KENNEWICK, Wash. -- October 13, 2001--Michael Gibney, gambling not only that he could catch enough bass to keep his lead but also that he could get back to weigh them in, made it all look easy as he won the Washington CITGO BASSMASTER Western Open with a total of 44 pounds, 1 ounce.

The Troutdale, Ore. angler, who fishes the Columbia River frequently and knows its many moods, raced south from the Columbia Park launch site in Kennewick only to hit 20 mph winds and three foot waves before he ever made it to the McNary Dam where he and several other anglers planned to lock through into the lower John Day Pool. Once in the pool, even rougher water kept Gibney confined to a single 20-yard long underwater ridge the entire day.

The lack of movement did not bother the veteran angler, who fished a Carolina rig over the brush-covered ridge to bring in 14 pounds, 8 ounces, one of the heaviest catches of the day. His fiirst place award included a fully rigged Skeeter bass boat valued at $35,000.

Gibney's total of 44-1 easily out-distanced runnerup Kotaro Kiriyama, who finished with 37 pounds, 4 ounces. He was followed by Jim Jeffords in third with 34-1; Aaron Martens with 33-11; and Ron Wiseman, Jr., who brought in 31-9. Neither Kiriyama or Jeffords locked through into the John Day Pool, but both Martens and Wiseman did.

Kiriyama fished more than 10 miles up the Columbia River to escape both the wind as well as other anglers. He used a drop-shot rig along steep river shorelines in just three to eight feet of water, casting upriver and then dragging his plastic worm along the bottom with the current. In the clear, shallow water he could see many of the fish he caught, including the 5 pound, 4 ounce smallmouth that tied him for big fish honors of the day with Clifton Blanchett.

Jeffords, in contrast, fished down the Columbia in the middle of the river where he faced the full force of the wind and waves. He concentrated along the ragged edge of a deep flat where he used both a Carolina rig and a drop-shot in 25 to 30 feet of water.

Aaron Martens, considered one of the top drop-shot artists in the nation, used that technique in the John Day Pool to catch a quick but small limit of five bass, then locked back upriver to another spot where he caught four larger fish and improved his weight by at least six pounds. Despite bobbing in four to six foot waves, he was able to drag a plastic worm along a small breakline in 18 feet of water and catch fish throughout the day.

Wiseman, another Columbia River veteran and winner of last year's BASSMASTER event here, also used a drop-shot technique to claim fifth. He fished around the upper end of an island in about 25 feet of water, dragging rather than shaking a plastic worm through the rocks.

"The lower John Day Pool really paid off for anyone who was willing to make the ride down and back because it had not received any pressure this week," noted Gibney. "The lower pool generally has a better overall smallmouth population than the upper Walulla Pool because it has such excellent spawning areas.

"If the weather had been good this week, everyone would probably have fished the lower pool."

Daily weigh-ins take place at 3p.m. at Columbia Park in Kennewick and are free to the public.

By sanctioning over 20,000 tournaments worldwide, B.A.S.S. is the world's largest fishing organization. The CITGO BASSMASTER Tournament Trail is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit. It continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism, and sportsmanship after more than three decades. B.A.S.S. is a wholly owned subsidiary of ESPN.

Sponsors of the Washington CITGO BASSMASTER Western Open include: CITGO, Chevrolet Trucks, Mercury Marine, Yamaha Outboards, Triton Boats, Skeeter Boats, Lowrance Electronics, Pennzoil Marine, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, Stowaway Batteries, Kumho Tires, Long John Silver's, Gore-Tex Outerwear, MotorGuide Trolling Motors, Bass Pro Shops, Armstrong Industrial Hand Tools, GMAC/ B.A.S.S. Vehicle & Boat Insurance, B.A.S.S. Platinum Visa/First USA.

Associate Sponsors include: Bass Cat Boats, G3 Boats and Champion Boats

The CITGO BASSMASTER Western Open event is presented locally by the Tri-City Area Chamber of Commerce and the City of Kennewick.


Story Courtesy of B.A.S.S., Inc.