With B.A.S.S. headed back to Lake Havasu this week for the first time since 2003, it seems like an opportune time to revisit Mike Baldwin’s 1998 Western Invitational win on the Colorado River impoundment. While we’re expecting reasonably solid weights from the Elites, Baldwin’s victory was anything but a slugfest – he weighed in 10 fish for 22-11 to beat out fellow local Larry Locatis by a little bit over 3 pounds. It only took 6-08 to make the money.
Baldwin had landed in fourth place after Day One with 8 pounds, fishing a nail-weighted straight-tailed worm up the river. Heavy wind on Day Two made it difficult to present the lightly-weighted soft plastic properly. His second day partner suggested that they go down lake and crank – a recommendation that may have salvaged his victory as he managed three fish for 6-04, before slamming the door with 8-07 on the third day to close it out.
The runner-up finish was the only Bassmaster event Locatis fished. He was submarined by a Day Two blank – the fish didn’t respond to the “oversized darter jig” (as B.A.S.S. Times described it) that had served him so well on Day One. He switched to a Texas-rigged Zipper Worm on Day Three to rally back
Third place finisher Art Berry won the New Mexico Invitational on Elephant Butte the following year and later fished the FLW Tour for a couple of years before falling on some hard times. Fourth place finisher Skeet Reese wouldn’t earn his first Bassmaster win for nearly two more years, and then added six more between 2003 and 2014.
Baldwin only fished 15 B.A.S.S. events, the last one coming at Havasu in 2003 (where he finished 49th), and he managed another top 10 finish in 1999 at Lake Oroville. That might’ve made the 1998 win the highlight of his career, had he not gone ahead the next year and won the Red Man All-American on the Mississippi River out of LaCrosse, Wisconsin.
His All-American victory was a particularly tough event because Wisconsin effectively prohibited culling – once a fish was placed in the livewell, it was yours for the day. The prior year some people believed that the state had waived the law for the tournament, but they had not. In 1999, they made it clear that the law was effective for the event. In the final round of his victory, Baldwin caught his limit in less than a half hour from a single rock pile on a 5-inch Yamamoto Hula Grub and, according to Yamamoto’s Inside Line magazine “spent the remainder of the day wondering if he had been too conservative.”
In order to win this week’s trivia contest sponsored by Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits, be the first person to answer the following four questions correctly in the comments section, below:
1) Who led at Havasu in 1998 after Day One?
2) What did Baldwin do for a living when he wasn’t fishing?
3) What lipless crankbait did Baldwin use on Day Two at Havasu?
4) Who finished second to Baldwin at the All-American?
The answers and winner will be announced Thursday. Good Luck!