PAYSON, Ariz. – Ken Howden entered the final round of EverStart Series Western Division action on Lake Roosevelt with an 8-pound, 2-ounce lead. Apparently, that margin was not comfortable enough, because when the dust settled, he had blown away the field with a winning weight of 56-10 – a sizeable 17-15 edge over his closest competitor.
Since day one, the Mesa, Ariz. pro had spent most of his time flipping heavy cover in an arm of the Salt River – the impoundment of which created Roosevelt. His day one weight of 14-4 put him in second place, but he claimed the top spot on day two with a limit of 20-2. His second day weight, along with 22-4 in the final round were the only bags to break 20.
Noticeably amazed at his feat, Howden said of the 50-square foot area he fished: “I’m just speechless. There were just so many fish in there. Each day, it was about an hour to an hour and a half of fishing. Today I was done by 8:30.”
Now, when Howden said he fished heavy cover, he means heavy cover. And his was no play-it-safe, cast-from-a-distance deal. He got up-close-and-personal with the flooded timber that prespawn fish were relating to and flipped into such tight areas that reeling in a fish looked more like a wrestling match. To facilitate his objective, Howden fished a 17-foot aluminum boat, rather than his 20-foot bass boat and used a telescoping aluminum push pole to move his boat amid the wood.
The top baits for Howden’s performance were a 4 ½-inch green pumpkin Strike King tube and a Tiki Swim Bug. Both baits he Texas rigged with a 4/0 wide gap flipping hook, a 3/8-ounce bullet weight and a glass bead for noise. He fished his baits on a 7 ½-foot heavy action rod and 70-pound Daiwa braid.
Howden said that although he was often within earshot of other anglers, the density of the cover in which he fished allowed him to enjoy complete privacy for the entire tournament. On day three, one of his competitors peeked into his area, but promptly backed off when he saw Howden’s boat.
“What a fun time; I was the only one in the area,” Howden said. “Later on today, another angler (fourth place pro) John Murray came into the area I was fishing, but I want to thank him for honoring my spot. I really appreciate that.”
As if the winning spot needed any more proof, co-angler winner Mike Rychard drew Howden on day two, picked up his partner’s style and blasted up from a 53rd place day one finish to the top of his division. Paired again with Howden in the final round, Rychard won by a margin of 8 pounds, 7 ounces.
Rychard was so thankful that he literally gave Howden the shirt off his back when his pro partner dampened his own. “The first fish I flipped got stuck in a (submerged) tree and I had to go down to basically my face in the water to retrieve the fish. I was all wet, so luckily, (Rychard) gave me a shirt to wear.”
Chatterbait leads Lippincott to second
Clay Lippincott, of Goodear, Ariz. reached the top 10 at Lake Roosevelt by climbing 14 spots on day two and claiming a fourth place position for the final round. He continued his course of improvement on day three with a second place finish. His three weights of 10-15, 13-7 and 14-5 gave him a total of 38-11.
“I had a really good week. I came up and did a lot of prefishing,” Lippincott said. “I got really lucky in prefishing and found a spot, just by chance that had some good ones in it. I worked a chatterbait through there in practice and got a couple of good ones.
“I kind of wanted to save that spot a little bit, but I went there on day one and caught a quick limit. I came back on day two and said ‘I ought to run through this spot pretty hard, so I went through pretty hard and made it to the top 10.”
Lippincott said that he and his day two partner caught about 50 fish off of his spot. Today, he returned, got a limit within 15 minutes and spent the rest of the day upgrading. Dropshots and chatterbaits were Lippincott’s primary baits.
Kile keeps spinning, slips to third
Hometown pro Mark Kile, of Payson, Ariz. yielded one spot on day three to finish third at 37-15. Throwing a ½-ounce spinnerbait with double willow leaves, Kile sacked up weights of 10-11, 15-7 and 11-13. Kile, who fishes Roosevelt frequently, said the lake’s mature bass are making their shoreward spawning trek.
“I had a great time this week,” Kile said. “All of my fish were in shallow – they’re really moving up. In another month or so, this place is going to explode.”
Kile also made a big move in the standings to reach the final round. After day one, he sat in 24th place, but a strong day two performance propelled him up 22 notches to second.
Murray moves up to fourth
A week after winning a tournament on Lake Roosevelt, John Murray, of Phoenix, Ariz. improved his position from ninth place to fourth. Registering 12-3, 11-4 and 13-6 for a total of 36-13 required a diverse approach.
“All three days, I fished totally different,” Murray said. “One day I caught them in 40 feet of water, one day I flipped one in two feet of water and today, most of my fish were in about two feet of water. It’s just a strange bite out there, but it’s getting good.”
On day three, Murray tried his favored tactic of flipping, but could not get anyone to cooperate. He caught all of his final round fish on spinnerbaits with a shad colored trailer.
Senkos and creature bait’s lift Stewart to fifth
Kevin Stewart, of Elk Grove, Calif., rose one spot to fifth place and finished the event with 33-14. Most of the week, he caught his fish on a ¾-ounce football head jig with a Yamamoto Twin Tail Hula Grub. Today, however, the fish turned their noses up at this offering. Stewart caught his day three fish on wacky-rigged, nail-weighted Senko and a Texas-rigged creature bait.
Rounding out the top-10 pro leaders at the EverStart Series Choke Canyon event:
6th: Keith Espe, of New River, Ariz., 33-10
7th: Young Yang, of Los Angeles, Calif., 33-6
8th: Andy Manahl, of Mesa, Ariz., 33-0
9th: Dean Kreuzer, of Mesa, Ariz., 32-7
10th: Rick Mason, of Glendale, Ariz., 31-12