yelling “easy, easy”. I said, “Dude, I’ve got 50 pound braid, she’s coming in, get the net”. That was our money fish and that weighed 2.64 pounds. After the Brush Buster produced a couple more fish, Tauber takes a break, ties one on, I take the trolling motor, make a cast and the Brush Buster produced another solid 2+ pound largemouth and poor Rich is culling once again for the upteenth time. We’re both throwing the Brush Buster, both catching bass; the bite was off the hook.
At 12:00, it was like somebody flipped the switch and we never got another bite. Without Tauber’s experience and knowledge of the lake and piecing together the structure that the bass were habitating, we would not have experienced this phenomenal fishing.
Tauber – I thank you from the bottom of my heart for putting all the pieces together to produce our biggest sack on the 3rd day of the WON Bass US Open and in my opinion, one of the stingiest lakes on the tournament trail.
My heartfelt thanks goes to all the people that helped me become the 2010 WON Bass US Open Co Angler Champion and they include, Mike Folkestad; Tami Curtis; Jeff Klicka; Moses Mokuahi; Derek Stewart; Andy Manahl; Jennifer Duff – President of Lobina Lures – home of the Rico; Jay Pennington – owner of Canyon Plastics, creator of the Brush Buster; Dave Longrie – owner of Bayou Tackle; and Gary Yamamoto for designing and manufacturing the Swim Senko which I used for the trailer of my Brush Buster. To sum it up – there was nothing but quality products and quality pros that brought home the trophy.
Baits of choice –
Dropshot - 6 lb. Trilene 100% Flurocarbon, 4” Pro Worm Leech, 5” Pro Worm, Aaron’s Magic Roboworm.
Jigs – ½ oz. Bayou Tackle football jig with Canyon Plastics Twin Tail Trailer, ¾ oz. Bayou Tackle Football head with a 5” Yamamoto Spider Grub, Rio Rico by Lobina Lures, and the most outstanding fish catching lure, made by Canyon Plastics – the one and only, Brush Buster.
My total weight for the Championship was 31.11 pounds.
My sincere gratitude to my 3 Pros, Vern Ridgeway, Kevin Johnson, and Rich Tauber!!