The Washington Outdoor Report - week of April 18

A really big bass tournament

Courtesy John Kruse Tate Webb (left) and Micah Hart won two hourly weigh-ins and the Skeeter bass boat they are standing in front of.

Courtesy John Kruse Willie Nelson with Northwest Bass and Nixon’s Marine explaining the rules at a meeting the night before the tournament.

The biggest bass tournament to hit the Pacific Northwest in a long time took place April 10 at Potholes Reservoir in the Columbia Basin. The competition in question was the Berkley Big Bass Tournament and Ground Zero was MarDon Resort, a place that has hosted more than it’s share of fishing tournaments over the last 50 years. The event, cancelled twice in 2020 due to Covid pandemic restrictions, drew a record number of anglers from not only Washington, but also Oregon, Idaho, Montana and even Arkansas. Altogether, 200 teams registered to fish this unique contest.


Normally, a team of two anglers attempts to catch five bass with the heaviest overall weight winning. In this tournament though, there were seven hourly weigh-ins and the biggest bass caught each hour was worth $2,000. Better still, if you caught the bass with an Abu Garcia rod or reel you got an additional $1,000. On top of that, the next four heaviest bass weighed in each hour were worth anywhere from $500 to $150.


One interesting twist to this tournament is the fact that you were limited to only using hard and soft baits from Berkley or other Pure Fishing brands like Johnson or Sebile. While this may seem overly restrictive, it’s not. Berkley has a full range of soft plastic baits and lures and they are very effective. The night before the tournament there was a meeting where members from all of the teams went over the rules and then it was off to bed before launching the boats in the morning and blasting off from MarDon Resort shortly after 6 a.m.


The biggest challenge facing anglers on tournament day wasn’t the fish; it was the wind. There was already a stiff 15 to 20 MPH breeze when we started and as the morning progressed it only got worse, with gusts up to 37 mph. A few boats decided not to launch and a few more decided to come in early but the vast majority of anglers battled the winds and the waves searching for a big bass.


I’d like to say my fishing partner, Rusty Johnston and I, got into the money but that didn’t happen. I caught a decent bass on my first cast and 10 minutes later Rusty caught one just shy of three pounds. Not long after that though the fuse for our electric trolling motor blew and 45 minutes later, the spare did too, putting us at a huge disadvantage for the rest of the day. In fact, the only other fish we caught was a hefty 17-inch rainbow trout, not exactly the fish you are looking to catch during a bass tournament.


The biggest hourly winning bass weighed in Saturday was a 5.98 pound largemouth caught by Scotty and Melissa Pennington from Arkansas. The smallest hourly winner was one weighed in by Tate Webb at 4.85 pounds. The hot lure for most of the big bass winners? A black and blue jig with a Berkley chigger or crawfish trailer though Pennington’s fish was caught on a Warpig lipless crankbait.


As for the big winners, that would be the team of Micah Hart and Tate Webb from Richland. The two actually weighed in two hourly winning fish, earning a nice check for $4,000. Better still, they held the one working key (out of the seven given out to the hourly winners) that started the engine to a Skeeter ZX150 bass boat from Nixon’s Marine, allowing them to win that $42,000 boat as well.


Will the Berkley Big Bass Tournament be back next year? Probably so, and if you want to sign up check towards the end of the year for details.


John Kruse – and

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