It’s very rare to have a bass fishing event in the deserts of Nevada and Arizona where wind is not a factor in the event. It is even more rare for a three-day event to have a complete lack of wind. Warm, calm conditions greeted the anglers who ventured out onto the waters of Lake Mohave each day for the 2022 Bass Cat / Mercury WON BASS U.S. Open has been presented by Laughlin Tourism Commission and Visit Laughlin.
Calm slick conditions on a clear water fishery often means difficult conditions, but for the first two days, San Tan Valley, Ariz. pro Josh Bertrand seemingly made it look easy with consecutive limits that eclipsed 20 pounds. With a two-day total of 43.79 pounds, he held a little more than a four-pound lead over second place pro Spencer Shuffield of Hot Springs, Ark., who started the final day with 39.43 pounds. Three-time U.S. Open champion Clifford Pirch, from Payson, Ariz. stood in third with 39.36 pounds.
The trio, and those chasing them spent a long day on Lake Mohave, but in the end, it was San Tan Valley, Ariz. pro Josh Bertrand, the man who led since the opening bell who proved to put the pieces of the puzzle together the best and walked away with the title of 2022 WON Bass U.S. Open Champion. Bertrand added a final day limit of Lake Mohave smallmouth weighing 17.99 pounds to bring his three-day winning total to 61.78.
In claiming victory, Bertrand not only held the trophy, but also grabbed the keys to the Bass Cat Cougar FTD / Mercury ProXS 250 prize package worth $86,000 and the winner’s share of the purse worth another $75,000.
Bertrand outlasted Shuffield who posted his second consecutive limit eclipsing 20 pounds on the final day. His 20.75-pound limit brought his total to finish the tournament with 60.18 pounds, good enough for second place.
AAA angler Joe Ahrens of San Diego, Calif. began the final day in eighth place and fished with Fort Worth, Tex. pro Chris Zaldain. The pair weighed 18.83 pounds on the final day to bring his total weight to 46.40 pounds to claim the title of WON Bass U.S. Open AAA Champion. His victory earned him the keys to a Honda Fortrax ATV valued at $5,600 and $9,000 cash.
Bertrand, who began his fishing career guiding and competing in tournaments in Arizona, said that this title was something he had wanted for years. “The U.S. Open has always been one of the most important and special tournaments I’ve fished in,” he said. “I’d always wanted to earn this trophy, but I didn’t know how much it meant to me until I was on the water today; it was a very stressful day, and I am so happy that it turned out this way.”
The Major League Fishing Bass Pro Tour angler, who has turned into one of the most consistent anglers in the business, said that he fished deep with a dropshot rig to put his weight together. “I fished the middle section of the lake on structure in 20 to 40 feet of water,” he said. “I would use my Garmin Livescope Plus to make sure the fish were there and cast my dropshot rig to them; they were relating heavily to school of baitfish.”
Bertrand revealed that each of his keepers came on a Berkley Flatworm in green pumpkin, with the late exception of two of his final fish that bit the same worm in a black color. “I used the Flatworm because I have so much confidence in how it appeals to smallmouth,” he said. “I threw it on my new Abu Garcia dropshot rod ad reel spooled with 6-pound-test Trilene fluorocarbon, a 3/8-ounce dropshot rig with a Fusion 19 Dropshot Hook; that was my whole program.”
Bertrand, who won a Bassmaster Elite Series event on the St. Lawrence River in New York in 2018, said that the personal importance of this win is at a premium. “I am really fortunate to compete on a national level, and to have won there,” he said. “But this win ranks at the top of my list because of what it has meant to me over my career; the U.S. Open has been the event all of us in the West want to win, and I’ve dreamt of it my whole life; I’m absolutely in shock right now.”
Fishing his first U.S. Open, Shuffield found comfort in the fact that he was smallmouth fishing and put together a run at the win. “I really loved the way this lake fished, it is an amazing lake,” said Shuffield. “I used a dropshot rig and a Ned Rig to catch all of my fish this week fishing in the area they call “The Bowl.”
Shuffield used the same Berkley Flatworm that won the event, but also used a green pumpkin Z Man TRD to boat his fish. He threw them on a 7’4” Phenix M1rod and Daiwa Ballistic reel spooled with 15-pound-test Hi-Viz Yellow Yozuri Super Braid and an 8-pound-test Yozuri T7 Fluorocarbon leader.”
The Arizona pro said that he let himself listen to the dock talk that said that 18 pounds a day would win the event, and it cost him. “I had 18 pounds early then laid off my fish trying to conserve the areas on the first day and weighed in two under four pounds,” he said. “I tried to make up for it, but that first day really cost me. But I have to give it Josh, he knew what he had to do and went out and did it; congratulations to him.”
Patrick Touey from Nipomo, Calif. caught 19 pounds today and moved into third place for the championship with 56.75 pounds. 18-year-old Zach VerBrugge brought 17.71 pounds to the scales at Katherine Landing to move his total weight to 53.47 pounds, landing the Lake Havasu, Ariz. pro in fourth place. Rounding out the top five was Zaldain, the Bassmaster Elite Series pro weighed a total of 51.61 pounds for the event.
Following the AAA winner Ahrens, in second place was Brian Tressen from Corona, Calif with 45.72 pounds. In third place was Mike Crothers of Chandler, Ariz. with 44.03 pounds. Jim Vretzos of El Dorado Hills, Calif. finished the event in fourth place with 43.54 pounds and Tyler Head of Eugene, Ore. Rounded out the top five with 41.71 pounds.
The 2022 Bass Cat / Mercury WON BASS U.S. Open has been presented by Laughlin Tourism Commission and Visit Laughlin. Takeoffs and weigh-ins were held at Katherine Landing at Lake Mohave Marina located at 2690 Katherine Spur, Bullhead City, AZ 86429.