US Open 2014 Lake Mead, Nevada Recap

Kevin-Stewart-2014-US-Open-1

2014 WON Bass US Open – Lake Mead – September 8th – 10th

As this year’s WON Bass US Open at Lake Mead official practice was starting, I was still busy at Clear Lake in CA having fun with the Damiki Fishing Tackle guys for their annual media week. I arrived in Las Vegas Friday evening and began preparing for one day of practice on giant Lake Mead for my fourth US Open appearance. With the limited practice time I decided to look at areas that I don’t have a lot of confidence in.  After eight hours of practice on Saturday I lucked into three bites and really didn’t like the area I was in so I decided to call it an early day and get a jump start on putting new Seaguar Invizx Fluorocarbon on my iRods. Sunday was an off limits day which allowed some time to clean up my Phoenix Boat, get organized and focus on a game plan. It was still a busy afternoon with the Sponsor Showcase and then the partner pairing meeting.

Kevin-Stewart-2014-US-Open-1Day 1 – We were greeted with much cooler temperatures, overcast skies with a strong chance of rain and wind as expected. I had a real calm confidence about going out with an open mind, no preconceived patterns or areas and just having fun going fishing. After a long run across the Virgin Basin my Co Angler Ellison Hubbard and I stopped on a good looking wall and dropped the trolling motor and began fishing. I’m sure the weather helped because they were biting pretty well. My first fish was a 2+lb smallie on a small swimbait and we had our limit by 8:30am. Having a limit early helps anywhere but it really helps here at Mead. Ellison added a largemouth around 2lbs to our bag and I caught another 2+lb smallie on a Damiki Sneek Worm rigged on a 1/8oz darthead. After the day was over we boated around 12 keeper fish with our best 5 weighing 9.16 good enough for 19th place. This was a fun day and my best start to a US Open yet.

Kevin-Stewart-2014-US-Open-2Day 2 – We started out with overcast skies turning to sunny skies and warming temperatures for the afternoon with mild winds. Another long run with my Co Angler Jeff Won to the same spot as the day before yielded no keepers for us (it rarely does on this lake) so it was time to fish new water in the same area. I pulled into a long deep cut and caught my first keeper on a new prototype bait from Damiki called a Rikoh, it’s a small crawdad imitation soft plastic bait I had rigged on a Damiki 1/4oz Mousrin Head. Within five minutes I was hooked up with a good one on the same bait only to see a 3lb largemouth jump and throw the hook not eight feet from the boat. A few casts later in the back of the pocket and keeper number two in the boat on a Damiki MTB Noisy Buzzbait. As I work my way back out I land a 2lb largemouth for number three on the Damiki Rikoh. Then things got slow but Jeff managed two small keeper smallie’s to finish out our limit by 10:00am. After the clouds cleared and the high pressure set in it became tough for us to get a bite. Around 12:30pm I had another good one hooked up on the Rikoh but I must have had a mussel nick in my line because when the 2-1/2lb largemouth jumped it broke my line. Again, I had a fun day with only 7 keeper bites and weighed 6.39lbs which dropped me to 29th place.

Kevin-Stewart-2014-US-Open-3Day 3 – For the final day it was sunny with calm winds. One final longer run with my Co Angler Chang Won Park to a new area with the hopes to catch a big bag a move up the leader board. Our first stop to an off shore hump and I’m hooked up immediately but was a catfish! Three spots later and still nothing. I looked down lake and remembered a point from a few years back and decided to try it out. Right away I catch a keeper on the Damiki Rikoh, then another and then number three. I turn around for another pass and pick up the Damiki Sneek Worm and catch a 2lb smallie. After that it was a grind the rest of the day catching small ones here and there. Finally Chang finished off our limit with a small keeper smallie. It was still a fun day just very slow. I’m extremely thankful for the 5 keeper bites which weighed 6.25 and moved me up one spot for my best US Open finish thus far in 28th place with 21.80lbs, plus a nice check to go with it.

After everything is said and done I’m not sure if more practice would have helped or hurt me. In my short experience on Lake Mead I know that it’s best to not to hook em in practice and that you can’t count on catching them in the same location day after day. I caught 99% of all my fish during this event on an iRod Air Spinning Rod, 6lb Seaguar Invizx Fluorocarbon and Damiki Fishing Tackle products. I did pick areas on the lake that I had confidence in and I put the trolling motor down and covered a ton of water. This big lake will really make you respect your equipment and I am grateful to be running the most comfortable rough water riding bass boat out there, my Phoenix 921. Plus the best outboard on the water with my Mercury Pro XS 250 not to mention they are a big sponsor of the US Open and provide an on-site Mercury tech during the event just in case of an unforeseen problem. Thanks Mark Nicolette!!!

I really want to thank WON Bass, its staff, the folks at Lake Mead and Boulder Station Hotel for all their hard work and help making this a memorable US Open. Also thank you to my wife Susan, my two beautiful daughters, my family and friends for not only their support but their encouragement as well. As well as a giant thank you to my amazing sponsors for making this way of life possible. Top This Premier Accessories, Phoenix Boats, Mercury Marine, Damiki Fishing Tackle, STORMR, Power Poles, Hitch Defender, Seaguar, iRod, Blade Runner Tackle, Endless Possibili-tees and Arena Tow.
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