Havasu Western Stren
Saturday, February 04, 2006
Teen Catches 8-05 To Win
This was supposed to be the day that it all fell apart for 16-year-old Californian John Billheimer Jr. at the Havasu Western Stren. If the weekend recreational traffic in sunny Arizona didn't get to him, then the pressure of trying to hold off a Top 10 field of seasoned veterans in a tough-bite tournament surely would. So how did Billheimer respond to the supposed adversity? He caught an 8-05 bag, the day's best, and won by nearly 5 pounds.
John Billheimer Jr., 16, expects to get a rousing reception when he returns to school on Monday.
His 2-day total of 19-12 easily outdistanced runner-up and fellow Californian Pat Clement, who caught 6-10 today and finished with 14-15. Jimmy Walker, who also hails from the Golden State, caught 7-07 today and was 3rd with 12-14, followed by Arizona's Fred Ward with 5-12 today and a 12-03 total. Californian Jimmy Reese caught just one fish today, but held on for 5th with 11-10.
The weather was pretty much the same as the first 3 days (blue skies, high temperature around 80), except there wasn't even the wisp of a breeze. Several anglers, including Billheimer, said their patterns were hindered by the glass-like surface that allowed the sun's rays to shine unimpeded into the water column.
Limits were scarce throughout the event and nobody came close to one today. Billheimer and Walker each caught three fish while Clement, Ward and 7th-place finisher Randy McAbee managed two each. Reese was among a quartet of anglers who had one and Nevada's Brent Lyon, who finished 10th, was blanked.
According to FLW Outdoors, Billheimer is the youngest angler to ever win a Stren (formerly EverStart) Series event.
Spectators lined London Bridge in Havasu City to see if Billheimer could close out an improbable victory (he took the lead with an 11-07 sack on day 3), and some who owned boats joined him down below for an even closer view of the action. The extra attention didn't bother him – in fact, he enjoyed it.
"It was crazy," he said. "Everybody on the bridge was clapping. It was like I was famous or something."
He knew he'd won well before it was his turn to go to the scales, but said he was still nervous. "That was a weird feeling," he said. "Shock would be the closest thing I know to describe it. I was extremely thrilled, and that's an understatement."
He came to Havasu just hoping to catch a few fish and pick up some points. He figured if he was going to make any big noise during his first year in the four-event Western series, it would be nearer his home at the California Delta, Clear Lake or Lake Shasta – all of which he's fished many times. He'd never been to Havasu prior to this trip.
He's known for several years that he wanted to be a pro angler some day, and he's followed the exploits of renowned western sticks such as Reese, Gary Dobyns and Robert Lee. He topped them all this week.
"It's unbelievable," he said. "I've idolized those guys, and to go out and beat them is pretty crazy."
The junior at Liberty High in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Brentwood said he expects quite a reception when he returns to school on Monday. "I've already talked to some of my friends, and one of my teachers is a real good family friend and she's already calling a bunch of people. It's going to be crazy."
Details of his winning pattern will be posted soon.
2nd: Clement's Bites Dwindled
Clement described his runner-up finish as "pretty awesome. I knew with only two fish that it was going to be awful tough to win, but what that kid did was pretty amazing. He's a darn good fisherman for his age and there's no doubt he's been fishing a long time. He did good."
He fished a ripping pattern all 4 days and said his fish got spookier as the tournament progressed. They were extremely tight-lipped today with the lack of wind.
"I just couldn't get the bites," he said. "I caught seven keepers the first day and then I quit fishing for them because all I wanted to do was make the top 20, and then by the 2nd day they started slapping at the bait and I started losing a few.
"Today they weren't even really slapping at it. They just backed off and they were very tough to catch."
He made every cast in the tournament with one of two Rapala baits – a 3/8-ounce Shad Rap (silver) or a 5/16-ounce Glass Shad Rap (shad/gold). "Most of my fish came on the (Shad Rap)," he said. "The (Glass Shad Rap) might have been more effective, but I would have needed some wind."
3rd: Walker Must Wait
Walker has sniffed victory on several occasions, including a 2nd last year at Clear Lake, but has yet to claim the top slot.
"Anytime you finish 3rd, you have to feel good about that," he said. "I'm just hoping that some day I can end up on top. I've been one bite away, but the Good Lord hasn't seen fit to give me that one bite. Of course, being 7 pounds back, I'd have needed two more nice fish to give that kid a run.
"He's obviously a real good fisherman, and it was really neat to see him up there with his parents," he added. "They talked about how respectful he is and I was really happy for him."
He caught a 4 1/2-pounder on a Lucky Craft Staysee (citrus shad) in the first half-hour and thought he might be in for a big day, but managed just the one other fish. He spent mornings throwing the jerkbait in the main lake, then ran up the Colorado River later on, where he caught fish on brown jigs and dropshot rigs with 6-inch worms (Aaron's magic). Both baits were made by Western Plastics.
"I didn't have a lot of spots," he said. "I only practiced for 2 days and I burned up my water getting that big bag (13-06) on the first day. I managed to find a couple of new spots during the tournament, but it was just a tough bite."
> Day 4 stats: 10 anlgers, no limits, one zero.
> Billheimer said he had no trouble sleeping with the lead last night. "Surprisingly, I slept just fine," he said. "I was out by 9:30."
> Reese said he didn't lose a fish through the first 3 days, but broke off a 3 1/2-pounder today and had two more good ones come unhooked. "That's just fishing," he said. "Against fishermen of this caliber, you have to execute."
1. John Billheimer Jr. -- Discovery Bay, Ca -- 4, 11-07 -- 3, 8-05 -- 7, 19-12 -- $10,000 + Boat
2. Patrick Clement -- Anderson, Ca -- 5, 8-05 -- 2, 6-10 -- 7, 14-15 -- $10,000
3. Jimmy Walker -- Alpine, Ca -- 2, 5-07 -- 3, 7-07 -- 5, 12-14 -- $9,000
4. Fred Ward -- Phoenix, Az -- 3, 6-07 -- 2, 5-12 -- 5, 12-03 -- $8,000
5. Jimmy Reese -- Witter Springs, Ca -- 4, 9-13 -- 1, 1-13 -- 5, 11-10 -- $7,500
6. Aaron Coleman -- Oakland, Ca -- 5, 9-07 -- 1, 1-06 -- 6, 10-13 -- $6,500
7. Randy McAbee -- Bakersfield, Ca -- 3, 7-02 -- 2, 3-02 -- 5, 10-04 -- $5,500
8. David Kromm -- Kennewick, Wa -- 4, 6-01 -- 1, 2-02 -- 5, 8-03 -- $5,000
9. William McAninch -- Sylmar, Ca -- 2, 4-12 -- 1, 1-14 -- 3, 6-10 -- $4,500
10. Brent Lyon -- Reno, Nv -- 2, 4-10 -- 0, 0-00 -- 2, 4-10 -- $4,000