For “last events of the season” normally see a pronounced reduction in the number of participants due to a combination of basically two mindsets: 1) A team feels they already have enough points to qualify for the year-end championship – and therefore don’t feel they need to attend, or 2) A team feels they are so far from landing within the year-end championship’s “qualifying bubble” – that participation in the last event of the year is futile.
But in Saturday’s year-end FPT event, dubbed the “Gold Rush Run”, nearly every team, amongst the 90 teams that participated, was just as excited to be participating in this last event of the year, as they were participating in the first five events hosted this season – all of which that saw records field of over 100 teams.
The fact that the FPT’s year-end championship, dubbed the “FPT Classic” – is an invitational championship event that takes only the top 78 teams, giving anglers no “throw out” concessions and making them prove themselves and perform at-their-best over a 6-event season, was incentive enough to compel those even close to the “qualifying bubble” to take their best shot at trying to secure a qualifying championship event berth.
And Lake Oroville, in its own eerie way, seemed ready to add its own brand of stress and anxiety to the field of participants, as this huge reservoir, with water levels dangerously low, and in a current state of transition, was as stingy as it gets, yielding only a few of its quality bass to the anglers that were willing to work for them.
Raising the bar
The biggest fish of the event was a lone 4.67 pounder caught by Dick Moore, of Rescue California, which along with a “skinny” limit, helped he and partner Terry Arnold of Carmichael, take home 2nd place honors.
But stories of success with big fish were few and far between, as Lake Oroville proved to be stingy to the entire field – beginners as well as veterans, and many said it was perhaps the toughest bite they had seen in years. Those that placed high in this event said they had to be extremely patient, go deep (30-60 feet), and use a very slow presentation to get the fish to bite.
“Outside the box” thinking pays off
When the bite gets tough like it was on Saturday, veterans of the game know full well that staying with the “status quo” is a sure road to failure. And having that mindset, paid off for FPT veterans Justin Nelson and Tony Koregelos who put together a deep-water pattern using tubes on open-hook jigs. “We were dying on the vine trying to do everything the conventional way, so we decided to use an ol’ school presentation to show these fish a different kind of pattern”, Justin explained.
That pattern help he and Tony – last year’s Anglers of the Year, to bring the winning bag of bass to the scales, a limit that went just shy of 11 pounds (10.69). Congratulations Tony and Justin on a fantastic win.
Justin also let the large crowd in attendance at the awards ceremony – both anglers and spectators, know that he would now be moving on to the next level of competition, in that with his 7 years experience fishing the FPT, along with his 2006 Spirit of the Tour award, 2011 Angler of the Year crown, and now finally – his first FPT victory, he feels it is time for him to move on.
And Justin, just like many anglers that cut their teeth in FPT events, and have graduated or moved on from FPT competition to become FLW standouts, such as Roy Desmangles, Justin Lucas, Cody Meyer, J.R. Wright, Jason Milligan, Aaron Leiseur, and Nick Norout, just to name a few, we will all be wishing you the best and look for you to do some big things at the next level of competition.
Go make us proud!
Ortiz and Gee take Coors Light-Silver Bullet AOY titles – but not without a fight
Everyone knew that it would be a “dogfight” to win the inaugural Coors Light-Silver Bullet AOY title, but no one suspected it would get downright nasty. Austin Wilson, who was just 2 points out of the lead, and having to fish the event without his partner, came to scales visibly excited as his impressive 8.56 pound limit cancelled out the frustrating pre-fish he had experienced the day prior.
AOY point’s leaders Rafael Ortiz and Stacy Gee then nervously came to the scales with a bag that from the outside, looked smaller than that of Austin’s. But when the weigh master yelled out a weight of 9.27 pounds, both Rafael and Stacy breathed a big sigh of relief.
But that respite was all too brief, as in the on-deck circle was the team of Travis Ladner and Shane Pierson, perennial favorites and strong anglers on any body of water. Wearing his best stoic poker face, Shane pulled out a bag of bass that gave cause for concern as all eyes watched the scales and the weigh master bellowed out a resounding 8.31 pounds…denoting a “checkmate” status, and granting Stacy and Rafael the AOY title.
“’I'm speechless is all”, noted an emotional Rafael. Stacy and I worked so hard all year for this and if I don’t ever do anything else in bass fishing I will be satisfied, as this title will always mean the most”, he added. Stacy quickly noted that their Iconelli like “never give up” attitude was what won the day for them, as with just minutes left on the game clock, they both felt that a serious meltdown was imminent.
“We had caught 4 decent keepers ripping Lucky Craft Stay-See 90 baits in the morning…but were stifled the rest of the day with only 4 fish in the box – for a total of about 7 pounds and only four minutes left to go before our fishing day was over”, Stacey noted.
“As were heading in, we decided to stop on a small hump just within eyesight of the ramp saying to ourselves….it’s never too late…it’s never too late….and then we put on dropshot rigs hoping against hope to try to catch a fifth fish. All of a sudden… BAM!…we hook a BIG one…..get it up to the boat, and our hearts sank as it turned out to be a beautiful 10-pound land-locked Salmon!”
“But the screen on our Humminbird 997 Down/Side-imaging unit was “lit up” and even with all the activity going on under the boat and in the boat, Rafael had the presence of mind to simply drop his bait back down into the frenzy of activity going on under the boat… and WHAM!…we immediately catch spotted bass that goes 2.5 pounds!. Without even locking the rods down we strapped on our life jackets, cranked it up and headed straight for the ramp!”
That fish, and heart attack that almost ensued, was Stacy and Rafael’s ticket to the inaugural Coors Light-Silver Bullet Angler of the Year title, as it brought their total weight up to 9.27 pounds, distancing them from the other contenders.
What a great event and fantastic end to what has been perhaps the best Future Pro Tour season ever.
This year saw more new faces, more kids fishing with their fathers, and more people just having fun on the water than ever before, which is just what the Future Pro Tour is really all about.
We would like to thank our host of generous sponsors for yet another year of support, as well as all of the FPT staff that were responsible for making our events run as smooth as possible.
Most importantly, a sincere thanks to all of you that have supported the FPT organization over these past eleven years, as it has been your unwavering participation, and your patience with us – as we have grown together, that has been one of the keys to our success.
We wish everyone a safe and happy holiday season, and look forward to seeing you all on the Tour in 2014!
The 2013 Future Pro Tour was presented in part by:
Thunder Valley Casino Resort
Johnson Outdoors – featuring Humminbird/Minn Kota
The Fish Sniffer
Yamamoto Custom Baits/Kinami Baits
MAACO Auto Painting
Billy Chapman Jr’s Anglers Inn Resort on El Salto
Stockton Convention and Visitors Bureau
C&C Marine – Citrus Heights/Modesto
Anglers Marine – Anaheim/San Diego
Marine Unlimited – Petaluma
Fisherman’s Warehouse – Sac/Manteca/Fresno/San Jose and now online!
Hook, Line & Sinker – Oakley/Bethel and now online!
Walton’s Pond – San Leandro and now online!
Outdoor Pro Shops – Rohnert Park and now online!
Hi’s Tackle Box – San Bruno and now online!
Comfort Suites of Oakley
Destiny Wine Tours