Airman angler lands spot in bass championship

HILL AIR FORCE BASE — A lifetime of casual fishing paid off for a Hill AFB sergeant in April as he placed fifth out of 137 anglers in the Bass Anglers Sportsmen Society Nation Western Divisional tournament.

Senior Master Sgt. Davick Hansen, superintendent of the 309th Aircraft Maintenance Group Depot Maintenance Squadron, was also named the Utah state champion. He caught 12 largemouth bass, weighing a total of 44 pounds, 12 ounces in the April 8-10 tournament at Clear Lake, California, about 125 miles northwest of Sacramento.

He will represent Utah in the B.A.S.S. National Championship in November in Monroe, Louisiana, fishing against 55 other anglers from the United States, Spain, Japan, South Africa, Mexico and Canada. And if he wins there, he will go to the organization’s Bassmaster Classic in March 2016 at Grand Lake o’ the Cherokees in northeastern Oklahoma.

All this for a kid who started out fishing in the streams of Wisconsin.

“I’d go fishing for carp, sunbass, bluegill — the standard little-kid stuff. My dad got me started with perch fishing,” Hansen said. “Because I’m from Wisconsin, we fished a lot in Lake Michigan and caught perch, salmon and trout.”

His first tournament was a “Salmon-O-Rama” that an uncle entered him in. Although he didn’t win, he had the “big fish” for one day and enjoyed the experience. He continued weekend fishing in his spare time while serving 21 years in the Air Force, but didn’t start real bass fishing until he was assigned to Hill 10 years ago.

“I met Rick Culver, the Utah B.A.S.S. Nation President, who introduced me into tournament bass fishing by local clubs,” Hansen said. “I did a couple last year and that got me really interested.”

Hansen became eligible for the Western Divisional after placing in the B.A.S.S. state qualifier at Flaming Gorge Reservoir in northeastern Utah — his first professional tournament.

“They get the best fishermen in Utah at Flaming Gorge, and the top 12 go to the divisional,” he said. The western division included the top 12- or 13-man teams from Washington, Idaho, Oregon, California, Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, Nevada, Arizona, New Mexico and Utah.

The catch-and-release California tournament paired Hansen with an angler from another state, according to the rules. He qualified as a “non-boater,” which meant he sat in the back of the boat while the other angler — the “boater” — had the front position. The boater also decided what area of the lake they fished.

“Sitting in the front is an advantage for the boater but not for the nonboater,” he said. “That’s why it’s so unbelievable that I came out on top.” In fact, only two nonboaters won their state titles.

After getting three days to “pre-fish” the lake, Hansen narrowed his list of 15 possible lures to three — two varieties of plastic worms and a Lucky Craft LV 500. The LV 500 (for “lucky vibration”) is a three-inch, three-quarter-ounce fish-shaped lure with hooks in strategic places, and it ended up being the one he used.

In addition, “You talk to people to get some tips — what works at that lake, what doesn’t and seasonal changes,” Hansen said. “A lot of the techniques I picked up were as a nonboater talking with other nonboaters and learning what to do and what not to do. This particular time in California, the bass were getting ready to spawn. All the bass were pretty hungry.

“I had that coupled with a lot of information from the Internet, talking to a lot of people — Rick Culver for instance — and getting inside information. There’s a plethora of information to make yourself a better fisherman, it’s just a matter of taking the time out of your life to do it.”

With a limit of five fish per day, Hansen caught most of his before 9 a.m.

“Fishing was better the first day, the second day was a little less but OK, and the third day was a grind,” Hansen said. “I was very blessed to get two fish on the last day. One of my buddies, on day three, got to a spot I wanted to fish. But before I did, and he had caught all the fish out of there. He maxed out at 20 pounds. If I had shown up 15 minutes earlier, I might have caught the ones he did and possibly won the whole thing.

“Sometimes, that’s how it works.”

Hansen went into the tournament with no thought that he would place in the top five.

“I didn’t think I’d have a chance at all. After the first day, I was pretty happy. I thought if I could catch five more fish the next day, maybe not the same weight, stay above 15 pounds, I thought I might have a chance.

“It’s a very humbling sport. I realize how blessed I was to come in fifth place. A lot of that had to do with being on the right spots on the lake at the right time. I could probably go back to those spots today and I wouldn’t catch a fish.”