LAKE CHAMPLAIN, NY — Atascadero native and 2012 alumnus Austin Bonjour traveled to Lake Champlain, NY, on Aug. 2-4 to compete in the 2018 Bass Pro Shops Eastern Open No. 3 and took first place with a three-day total of 32 pounds, 7 ounces in the co-angler division and moved into first place in the Co-angler of the Year rankings.
As a co-angler, Bonjour was paired with a professional for each day of the tournament, which had 200 professionals in the field. After the first two days of the tournament, the field is cut down to only the top 12 fishermen based on the total weight of fish caught.
There are four tournaments in the Eastern Open with this one being the third. In these tournaments, the pro’s have a limit of five fish that they can catch and co-anglers have a limit of three. Once a fisherman hits their limit they can begin swapping out bigger fish as they bring them in.
The former Greyhound began the tournament paired with Charlie Ingram, who finished 52nd overall on the professional side and rode in his boat, bringing in two largemouth bass and one smallmouth for a total of 11 lb., 11 oz., which was good enough to put him in third place after the first day
On the second day, Bonjour drew professional bass fisherman Parker Mott, who finished 82nd, and this time caught all smallmouth bass for a total of 10 lb., 12 oz., but was penalized for a dead fish, which dropped his total down to 10 lb., 8 oz.
“I was sitting in third with like a 2 pound,
The Atascadero angler caught a huge break on Championship Saturday when he was paired with professional Greg Dipalma, who finished fifth, who he had previously been paired with earlier in the season, and the two had already developed a rapport.
“The first tournament I fished with Bass was with Greg Dipalma,” Bonjour said. “On day one, and I drew him on Championship Saturday on this one and it worked out and we had chemistry already and knew each other.”
Going into the final day of the tournament, Bonjour was in third place but knew he needed a big day to catch the man in front of him and thought that even that might not be enough.
“Honestly, I didn’t think I could win it,” He said. “I didn’t think I had enough weight,”
When the day was over, Bonjour had caught his limit, all largemouth, and weighed in at 10-4. While waiting for everyone to weigh their fish, he noticed that the current leader was only weighing a single fish and was injected with hope.
“The guy that was leading it on the last day only weighed in one bass,” Bonjour said. “So once he weighed in front of me I kind of had a sigh of relief like a weight had been lifted off my shoulders and I knew that I had a chance to win this tournament,”
At a three-day total 32-7, Bonjour was the co-angler winner, edging out the second place finisher by 18 oz.
“I was pretty ecstatic when the last guy weighed in and I knew he didn’t have me beat,” Bonjour said. “I drew three great pro’s, didn’t miss any fish and executed well.”
With this victory, he is now the top-ranked angler in the co-angler division for Co-angler of the Year with 521 points and one tournament to go. Bonjour is four points ahead of the man in second place, Bobby Bakewell, after finishing 70th in the first tournament of the year and then following that up with a third-place finish and now a victory.
The win at the Eastern Open No. 3 he has also punched his ticket to the Championship tournament that will be taking place in October at Table Rock in Missouri. With a win at the Championship, Bonjour will have his choice of entry fee paid to any tournament the following season and compete as a professional.
For winning the tournament, he received a voucher for a $30,000 dollar fishing boat. While this is something that would make most avid anglers overjoyed, Bonjour is fishing for a different reason. He will be selling the voucher in order to save money up for his wedding that will be happening in a year to his fiance, Rayne Cockerill, who also graduated from Atascadero High School.
“It is a boat and motor certificate,” Bonjour said. “Like a package, we’re selling that, getting a check, and then that is going to finance the wedding and pretty much will take us into the first year of our marriage debt free.”
Bonjour will be in action again in the fourth and final Eastern Open of the season which will be taking place on Sept. 13-15 at Douglas Lake in Tennessee.