By Dan O'Sullivan
When the smoke had cleared on one of the toughest WON Bass U.S. Opens to date, one man stood free of the flames; that man was Tim Klinger of Boulder City, Nev., a local pro and former FLW Tour champion who has faced fires of his own in the fickle sport that is professional bass fishing.
Klinger started the final day of the event with 21.15 pounds; less than a pound off the pace set by Las Vegas’ Cody Steckel, who showed consistency over the first 2 days, posting a total of 22.03 pounds.
Klinger started the tournament with a 7.66-pound limit on day 1 that found him in 42nd place for the day. However, he brought the heaviest five-fish limit of the tournament to the scales on day 2 – a 13.49-pound effort that included a 5-pounder, to move to 2nd place. On the final day, when it counted the most, he posted the only double-digit limit of the day, a 10.92-pound bag, bringing his three-day total to 32.07 pounds, claiming his first U.S. Open Championship.
With the victory, he earned the $100,000 cash prize and the keys to a 2021 Bass Cat Puma FTB, powered by a 250 horsepower Mercury ProXS outboard valued at $64,000 presented to him by Rick Pierce, president of Bass Cat Boats.
Klinger was visibly moved as he was named the champion.
“I’ve wanted to win this tournament for a lot of years, and I’ve been close before, but this is especially sweet,” he said. “To be able to win this while my dad is still with us means the world to me; I could never win another tournament again and be happy that he got to see it.”
Klinger said that his winning combination was an 8.5-inch curly-tail Berkley PowerBait Power Worm (motor oil or green-pumpkin) on 5/16- to 1/2-ounce tungsten weights and a 4/0 Hayabusa HD Worm Hook. He also mixed in a PowerBait Chigger Craw to add a few fish.
He spent half of the first day in the Vegas Wash area, but ran to a backup area in the Overton arm. “I found a spot that had some deep trees on it many years ago when the lake was low and I visited it several times. They finally showed up on it late yesterday,” he said. “I was fishing in 18 feet of water and had it all to myself, there wasn’t a boat within a half mile of me. I still can’t believe this is real.”
Former U.S. Open champion Roy Hawk of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., posted a 9.60-pound limit on day 3 to leap two spots to finish 2nd for the event with 29.01 pounds and claim $22,000 in cash. He said he fished the Vegas Wash, targeting schooling fish early, then turned to jigs, worms and dropshot rigs to fill his limits each day.
“I used an Evergreen Showerblows and a Duo Realis Pencil 110 – both in shad patterns,” he said. “I really wanted to win, but I am absolutely pleased to finish 2nd to Timmy; he really deserves it and I’m really happy for him.”
Steckel stumbled for the first time this week, posting 6.32 pounds to bring his total to 28.35 pounds, finishing in 3rd place. Fourth place went to Whittier, Calif. anger Scott Helleson with 25.06 pounds, and Dennis Kolender, of Santee, Calif. finished 5th with 24.30 pounds.
The AAA division winner was Hector Garcia from Poway, Calif. He posted a 3-day total of 24.09 pounds to earn $10,600 in cash, along with prizes valued at more than $5,000.
“This is amazing to win because the U.S. Open is such a grind,” he said. “I want to thank my boaters for a great week. I lost my dad recently, this is for him.”
Second place in the AAA Division ended in a tie, Folsom, Calif. angler Westly Gritts and Kevin Burgess of Kingman, Ariz. with 23.76 pounds each. Fourth place went to day one leader Luke Spreitzer of Phoenix, Ariz. with 23.51 pounds, and rounding out the top five was Clearlake, Calif. angler Dylan Watson with 23.32 pounds.
For final pro standings, click here.