Early last Saturday morning, Castle Rock teenager Wesley Opsahl reeled in a bass at Silver Lake weighing in at just under six pounds.
While hauling in the hefty fish was exciting all by itself, the catch also won him the top prize at the first big bass tournament held on Silver Lake.
For his 5.98 pound bass, he said he earned $850 in prize money — $150 for having the largest fish of the hour, and another $700 for having the largest fish of the day.
The 14-year-old fisherman joined 51 other contestants out on the lake that day. Opsahl, who was joined by his father, took out his grandfather’s boat, he said, and caught the winning fish early in the day.
“Early in the morning the bites were coming pretty good, and we saw three-pounders, four-pounders up on the board,” Opsahl said. “But it slows down in the middle (of the day) and then they were bringing in one-pounders.”
His grandfather, Randy Thompson, is vice president of the Mount St. Helens Bass Masters club and organized the event, along with club president Phil Martin. It was held at Streeter’s RV & Campground Resort.
Thompson said they had been planning the event for a year, and had a very high turnout.
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“We didn’t know how many people there were going to be, since we had never done this before,” Thompson said. “You’re allowed 35 boats on the lake per event, and we had 31. That’s a good amount of boats.”
Each of the 51 participants paid $75 to enter the tournament, Thompson said. It was a big bass tournament, meaning that every hour, from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m., anglers could turn in one fish to be weighed.
“What we do is easier on the fish because they catch one fish and (after) they weigh it, we turn the fish loose right away,” Thompson said. “There were no fish casualties.”
The largest fish of each hour got a prize, as did the person with the largest overall fish, Thompson said. This time, that person just happened to be his grandson.
Opsahl has been fishing since childhood, starting when he was six or seven years old. He said isn’t sure yet what he wants to do with the prize money.
Thompson said the club would like to see this become an annual tournament. They’ve already started planning next year’s event.
As for the fishing champion, Opsahl said he “definitely” plans to enter the tournament again next year.