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The 2013 La Paz World Cup is coming...


Top Ten

by Dennis Haussler        

Two hours into the 2009 national championships, I have two fish on two different shafts stuck fast in a hole! Crap! Well, the good part is, I’m not nervous about burning time as my goal today is not to win this thing, just to hit top ten.

Back up 12 yrs to 1997. USA nationals in Malibu, and I’m in my first national meet. My expectations are way beyond reality, and instead of placing in the top 3, I wind up splitting the field, finishing somewhere around 33rd place.

Over the last 12 yrs, I’ve been fortunate to win the title twice, but both times in my backyard, whereas I’ve been unable to finish in top ten outside of my territory.

When last years champ Justin Allen called me last September to invite me to team with him, I told him I was not diving the tournament, but was going to take a year off and not get caught up in all the scouting and time in an attempt to do well at Malibu.

Justin kept bugging me for the next several months, until finally I talked to my good friend Bob Humphrey about going with Justin to make up a team. Bob and I agreed we would go, but only on a leisurely basis, with maybe 4 or 5 days scouting, and no worries about hitting the top position.

We were fortunate to have Bill Ernst host us at his house, as well as Rene Rojas, Anne Doherty, Dan Silveira and his crew were camped out front. Basically, Bill turned over his house to us, what a blessing that was. Thanks Bill!

Justin had started his scouting a month before, taking his 3 week off window and working the zone hard to find good fish and holes. Bob and I showed up at the same time, the Friday before the meet, and set about getting familiar with the area. Based on my talks with the McGuire brothers, I had decided that the north zone was the only area I would focus on.

In 1997, Mike, Glen, and John Plikus had the game won early on tournament day, but Mike was DQ’d due to a protest on time. Needless to say, I had talked with both of them, trying to get them to team with me to return this year and go for vengeance, but neither wanted to do it, so instead I picked they’re brains for all I could on where and how to approach this meet.

I’m not going to go into details, but I got enough info to start with a simple game plan, and areas to focus on. I had one hole I HAD to find, that was Glen’s hole somewhere outside Harrison’s reef. Now mind you, these guys are some of the best bearing detailers I have ever seen, but being that all of the bearings were 12 yrs old, virtually none of them were still in existence.

I used what I could and worked to find holes, knowing that the fish would bail from the kelp within 10 minutes of the start. I had enough experience to know what was going to happen when the game started, I knew that all the fish divers were seeing free-swimming about the pinnacles were going to vanish fast. I also knew that the trick was to find WHERE they were going to go.

The first day of scouting, I found a good hole that looked similar to what Glen had described, and marked it, unfortunately, Harolf and his boys were right on it at the same time as me. I described it later to Mike, and he said “that’s it”. I tried to get in touch with Glen to verify, but could not get a hold of him until 2 days before the meet, and when I described the hole to him he said “that’s not it”.

I was bummed that I had not found his hole, and although they both said “well sounds like a good hole anyway”, I knew that at least 6 other guys had this hole. I knew I had spend the last day of scouting to try to find Glens.

Tuesday before the meet, I spent the entire day swimming the open zones, looking for what Glen had described to me. I found a few good holes, and also 1 trigger fish that I hoped would be home meet day, as I knew probably no one else would take a trigger there.

I did find a nice rock with several entrances that held sheepshead, calicos, and lobster, and as it turned out, Paul Castillou, Dave Lang, and Frank Schweninger stopped to see what I was doing with my buoy deployed, so I told them to jump in and take a look.

At this point I did not think it was Glen’s, and even though I felt it was a good hole, I was not that concerned with them seeing it. This hole became known as Lang Lob on my GPS.

So, Wednesday was a day of rest, get gear together, rig up, rest up, all that sort of thing, AND come with a game plan. Bob was doing his usual hi speed, hi intensity analysis of his spots, creating a large scale chart of the area so he could see how it all laid out.

Justin was having the usual pre game jitters, where to start, etc, and I was dialing it down to two spots.

