The 2004 Bergen Bassmasters tournament season opened on a very stingy Lake Lillinonah on May 1st. The full field of 36 club members and four observers were greeted with one of the warmest opening events in club history as bright sunny skies brought air temperatures up to around 70 degrees. Meanwhile, water temperatures were in the upper 50s. Most anglers thought those were the ingredients to start pushing the bass up into the shallows and while a few had moved up, those were mostly the smaller males and fish under the 12 minimum.
John Hart had not pre-fished and planned to rely on past experience and confidence areas of the lake. As John approached the ramp with only 9 minutes before blastoff, he watched as 19 other boats sat waiting in the water, ready, and ahead of him. When the final tallies were recorded at the end of the day, however, no angler was ahead of him as he claimed his first ever Bergen Bassmasters club victory. Johns limit of 3 largemouth and 2 smallmouth totaled 8 pounds 11 ounces and included the tournament lunker, a 2 pound 7 ounce largemouth. When John found his usual spinnerbait bite off, he switched to his other confidence lure, a Senko. Basically fishing whatever color he had in the box, including black/silver flake, John fished from the Steel Bridge on south all the way to the dam area. He fished the back ends of coves and pockets looking for those fish eager to move up shallow. All of Johns fish were caught in under 3 feet of water.
Placing second was Bergen veteran, Mark Scocco with a limit weighing in at 6 pounds 8 ounces. Mark pre-fished numerous times and consistently found small keepers. His plan for the tournament involved running and gunning to look for the most active fish using search baits like a spinnerbait and jerkbait. When those tactics failed, he reverted to a slow, dead-stick approach with a Senko. He managed two bass in the Shepaug River and his other three were caught in the lower Housatanic.
Pat VanWettering has placed in each of the last two Lillinonah events and his string would continue with a third place finish to start off the 2004 season. Pat also pre-fished numerous times and his namesake bait, the spinnerbait, was proving productive once again, leaving Pat as a favorite going in to win the event. To not disappoint, Pat bagged his limit weighing 5 pounds 8 ounces on the spinnerbait, but as was the case for the entire club, the larger fish has made a disappearing act.
Fourth place was had by Jason Mordhorst with a limit weighing 5 pounds 5 ounces. Jason is coming off a strong 2003 season and has hopes of cracking the clubs Top Six for the first time in 2004. His top finish at Lilly will certainly help his cause. Jason also put down his favorite spinnerbait rod and went to the bottom, electing to fish Senkos and a Jig-n-pig to bag his five keepers.
Rounding out the top five was Elliott Liardo with four bass weighing 5 pounds 4 ounces. Elliott is known to be an excellent spring fisherman and utilized tubes, fished around shallow wood and a Shad Rap, to bag his fish.
In total, the 36 members weighed in only 69 keeper bass for a total weight of 85 pounds, 9 ounces. The average fish being just over a pound and the lunker being only 2 pounds 7 ounces proved the difficulties in locating the bigger bass. Only five limits were weighed in. The club continues season with its second event, planned for Lake Zoar, on May 22nd, and with high hopes that the bite will only get better from here.