With the Lake Havasu Striper Derby pushed back to June, anglers need to adjust accordingly, and it’s really anybody’s to win
BY MIKE STEVENS
LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. – The 2020 installment of the granddaddy of all Western Outdoor News events is going to be different than all previous in a variety of ways. This year’s WON Lake Havasu Striper Derby (June 20-21) gained major upgrades including in the prize department including a tuna trip out of Puerto Vallarta for biggest fish and a $4,000 SeaEagle/Suzuki inflatable boat-and-motor as a general raffle prize to go along with Pure Fishing (Berkley, Abu Garcia) climbing aboard as a sponsor and sprinkling its products all over the event. Also, the giveaway bag at this year’s event is more valuable than ever before.
But it’s not just the makeup of the long-running event that sets this year apart from all others. The biggest change was the temporary (for obvious reasons) move from holding the event in May to June. Of course, that means it’s going to be warmer out there, but it also means anglers are going to be dealing with a different fishing stage than they’re used to dealing with when it’s held in its historical month.
WON reached out to some previous champions, Striper Derby veterans and others most familiar with the fishery for their predictions on how the fishing will be different a month later than usual. There are some similarities across the board, and at the very least, it looks like the June conditions creates more of an “up for grabs for anyone” situation which is what the Striper Derby is all about.
“If I’m fishing in June, I will not be utilizing my normal techniques because the fish I have capitalized on the past couple years will have moved out of the river area and back into the deep waters of the lake,” said Bryan Simons, who has won the last two Striper Derbies in a row. “If I had to put a number on the winning bag, I’m going to guess 50, 60 pounds max, and I wouldn’t be surprised if it was under 50 pounds.”
At press time, Simons was doubtful he would be able to defend his back-to-back titles this year. As a health care professional, he volunteered to fly to New York City and jump into the front lines against COVID-19. Simons picked up the virus himself and powered through it, but he’s not sure if he can get the time off in June. While it’s a bummer he won’t be there to shoot for a Striper Derby Threepeat, his absence certainly lends itself to the “up for grabs” narrative here in 2020.
Another former champion also weighed in with his thoughts on how striped fishing at Havasu in June will be.
“I think there will be better action for those casting early, and you might be more likely to run into a boil anytime during the day,” said 2017 champ Kenny Baldwin. “The fish should be more spread out and on the hunt for shad, hungry from the spawn. It should be good fishing.”
Baldwin – who is also makes Producer Plugs – often fishes with Hemet-based guide Mike Southerland whose “flycoring” technique stands as arguably the most effective way to consistently catch stripers at Diamond Valley Lake, but that method of trolling big flies on leadcore line has proven effective at Havasu and beyond. Despite the later date, Southerland’s game plan sounds like it would be to stick to his proven playbook.
“I don’t think they’ll be much change,” said Southerland. “Flycore or troll lures 30 to 40 feet deep, close to shore, and over some structure if possible.”
Rounding out the predictions from experienced Lake Havasu anglers were a couple more anticipating deeper water as the key zone to target In the June 2020 running of Striper Derby.
“Shad isn’t really around in June, and boat pressure drives the fish down,” said Steve Duncan, who has half-a dozen Striper Derbies under his belt.”
Havasu local and very accomplished striped bass hunter Jordan Panster who works at the Big 5 in Lake Havasu City said the name of the game is going deep with anchovies and piling up numbers rather than throwing big baits for big fish.
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