When I retired that night, I had a pretty rough game plan laid out, but was open to changing on the fly depending on who I saw on spots.

The weather Thursday morning was just about perfect. Seas were very manageable, no fog, and the wind that was forecast to blow out of the NW had not developed yet. After a few surf rolls, we staged at the buoys, and when the horn went off, I saw just how many divers were going north! Seems ¾ of the divers were heading uphill, so I just set a decent pace and held my line to my first stop.

10 minutes in, the field had opened up, and it was apparent that Rene and I were going to the same place, so we talked as we paddled and agreed to be calm and share it, try not to spook the fish.

Turns out Rene stopped about 100yds short of my spot, so we both sat there and enjoyed having our start spots to ourselves, a truly uncommon thing in a national event.

With time to burn, I geared up, relaxed, and got ready to make the first drop. At 0900 I slid into the water, loaded my gun, dropped about 10ft down and floated for a minute, then returned to the surface and breathed up for the drop. Conditions were perfect, great vis, slight current, and as I slid to the reef below, I waited to see the 5 or 6 sheepshead that lived there. Well, you all know what happens to best laid plans,,,,,,, they go afoul.

Turns out no one was home at mine or Rene’s spot, so after a few dives to see if they were gonna show, I bailed out, heading for my second stop.

Second stop, same thing,,,,,, no one home!

I headed into the kelp for some perch, and then checked a few cracks that had shown promise, but managed only 1 sandbass, AND the trigger wasn’t home!

I then moved to a zone with several holes, one called fishing rod, as I had put a fishing rod I found on top of the hole to help locate it. I took a cabezone and nice opaleye, then checked the area for a ling I had seen around there, but no luck.

I moved uphill to Lang Lob, dropped my anchor on top of the rock, and went to check it out. As I lit up one entrance with my light, I saw a nice white chin goat staring back at me from deep in the hole, so I drilled him and extracted it from the hole.

Then its 2 opaleye, 1 calico the easy way, and while moving around the rock, I found a lingcod laying outside  one entrance wondering what all the noise was about. I got him in the boat, and dropped into the side entrance where I found another cavity that had a big calico trying to hide in it. I pulled the trigger on him, and that’s when the fun began!

Trying to shortline the fish and keep him from going deeper, I get the shaft hung tight, tucked under a ledge in the crack! I get a 75cm gun out of the boat, and go back down to see if I can free the shaft with the 75, but as I light up the hole I see the fish, half of it actually, head down in the crack, and I think “Crap! That thing tore off and is laying there head down dying”, so I back out of the hole, load the gun, and go back in and shoot this fish.

I short line it as well, and manage to jam this shaft as well, in the same place as the first!

Now, I’m thinking, “I got 2 shafts and 1 fish jammed in this hole, 1 of the shafts is a brand new Mori, and I got to get them back as well as the fish!”.

I get the second shaft line above the ledge and  manage to free up the second shaft, and figure its time to get aggressive with this game, so I jam my shoulder against the rock, and start pulling. One way or the other, something’s going to give! I get the fish to move a bit, and after pulling like hell out it comes.

Up into the boat, and back down to see about getting that Mori shaft back.

I realize I’m going to have to crawl inside, so I scrape the urchins out of the way, and jam myself into the crack trying to reach the shaft. I get my hands on it, and free it from under the ledge, and when I grab the line, I feel it pulling back!

Turns out the fish I just boated was not the first fish, but another one in the hole!

So now I go into agro mode, and begin the tug of war to get this guy out as well.

It takes me a couple of dives, but I manage to tear this one out as well, and extract my new shaft.

I now have 3 nice calicos onboard, but every time I look back in the hole, there’s more calico, or sheepshead. I have those, so I go on the swim for some sandbass out in the open. After making a circle of the area and checking another crack, I head back to the hole to find it still showing fish, unfortunately I have my limit of these species, so it’s getting be a waste to stay there. Bob Humphrey comes downhill and I waive him over to see how he’s doing.

