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‘Come hell or low water,’ US Open tourney back at Lake Mead

Updated October 6, 2021 - 12:14 pm

“Come hell or low water.” So declares the tagline printed across the cover of the official program for the 2021 edition of the WON BASS U.S. Open fishing tournament slated for Oct. 11 – 13 at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area. And low water is just what participants are going to get.

So warns an electronic sign board located just inside the entrance fee station on Lakeshore Road near the Hemenway Harbor Launch Ramp. Nothing fancy, just a simple sign that flashes a series of brief messages warning boaters that the water in the reservoir is low and reminding them they launch at their own risk. At Hemenway, four-wheel drive vehicles are recommended for those launching vessels.

Currently, boaters have access to only four launch lanes at Lake Mead, where three of the six available launch ramps are currently out of service. Two of those lanes are at Callville Bay Marina, host of the U.S. Open. The others are at Hemenway Harbor and Echo Bay. At each of the open lanes, boaters are launching on pipe mats.

Now in its 39th year, the U.S. Open is considered by many to be the largest and most prestigious bass tournament on the western side of the country, and in many ways equivalent to the Bassmaster Classic. To put that into perspective, the Classic is often spoken of in almost reverent tones by most competitive anglers.

Mike Iaconelli, one of the biggest names in professional bass fishing, declared on his Facebook page, “Three weeks away from the WON BASS US Open! I’ve been watching this tournament from afar for many years. I’m so excited to finally get a chance to fish this world- class event!”

Once Iaconelli was confirmed as a participant, Tournament Director Billy Egan posted his appreciation on Facebook. “The list just keeps getting better and better!”

The Open is limited to 250 boats, each with two anglers aboard. One a professional and the other an amateur. There were 243 boats in the 2020 U.S. Open, which was won by local favorite Tim Klinger of Boulder City. He came from behind in dramatic fashion to win the event.

At the end of Day 1, Klinger was sitting in 42nd place with just 7.66 pounds of fish, more than 5 pounds behind the leader, Tom Nokes of Riverton, Utah, who checked in with a 12.69-pound bag. Over the next two days, Klinger and his co-angler showed up at the weigh-in with bags tipping the scales at 13.49 and 10.92 pounds, putting his winning total at 32.07 pounds.

For his efforts, Klinger went home with a $100,000 in prize money and a new bass boat, a 2021 Bass Cat Puma FTD powered by a 250-horse Mercury ProXS outboard motor valued at an additional $64,000. The two companies have teamed up once again to provide the winner of the 2021 U.S. Open with a similar package in their 2022 models. The package is worth $67,000.

The expected $100,000 payout is dependent on having a full field of 250 boats.

With water levels so low, Egan has had to change things up a bit from past years. Rather than conducting the weigh-in near the store at the top of the main ramp at Callville Bay, where it has been held traditionally, the weigh-in will take place along the courtesy dock at the bottom of the ramp. And instead of using a live-release boat, each angler will be responsible for releasing their own fish outside of the marina.

“I just want to let everybody know we’re going to have an awesome event,” said Egan in a video post. “We’re looking forward to a great tournament.”

Come hell or low water.

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions he states in his column are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at intheoutdoorslv@gmail.com.

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