KINGMAN - Because of the extreme heat index, park rangers at the Lake Mead National Recreation Area considered canceling the Stripe R Rama tournament last Saturday, and many anglers didn't know if the event was a go until a couple of hours before it started.
The rangers decided to give tournament director Johnnie Hoeft the green light, and at 7 p.m. Gary Martin and Tammy Bollinger lead the parade of 36 boats that were entered in the largest overnight team striper tournament of the summer out of South Cove on Lake Mead.
Sponsored by local hotel/motel magnate John Patel, this tournament is the only one where every team is guaranteed to receive a prize, no matter where they finish.
To say it was hot at the start of the tournament would be an understatement, but in a few hours the temps dropped and anglers really got into fishing for striped bass.
The night was full of boats running and gunning as some teams searched for schools of fish. Others, who had pre-fished, just sat on spots they knew held fish.
And Hoeft isn't exactly sure why the tournament saw a reduction of 10 teams this year, but it could have been the weather.
When the teams started arriving at the parking lot of the Fisherman's Landing Bar in Meadview, which was the official site of the weigh-in on Sunday morning, it was obvious that the fishing hadn't been as good this year.
In the past, it would take nearly 70 pounds to get the top spot, and you absolutely had to be over 60 pounds to be in the top 10 teams. This year saw a major drop in the weights of the 40-fish limits.
Despite the tough angling, the duo of Fred Proudfoot and Ed Walker once again were on top of the leaderboard.
Walker said they caught more than 100 fish during the night, and their best 40 topped out at 60 pounds, 12 ounces.
In second place - just two ounces behind - was one of the teams that represented the Nevada Striper Club. Toby Chandler and Warren Wagner had a 40-fish limit that weighed 60 pounds, 10 ounces.
Third place was won by Troy Nolte and Ryan Asplin, who had a limit that weighed 59 pounds, 12 ounces.
Right behind them were Proudfoot's sister and brother-in-law, Gayron and Diana Hopper, whose limit of fish weighed 59 pounds, 10 ounces.
Chris Madden and Josh Holmstrom got fifth place with 59 pounds, 8 ounces.
In sixth place were Erick Knickerbocker and Dannie Williams with a limit that weighed 57 pounds, 1 ounce.
Seventh place went Mike VanZant and Charlie Suttles with 57 pounds, 6 ounces.
Tim Holmstrom and Grant Roland took eighth place with 55 pounds, 8 ounces, while Ray and Donnie Scroggins garnered ninth place with a bag that weighed 54 pounds, 1 ounce.
Bob Ponting and Art Garcia took home a 10th-place check with 53 pounds, 4 ounces.
Taking big fish honors this year were Toby Chandler and Warren Wagner, who brought in a lunker striper that weighed 7 pounds, 1 ounce.
The second-place big fish of the tournament was brought in by Thomas Lima and Sheila Williams. That lunker pushed the scales to 4 pounds, 8 ounces.
Each year, there is a prize for the largest fish in the odd fish category. That means a carp or catfish.
Ed Walker took a trip to the scales to claim that prize with a channel catfish that weighed 3 pounds, 12 ounces.
Hoeft noted that this year only 16 teams in the field turned in 40 stripers. The total weight of all the fish caught was less than 800 pounds.
"In the past, anglers would turn in between 1,200 and 1,500 pounds of stripers," Hoeft said.
Veteran striper angler Fred Proudfoot noticed the difference too: "There is something wrong out there," he said as he waited for all the teams to check in. His thoughts were echoed by many of the other tournament anglers, who noticed a big decline in the number of stripers as well as the quality of the fish.
Is the problem associated with the boom of the gizzard shad in the lake, or the takeover of the lake by the invasive quagga mussels?
Hoeft said that overall he was pleased with the tournament. He and the crowd acknowledged the presence of the two Lake Mead park rangers and Officer Brandon Carley of the Arizona Game and Fish Department, who were present at the weigh-in.
"Once again, the Fisherman's Landing people went out of their way to make sure we had a great place to weigh-in, and this year they even had free pastries and coffee out for the tired anglers," said Hoeft.
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