Wait for derby victory heavy duty

spectr17

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Wait for derby victory heavy duty

April 9, 2001

By DAVE STREGE, The Orange County Register

As soon as the halibut hit the deck, Mannie Mendelson jumped on top of the fish, becoming a human paperweight. This one was not about to get away.

Then he ordered his partner to immediately head for the weigh-in station at Burton Chace Park in Marina del Rey.

It was around noon Saturday, the first day of the two-day Marina del Rey Halibut Derby. Mendelson, of West Los Angeles, wanted to get this monster weighed promptly.

Alas, the weigh-in didn't begin for another three hours, so they went out and fished some more, waiting for the scale to open.

It was worth the weight.

Mendelson's halibut weighed a derby-record 44.7 pounds, a weight that held up Sunday to give Mendelson the victory in the 28th annual event.

Mendelson was rewarded with a five-day fishing trip to Baja, an unspecified cash jackpot and, for his fish weighing more than 43 pounds, a new Ford truck.

It was the first time a truck has been awarded since it became a prize in 1999.

Usually the winning fish in the Marina del Rey Halibut Derby weighs somewhere in the 30s or even 20s. Never has a 40-pounder won it.

In fact, the Santa Monica Bay Halibut Derby's biggest winner was a 45-pounder.

Mendelson, owner of the Santa Monica Pier Bait and Tackle Co., has entered halibut derbies for 13 years and not come close to winning.

Mendelson and his partner, Mark Hruby of Marina del Rey, fished several places Saturday before trying a spot in 60 feet off Venice Pier.

"We just happened to go to the place where my friend's ashes were scattered a year-and-a-half ago," Mendelson said of the spot that produced the winning fish. "It was a blessing. I'm going to believe in the higher power for that."

Using the same 20-pound rig with sardines, Mendelson didn't catch anything big Sunday, a day of waiting and hoping that nobody else caught something bigger.

"Each minute seemed like an hour," he said. "I thought for sure somebody else would have something bigger. It's really hard to believe."

Presumably, it was hard to believe for Bill Stembridge of Long Beach, too. Saturday, he weighed in a 40.8-pounder, a fish that would have been a winner in any other year.

Halibut taking third through seventh, ranging from 36.8 to 30.8 pounds, all could have won the event. A 25.1-pound halibut, another impressive fish, took 15th.

The top Orange County angler was Robert Fusca of Huntington Beach with a 31.7-pounder good for sixth.
 

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