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Big-bass King Crowned

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OAK VIEW In a bass tournament where one cast could mean winning $10,000, Don Osborne took it literally.

The Castro Valley angler pulled up to the Lake Casitas shoreline in a spot called the airstrip and made his first cast Friday morning in the Heavyweight Bass Championship.

It was the only cast he would need.

On the third crank of the reel, Osborne hooked up and went on to land a 10.52-pound largemouth bass.

"After that first cast, I couldn't get that clock to tick fast enough," Osborne said.

As it turned out, he didn't need to worry.

On a day of rain, wind and cold, none of the other anglers could boat anything close, not even those who knew the lake inside out.

So, Osborne, whose experience at Casitas amounted to less than 8 hours of pre-fishing in December without catching a fish, became the king of big bass by winning the inaugural Heavyweight Bass Classic, a biggest-bass-takes-all event.

He earned a $10,000 check and a custom-made HBC belt, something akin to what a heavyweight boxing champ would receive but without the bling.

"Hey guys, anybody can win," Osborne told the crowd huddled under the awning of the tackle shop during the awards ceremony.

"It was just luck. Total luck. I've never been on this lake. I had to be in the right place at the right time, and my number was drawn today."

Those whose numbers were not drawn were a who's-who from the big-bass community:

Allan Cole, Mr. A.C. Plug who got the big swimbait craze started with his lure; Dana Rosen, who once caught a 63.26-pound, five-bass limit at Casitas; Art Berry, who has caught more than 100 bass over 10 pounds; and Butch Brown, who has caught 850 bass 10 pounds or bigger.

A week before the event, Brown was videotaped catching a 12.5-pound largemouth at Casitas and saying something like, "See you Friday," a statement that spoke of his great confidence.

None of these heavyweights even weighed in a bass, proving Osborne's contention that anyone can win.

"You could have put money on so many great, great anglers here and this guy shows up and wins," event emcee and pro bass angler Byron Velvick said. "I think it's great. It definitely feeds the idea that these guys are like, 'Man, this could easily have been me.' Every one of them."

Osborne, it should be noted, is no stranger to swimbaits and big bass. He's caught 62 bass weighing from 10 to 16.9 pounds, and has been fishing swimbaits for nine years.

"I've been throwing them religiously," he said. "It's like a slot machine. You keep pulling it, pulling it, eventually it'll hit and today was my day."

For the remaining field, it was just a long day.

Of the 49 other contestants, only 19 weighed a fish and only six were heavier than 5 pounds, topped by a 7.99-pounder.

The winning fish was caught on a Ken Huddleston early Castaic 12-inch plug, apropos since it was swimbait-maker Huddleston whose idea it was for this event.

"Our goal is to turn this into a trail, a regular circuit (with two or three events a year)," Huddleston said.

The next event is July 11 at Clear Lake.

"It really is long overdue," Velvick said. "Tour guys won't appreciate it because it really becomes a one-fish, one-lucky-cast kind of bite. But it really does showcase great, big-fish fishermen. This is what these guys live for, that one big bite."

And if it's on the first cast, so much the better.

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