Lake Hemet Big Trout Campout draws nearly 500 anglers, featured hot fishing and great times

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BY MIKE STEVENS

MOUNTAIN CENTER— Prior to this year, the Lake Hemet Big Trout Campout was already a well-established event with a loyal following. For the 2024 installment of the family event, Lake Hemet management joined forces with Western Outdoor News to tap into WON’s vast fishing-event production experience to bring the Campout to the next level. When legitimate concerns about having enough parking and space on the shoreline (turned out there was plenty of both) came up in the weeks leading up to the event and the registration count flirted with 500 anglers, it became clear that the next level had absolutely been reached.

THIS 8.53-POUND lightning trout help propel Stephen Guerra to the winner’s circle, and it also stood as the overall Big Fish of the vent. He had a 2-day total of 23.04 pounds.

The 2-day trout derby ultimately drew 491 anglers, which is even more impressive considering the fact the Big Trout Campout was up against the Eastern Sierra trout opener (April 27). Right out of the gates, every registered angler grabbed a giveaway bag containing PowerBait, Thomas Buoyant lures and Rooster Tails, then it was off to hit a heavily-stocked Hemet Lake for a shot at great sponsor prizes and cash. Like all WON family fishing events, catching the biggest or most fish was not the only way to get your hands on prizes at the Big Trout Campout. In fact, the biggest prize – an aluminum Marlon boat matched with a 9.9 hp Suzuki outboard – was among the raffles prize, and all registered anglers were automatically entered for that stuff. There were prizes awarded to the top 5 adults and juniors for the heaviest 2-day total weights, the overall big fish, and there were Blind Bogey cash payouts spread across both days.

BIG WINNERS in the Big Trout Campout’s adult division with the Suzuki Spin-to-Win prize wheel in the background.

Stephen Guerra stood as the overall winner with a 2-day total weight of 23.04 pounds, a bag anchored by an 8.53-pound rainbow caught on Day 1 which also stood as the overall Big Fish of the Big Trout Campout. He narrowly edged out second-place finisher Martin Diaz who weighed in 22.63 pounds of Lake Hemet trout. As for the spoils of victory. Guerra claimed the first place spoils and also the Sea Eagle FishSUP Deluxe inflatable fishing paddleboard that was earmarked for the overall big fish. Like most Campout anglers, Guerra did most of his damage on Day 1 (19.33 pounds) with only 3.71 pounds added to the total on Day 2 when fishing got tough. Those were the only two bags weighing over 20 pounds, but five tipped the scale at over 15 pounds and all the weights in the top 25 were in double digits.

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SOME OF THE BIGGER prizes up for grabs at the Lake Hemet Big Trout Campout.

Like Lake Havasu Striper Derby and other family-fishing tournaments put on by WON, Suzuki had a huge presence at the Lake Hemet Big Trout Campout. Along with providing the outboard for the grand raffle prize boat, Suzuki once again powered the Suzuki Spin-to-Win prize wheel with $2,000 cash to be distributed based on whatever amount the wheel landed on (Yes there is a $2,000 spot, and yes, someone has landed on it before). Anglers who get their number called via the raffle come up to spin until the Suzuki money is all gone, and it always seems to be the most raucous portion of the award ceremony, whatever the venue. The funny thing is, the Suzuki Spin to Win Wheel was originally supposed to be a one-event deal, but it was so well received it has become a regular thing, literally by popular demand.

The winner of that Marlon/Suzuki boat-and-motor Grand Prize was Martin Diaz Jr. who had it quite a bit better than any other boat raffle winner in a WON event. While everyone has an equal shot at winning and it’s completely unaffected by how well you fished in the event, Diaz happened to be the second-place winner. That is the highest finish for an angler that was also the Grand Prize winner in the history of WON’s family events.

When the dust settled on the Big Trout Campout, all involved with producing and running the tournament were confident that everyone had a good time, stoked that there were no logistical headaches and fired up about the 2025 installment of the event. If you don’t want to wait that long for a trout derby with a similar vibe, mark your calendars for the long-running WON Big Bear Troutfest slated for October 5-6. A boat and motor is always up for grabs there, the Suzuki Spin-to-Win cash wheel will be there, and a legendary fishery in a spectacular setting will be packed with trout and ready to host another great time on the water.

Keep an eye on the TOURNAMENTS tab at WONews.com for these and all other events produced by WON.

TOP ANGLERS in the junior division.
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