The 41st Anniversary Bass Cat / Mercury WON Bass U.S. Open presented by Laughlin Tourism Commission and Visit Laughlin kicks off Monday on Lake Mohave out of Katherine Landing at Lake Mohave Marina in Bullhead City, Arizona. This event runs through Wednesday, Oct. 18, and marks the second year that the premier bass fishing event in the western United States will be held on Lake Mohave, following consecutive years of lower water conditions at Lake Mead that forced the move.
The 2023 event looks to be as competitive as last year’s event as 182 pro anglers and co-anglers will head out onto the 28,000 surface acres of Lake Mohave in search of the kind of quality bass that will take home the 2024 Bass Cat Cougar and Mercury 250 ProXS as well as the cash prize package the eventual champion will receive. As with any bass fishing tournament, the plans the anglers made during practice will need to be adjusted as the Laughlin area has seen significant swings in weather conditions.
In the pre-practice period, the air temperatures saw cooler temperatures with fall-type conditions and some windy conditions. During those days, anglers reported seeing the surface temperatures on Lake Mohave dip as much as 10 degrees. While it appears that change may have triggered some type of fall migration, those conditions will change as the event begins as the mercury will reach as high as 100 degrees and the winds will taper to a typical 10 to 15 miles per hour. What effect that has on the fishery remains to be seen.
2022 U.S. Open champion and MLF Bass Pro Tour pro Josh Bertrand said that he left the areas he won on last year alone and searched new water during practice.
“Mohave is fishing differently than it did last a year ago,” said Bertrand. “We fished it like a summer event in 2022, and this is more into the fall conditions this year, so it’s going to influence how we do things. I searched for new water and found some things that I’ll rely on but saved the areas I used to win last year in hopes that they’ll still be good. It’s a different year and I hope to be in position to contend again, but we’ll just have to wait and see.”
Fishing his third WON Bass U.S. Open is Roseville, California, pro Bryant Smith, who just completed his rookie season on the Bassmaster Elite Series. Smith said that he realized how much the event meant to him as a Western angler after he fished his first U.S. Open and made it a priority.
“This is the marquee event and, after I fished it for the first time, it became an event I wanted to win,” said Smith. “That won’t be an easy task this week. Whoever wins is going to have to do several things and make adjustments along the way between the reaction bite, finesse tactics, and fishing ActiveTarget forward-facing sonar; we’re going to have to earn it this week.”
A former U.S. Open champion and veteran of more than half of the 41 instances of the event is Major League Fishing co-founder Gary Klein. A Western original, who now makes his home in Texas, said he had an urging to return to his roots.
“I entered the event because I really started getting an itch to fish out West again, and this event is one that means something to me and a lot of others,” said Klein. “I’ve been out here for a week doing a lot of looking and a little fishing and like how it’s shaping up. It’s not going to be an easy tournament to win, but I feel like I’ve found something I can build on and give it a run; I would really like to give myself a chance to be in the conversation on Day 3 — that would give me a shot at winning my second U.S. Open title.”
Bertrand won the 2022 WON Bass U.S. Open title with a three-day winning weight of 67.78 pounds, and it would be reasonable to expect similar weight ranges to be in play this year. Historical averages for winning weights in events on the lake typically exceed 20 pounds per day, and even with a field this large, that should hold steady. Fishing pressure is likely to play a role as anglers may find themselves competing for areas as the event grinds on.
The 2023 WON Bass U.S. Open Sponsor Expo will be held Oct. 15 from 2 to 5 p.m. at the E-Center Convention Center, adjacent to the host hotel, the Edgewater Hotel, Casino & Resort, and will feature dozens of vendor booths showcasing their wares. The expo will be followed by the induction of the 2023 class of the WON Bass Hall of Fame, starting at 5 p.m. Both events are open to the general public.
The 2023 WON Bass Hall of Fame induction ceremony will occur immediately following the conclusion of the Sponsor Expo. The WON Bass Hall of Fame has been established to recognize the efforts of competitors and individuals instrumental in the industry who have left indelible marks on the organization and professional bass fishing in the western U.S. through WON Bass.
Individuals being inducted in this inaugural class are three-time U.S. Open champion Aaron Martens, two-time U.S. Open champions John Murray and Byron Velvick, and past U.S. Open champions Pat Donoho and Fred Ward.
The three-day long WON Bass U.S. Open competition itself will begin Monday, Oct. 16, with a champion being crowned Oct. 18 at the conclusion of the final weigh-in. Takeoff with 182 pro and AAA anglers will commence at safe light and weigh-ins will occur at 3 p.m. each day. Takeoff and weigh-ins will be held at Katherine Landing at Lake Mohave Marina in Bullhead City, Arizona.
WON Bass has reserved Thursday, Oct. 19, and Friday, Oct. 20, in case any day of the event is postponed due to unsafe conditions by the National Parks Service.
You can follow the event online at wonbassevents.com and wonews.com, along with the WON Bass and Western Outdoor News social media platforms (https://www.facebook.com/WONBassTournaments and https://www.instagram.com/wonbass/), for event details, livestreams, and updates.