Justin Kerr of Simi Valley, Calif. notched another win in his list of angling accomplishments this past weekend at the Wild West Bass Trail (WWBT) Arizona Pro/Am Division’s Rivalry on Lake Roosevelt presented by Ranger Boats.
Kerr kicked off day one by besting the pro field with a double-digit lead, hauling up 28.68 for his five-fish limit. The magnitude of the weight was astounding as Kerr’s single day limit weighed more than all but four of his competitor’s two-day tournament totals.
He added another dozen pounds on day two and climbed to the top-spot on the leaderboard with a final weight of 40.73 pounds, winning by more than 7 pounds.
Laughing off the giant lead as luck, Kerr said, “Sometimes you get lucky and it just works out and sometimes it is just brutal.”
His strategy led him to dirty water where he flipped in the morning and then went to work sight fishing.
“I had a good strong flip bite the first day,” Kerr said. “I flipped until about 8:30 a.m. and had about 17 pounds. That gave me the whole rest of the day to work the sight fish that I had found and I caught ‘em.”
Kerr concentrated his efforts in the Salt River end and reported flippin’ a Roboworm Zipper Worm and an undisclosed Zoom bait in shad and green pumpkin with a 1/2-ounce weight.
His sight fish were tempted by the same baits and accounted for his two biggest, including the 9.73-pound kicker from day 1.
“I worked on that one for two hours,” he recalled, “I think sight fishing in the dirtier areas, where less guys could see the fish, made a difference.”
The flip bite didn’t pan out for Kerr on the final day, forcing him to restructure his plan four hours into the day.
“I had to just start all over fishing again,” he explained. “I went back to the same areas and found another one on a bed that was about 4 pounds. I ended up catching three sight fishing and two on reaction baits.”
He noted that steeper, rocky banks with the “right brush” were the most successful locations overall; but that his big bass came from a “sandy bank”.
Kerr claimed $12,750 for the victory, which included Ranger Cup and Yamamoto contingency dollars. The win pushed him into 2nd place in the Year-To-Date standings for the division.
He expressed appreciation to his sponsors Ranger Boats, Evergreen International, Mercury Motors, Power-Pole, Roboworm and Angler’s Marine.
2nd – Johnny Johnson
A tournament total of 33.42 pounds put Johnny Johnson of Lakeside, Ariz.in the runner-up position. Johnson attributed his bass catches to finding bedding bass.
“Out of all of my fishing abilities, sight fishing is my strength,” he stated. “Because I live up in the mountains, the bass in the lakes around me move up on beds later than the ones in the lower lakes; so I am able to sight fish well after the spring. It gives me about five months to bed fish every year; so I’ve crafted it pretty good and I found the right fish.”
His bed bait was a white Canyon Craw on a 1/2-ounce jointed jighead, both made by Cactus Wren Outdoors.
“The jig head is actually separated from the hook; so when you move the craw, it flips upwards and looks like it is in a fighting stance,’ he explained.
While all of his bigger bass came from beds, Johnson said anything under three came on small swimbait. For this presentation, he tied on a Reaction Innovations Little Dipper in Money Shot Violet, rigged weightless using 10-pound braid with a 10-pound fluoro leader.
“I fished this in the back of pockets where they were chasing the shad,” he revealed. “It would warm up quick back there.
“I had to use a really fast retrieve. I was almost waking it on the surface like topwater, almost as fast as I could, until it made a ‘V’ in the water and they would come up and crush it. I probably caught 20 fish this way; a bunch of buck bass; but it was a blast.”
Johnson banked $7,000 including contingency dollars for P-Line and Lowrance.
3rd – Tommy Jonovich
Phoenix angler Tommy Jonovich showed back up in the top 3 from Roosevelt after finishing in the same place with partner Sean Coffey in the Teams event. This week, the solo efforts of Jonovich put 30.80 pounds on the scale.
On day one, Jonovich flipped four of his weigh fish with a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beav in green pumpkin and landed a 7.08-pounder from a bed in the main lake using a white Keitech creature bait.
The big bass helped boost him into 2nd place to start day two.
“I really have to credit my equipment for getting this one in the boat,” he said. “I had on 65-pound braid with a Dobyns Savvy 735 rod. If I would have had any other rod it would’ve snapped right in half. I swung hard and I stuck her good.”
The second day, he again capitalized on the flip bite for his weigh fish, targeting isolated heavy cover with the same Sweet Beav. With five in the box and 20 minutes left in the day, he upsized to a Keitech creature bait. On the first cast with the bigger profile plastic, he found a 6 1/2-pounder.
“My first cast was to a perfect dead tree,” he said. “It had everything on it that you could want. There was dirty water on one side and clear on the other. I flipped in there and stuck that 6-pounder. It must’ve been the biggest fish in the Tonto and it took me for a ride.
“It jumped, wrapped around the tree and went over the line, so it was tied in there. I put my trolling motor on high and rushed in as fast as I could. There were branches everywhere. I was reeling in and breaking branches with my feet at the same time. I put my rod down on the deck and put my knee on it. I asked my co angler to stand on my feet and I was leaning over the boat with my arms out over the tree. I finally got to reach it, but only with my middle and index finger, which is a very weird way to pick up a big one. But, I got ‘em and went crazy for a minute. I was real grateful for my five, but that big one launched me over the top. It took me from check range to the top 3.”
Jonovich pocketed $4,500 for the finish.
1st co-angler – Tom Karavites
Tom Karavites of Payson, Ariz. rocketed his way up the co-angler leaderboard with a move from his 10th place spot on day one to winner on day two with a two-day total of 21.20 pounds.
Karavites credited his success to areas with the trees.
“I knew it was going to be a tough tournament with a lot of bed fish caught and being in the back of the boat, I would have to come up with some kind of strategy that would keep my bait in the water,” he said. “I decided to go with one of my strengths and blind fish every tree opportunity that came up.”
Karavites pitched a weightless, Texas-rigged 5-inch Yamamoto Senko in watermelon with gold/black flake to tempt his fish.
“I tried a few different colors, but when I found this one was working, I stuck with it both days,” he revealed. “I also caught two on a swimbait on some weed beds and one a dropshot, again in the trees.”
He noted the best depth for his fish was under 4 feet.
“The fish were moving up to do their spawning, so we had to keep it shallow,” he said.
He expressed appreciation for both of his pros Todd Herman and Victor Cunningham.
“Whether they were getting bed fish first thing in the morning, or whatever was going on, they both made sure that I had time to fish and that I had the ability to be on fish,” he said.
Karavites’ total earnings were $6,000 and included contingency dollars for Yamamoto and P-Line as well as the Yamamoto “Toad of the Day”.
The Run and Win with Lucas contingency program paid $500 to David Stachowski, Eric Sawyer, Mike Bidak and a $400 Bonus to Troy Lindner.
The Yamamoto Toad of the Day honors and $500 was caught by Jon Griffith pro (4th) and Tom Karavites co (1st), for the biggest bass on their respective sides.
Evinrude contingencies paid $5,000 to Justin Patti (5th), $3,000 Jimmy Savoini (15th) and $2,000 Ben Foster (17th).
Full results are available at the WWBT website.