He needs calicos, so I tell him to anchor and come see this hole. I help him work the hole a bit, scaring fish down to him at the bottom, and he manages to take a good one out of there as well. 

I head uphill to another spot and manage a rubber lip to finish them out, and then point downhill to start scrounging for a few more fish.

Now mind you, at this point I feel I have a good catch, probably enough to land me in the top ten, but that’s it.

I check 4 or 5 spots, and cannot scrape up anything else, so I head to my last ditch pile hoping to get another sandbass off it.

Anne Doherty is there, and it appears others have hit it as well, so I scour the area and finally manage to scare up a sandbass, but its on the bottom watching me fall, and I know if I try to get level with it, its gonna bolt.

So, I rotate around, line up the gun as I’m falling, and snap off a shot, hitting the fish, but its not a solid shot and it pops off before I can get my hands on it.

Crap! 5 minutes to go and the area has been scoured, and there’s not a legal fish I need anywhere near me.

I hunt until 2 minutes to go, then climb on my kayak and start to clear gear, readying for the paddle to the beach. I talk with Anne and Justin, and we compare catches. Justin has a HUGE sheepshead, and I have 14 fish total, that I believe all will make the size limits.

We paddle back thru the buoys, and talk it up with the other divers coming in, then pick our waves and surf up on the beach, making a good landing and not embarrassing myself.

My wife is there and its so nice to see her and the kids. I feel good about my catch, but like I said, my goal is just to hit top ten. As we take our catches out of the boats, people start to assemble, and Dave Edlunds tells us we have the best combined catch he has seen.

I cannot believe it, as Ryan, Brandon, and Richard are the choice to win this thing, so I am hesitant to accept we have beat them, but Dave is pretty confident about what he’s seen.

Our team is way at the back of the line, so by the time we hit the weigh in table, we are pretty sure we’ve won it, and Bob presents a 19.3lb sheep, then Justin beats him with a 19.9lb sheep, and a beautiful catch. As I lift my fish to the table, the buzz starts, and I hear more than one person say “ you got it “.

I wait anxiously to see if all my fish make size, and they do. 14 total for high count, and after the weighing, its clear I have first place wrapped up!

Team Imersion takes first place, Justin takes big fish and third individual, and I take First individual for my third time!

I cannot believe this is happening, and as I call Mike to tell him, I fluctuate between hysterical laughter, and tears of joy!!!

I call my family to let them know, then Glen to tell him, and then although I am still dumbfounded as to how this happened, I let myself truly enjoy the moment of this win.

I am humbled and proud in the same moment, as I know I have been gifted this one.

In 2007 I wrote that I’d rather be lucky than good.

In 2009, I don’t know what to say. My responses from people when I tell them I just got lucky are all the same. 3 times is more than luck.

I feel this was a mix of good info from the McGuire’s and John Murphy, good scouting on my part in finding what turned out to be the payoff hole, and luck that it all came together the way it did. I figure you need to add some experience and talent as well, but have a hard time saying that.

I want to thank my wife for all her support in this game we play,,,,, Thank you Michele,,,,, you have made it easy for me to be as good as I am.

My team mates Bob Humphrey and Justin Allen, who if it hadn’t been for him bugging the hell out of me I would never have come this year! Thanks guys! It’s an honor to be on the trophy with both of you.

My sponsor Imersion of France, who has stood by me since 2000, supplying me with the best equipment this side of the Atlantic to aid in my passion.

My family who is always at my side, even when they’re not present in body, they are always present in spirit.

And last but not least, Mike and Glen McGuire for they’re assistance in fast tracking the area, and helping me focus where I needed to,,,,, thanks guys, I owe you one!

I also want to thank Erik Banados for all his hard work at putting this on, and all the GLACD crew who stepped it up and put on a great nationals, thanks guys and gals!

Oh, so was that Glens hole???? We’ll never know, until I get him back down there and show him the spot! Until then, its my little secret!


As Bob Humphrey would say “ Old guys rule !!!!!!!!






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