The WON BASS U.S. Open bass tournament concluded Wednesday at Lake Mead, with the winning professional angler getting a new 20-foot Bass Cat fishing boat and $100,000 in prize money. Not a bad payday for three days of what some consider the most challenging bass fishing in the West.
The night before the tournament began, Joe Uribe Jr., a regional pro from Surprise, Arizona, shared his thoughts about fishing Lake Mead in a Facebook post: “This is the toughest lake most will ever fish and the challenges it brings can be more than most anglers will ever endure. That is what makes it so special and the U.S. Open the most prestigious event out West.”
Results weren’t available Wednesday for the tournament, in which 244 boats launched out of Callville Bay on Monday morning for the start of the pro-am event. Along with the pros aboard each boat was an amateur, or “AAA” co-angler, a pairing that would change each day of competition to keep things interesting. The co-anglers also had their eye on a prize: a $10,500 payout and 2021 Honda Fourtrax ATV valued at $5,499.
Amid the pairings, prizes and weigh-ins was another story, of 16-year-old Carter Doren, a junior at Green Valley High School and co-angler in the Open. On Oct. 3, Doren became a national champion by winning the Big Bass Zone Junior Championship at Lake Pend Oreille in Idaho, where he was competing against 51 other anglers representing 47 states.
Rather than fishing for a five-fish limit and the heaviest bag, competitors in the BBZ Junior Championship were looking for one big fish that would put them on top. Doren qualified for the championship event with a 4.61-pound smallmouth bass, the largest bass caught in Nevada during the state tournament, a virtual affair that runs Jan. 1 through Aug. 1 nationwide and is open to anglers ages 13 to 19.
His championship-winning bass was a 4.35-pound fish that took a brown and purple football jig after Doren skipped it under a dock, a technique he perfected in the family swimming pool.
“One big fish is just as hard as five because you’ve just got to get the right bites at the right times,” he said. “It’s all about timing, but a lot of it is just making sure you get the first fish that you’ll be able to weigh in. That’s the most important part.”
The online format for the state competition gives anglers the options to fish on their schedule and at any legal body of water in the state or states they hope to represent at the championship. They can fish from the shoreline, a kayak, a boat or even a float tube, but during the championship they are paired with a boat captain.
Two anglers are assigned to each boat, and they split time fishing from the front deck. Doren was on the front of the boat running the trolling motor when he caught his tournament-winning fish. He also caught two other fish that would have placed him in the top 10 as well, one on his first cast of the tournament.
Doren won a $35,000 Bass Cat Margay fishing boat outfitted with a Motor Guide trolling motor, a Power-Pole shallow water anchor and Lowrance electronics. He also secured a $30,000 scholarship to Bethel University (Tennessee), which has one of the country’s top bass fishing programs. Not a bad way to start one’s fishing career or lead into the U.S. Open.
“Being in the Open is awesome, because you get to fish with all these elite pros,” Doren said.
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 are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.