Crossing the line from amateur fishing to the pros

Pahrump really has no local fishing spots and so those who have the urge to fish will have to do some traveling.

According to resident expert outdoorsman Dan Simmons, the best place to travel to is Lake Mead, which is about 100 miles east of here and just east of Las Vegas.

“It’s the closest fishing,” Simmons said. “You are just a couple of hours from some really good fishing.”

But Lake Mead is a big lake. How do you learn where all the good fishing spots are?

Simmons likes to use guides but he told me to talk to professional angler and Pahrump resident Ron Cross, who has been fishing that lake since 2000.

Cross says if you want to know the best spots to fish, tournament fishing is one of the best ways to get to know the lake to catch largemouth bass.

In 2000 Pahrump resident Ron Cross crossed the line from a recreational fisherman into the world of professional angler. Cross did this by entering into his first Lake Mead U.S. Open fishing tournament. He compares this tournament to the Masters tournament in golf.

The veteran fisherman has been fishing now for 60 years but only in tournaments for the past 15 years.

“I like doing the tournaments. You learn to fish the lake better, just as good as you would if you had a guide,” he said. “I went guide fishing one time and the boat broke down and we were towed back. It wasn’t the greatest experience.”

The U.S. Open is an annual event at Lake Mead that takes place in September and is in its 34th year. This year the two-day tournament falls on September 12-14.

The field consists of more than 150 pro anglers and their AAA partners. Last year’s event had 168 boats in the contest.

Cross said he enters the contest as a AAA angler.

“You pay $600 for two days of fishing and you go out with two different professionals each day, and they provide the boat,” the veteran fisherman said.

He explained that the pros take you out to fish for largemouth bass and you have a blast.

“The professional is on your team,” he said. “They want you to catch as many fish as you can because each team can only catch five fish and the biggest weight wins the tournament. So it’s in his interest for you to be successful and it’s fun. I love competing with the pros. Most of the pros are good teachers and they also respect anglers that know what they are doing.”

Tournament fishing might not be for everyone. There are long periods of time when you don’t catch any fish. Many people would have a hard time with that.

“I know my grandkids don’t do well in this type of environment,” Cross said. “My kids love to fish but they have to be catching fish every minute. I love tournament fishing though, and the competition. There is no feeling like beating the pros, but fishing with my grandkids is my other love.”

When asked if he has ever out-caught the professional, he replied, “Yes, I have done this more than once.”

Cross has been doing this for some time and he even fished as professional in the U.S. Open one time.

“Being a professional means you provide the boat,” he said. “I didn’t do well as a professional.”

The professionals all have a unique talent for finding fish and some are more skilled than others.

Cross described one contest he had with a pro angler on a night he was feeling cocky that involved flipping a jig (a type of fishing lure).

“I thought I was a good jig flipper,” he said. “So one evening I set out to prove it by placing a jar of water 20 feet away and then I bet a buck that I could flip the jig into the jar. I did it on the second try but the pro wasn’t impressed he said he could do it without spilling any water from the jar and he proceeded to do that on the first try.”

Tournament fishing is tough. He said the tournament is held at the end of summer in September and the best time to fish for largemouth bass is in the springtime. The professionals spend hours learning Lake Mead and where to go for fish. He said there are times that even the pros have a hard time catching fish.

“For me to become a good professional I would have to fish Lake Mead every day for a whole month,” he said. “Then it becomes a chore and it’s work, but that’s what professionals do. It’s the way they make their living.”

Largemouth bass are the target for the U.S. Open.

“It’s harder to catch largemouth bass because it’s a picky fish,” Cross said. “The tougher the fishing, the better I do. The tournament then restricts the type of bait that can be used. No live bait. Everything is artificial. The pros then must determine what the bass is hitting on. I usually use rubber worms that are purple or brown.”

When one competes in tournaments like the U.S. Open, it changes the way you fish.

“As a kid I was taught by my dad and grandfather and they taught me to keep most of the fish you catch,” the veteran said. “In tournaments though, if you start catching small fish, first, you throw back the small ones and then you move to another area.”

In this tournament, contestants were catching big bass, up to six pounds, which translates into two feet long.

Another aspect of the tournament is how fast the boats travel. There is a lot to learn from the pros and then there are things you can’t learn, for tournament fishing is not for the faint of heart.

“The beginning of the tournament is something to be seen,” Cross said. “Each boat is about 20-25 foot long and these things can go fast, up to 75-80 mile per hour. They have to be fast because time is an element of the tournament.”

He said he met a guy that had blown his lens out of his glasses because the boat was going so fast and after the tournament the guy was whining about the speed.

“When we got in he told me, ‘There is no way that a boat should go that fast,’” Cross said.

Cross fishes smaller tournaments too.

“The smaller tournaments have less of an entry fee, like $150,” he said.

As far as equipment, the Pahrump angler said he likes to take more than one rig with him when he fishes.

“I can take up to 20 poles with me and they all have different lures and baits on them,” Cross said.

He likes to use a Shimano Super Free reel and a G Loomis pole.

The best Cross has ever done at the U.S. Open is 10th place.

“That’s not bad out of 300 anglers,” he concluded.

Contact sports editor Vern Hee at

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