For the second year in a row, youth was served at the Border Bass Battle.
Fourteen-year-old Mark Peña, from Del Rio, was the tournament’s biggest winner Saturday afternoon. The young angler brought in the tournament’s heaviest largemouth bass, which weighed in at 7.57 pounds. His bass led him to win that hour and then went on to earn him first place for the entire tournament and win the youth division of the tournament.
By the end of it all, Peña had won more than $4,000 in cash prizes, more than enough to cover the $125 entry fee required of all anglers.
Peña said he caught his big bass around 8 a.m. And while his catch would have won him any of the eight hourly weigh-ins, he said strategy led him to wait before he and his friend, local guide Rick Harris, who was also competing in the tournament, decided to bring his hog to the scales.
Last year, Midland’s Jonathan Garcia, who was 13 then, earned more than $3,300 for a 6.6-pound bass that helped him win one of the hourly weigh-ins and the prize for biggest bass among youth anglers. He also took second place with another bass during a different hourly weigh-in.
Garcia returned to Lake Amistad Saturday for a chance to add to his legacy, but his best finish was fourth during the 8 to 9 a.m. weigh-in with a 2.13-pounder.
Nearly 300 anglers took to the water for a chance at part of the $21,000 that would be doled out by the Del Rio Chamber of Commerce and its special projects committee. Most of the participants were from Del Rio, but communities throughout Texas, and as far away as New Mexico, were represented.
A total of 68 bass were weighed in over the course of the tournament. Only three of those were smallmouth bass, which was a category unto itself.
This year’s tournament also paid out to the top three anglers each hour. First place winners would receive $1,350, second place would receive $600, and third place would receive $200. Cash prizes were also awarded to the overall biggest largemouth bass ($2,200), overall biggest smallmouth bass ($1,000) and overall largest bass in the junior division ($600).
Many of the anglers who competed had fished in one of the three previous Border Bass Battle tournaments. Some, like Cody Lee, found success again this year. Lee, who calls Wimberly home, won $850 last year for weighing in the largest small mouth bass. This year, Lee took third place in the final weigh-in of the day with a 3.23-pounder. For his efforts, Lee won $200.
Michael Wilson of Lubbock was familiar with the tournament. His son, Joshua Wilson, earned more than $4,500 at the first Border Bass Battle in 2017 with a 10.14-pound bass, which is still the largest fish to be weighed-in during the tournament’s history.
On Saturday, the elder Wilson said he came down to try and beat his son’s record. Michael weighed in a 4.28-pound bass during the noon to 1 p.m. period. While it was short of Joshua’s behemoth, it still netted Michael a third place check for that hour.
Denver Guys from Crockett was another angler familiar with Lake Amistad. The grandson of former longtime Del Rio News-Herald Sports Editor, and Del Rio High School gymnasium namesake, Carl Guys, Denver took second in the 7 to 8 a.m. weigh-in with a 3.10-pounder. The younger Guys said he had been fishing at Amistad for years, taking the chance to get out on the water whenever they came down to visit family.
While this year’s tournament was pushed back to November due to the COVID-19 pandemic, organizers said next year’s event was tentatively scheduled for March 20, pending approval from the National Park Service.
The top three anglers from each hour, and their weights, is as follows:
7 to 8 a.m.
First - Steve Wayne, San Antonio – 3.99 pounds
Second - Denver Guys, Crockett – 3.10 pounds
Third - Wayne Jackson, Rio Frio – 2.76 pounds
8 a.m. to 9 a.m.
First – Lupe Rodriguez, Del Rio – 3.80 pounds
Second – Ridgy Graham, Del Rio – 2.99 pounds
Third – Oscar Ibarra, Del Rio – 2.80 pounds
9 a.m. to 10 a.m.
First – Mark Salas, Del Rio – 4.14 pounds
Second – Robert Lopez, Del Rio – 3.01 pounds
Third – Ray Benoit, Del Rio – 2.39 pounds
10 a.m. to 11 a.m.
First – Larry Hooper, San Angelo – 3.72 pounds
Second – Armando Ibarra, Del Rio – 3.54 pounds
Third – Kelly Carter, Clovis, N.M. – 3.20 pounds
11 a.m. to noon
First – Mark Peña, Del Rio – 7.57 pounds
Second – Mike Lazers, Del Rio – 6.44 pounds
Third – Richard Phipps, Monahans – 3.20 pounds
Noon to 1 p.m.
First – John Casparis, Sonora – 6.80 pounds
Second – Manuel Guerero, Del Rio – 4.34 pounds
Third – Michael Wilson, Lubbock – 4.28 pounds
1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
First – Stacy Miller, Lubbock – 5.07 pounds
Second – Glenn Hahn, San Antonio – 4.60 pounds
Third – Chris Amthor, Iraan – 3.51 pounds
2 p.m. to 3 p.m.
First – Richard Drake, San Antonio – 4.39 pounds
Second – Tim Flowers, Midland – 4.02 pounds
Third – Cody Lee, Wimberly – 3.23 pounds
Overall Biggest Largemouth – Mark Peña, Del Rio - 7.57 pounds
Overall Biggest Smallmouth – Wesley Wilson, Lubbock – 2.37 pounds
Overall Largest Bass, Junior Division – Mark Peña, Del Rio – 7.57 pounds