Making the “Cut”

The Nixon’s Moses Lake Open has always been a special event. This will be the 10th year of the Moses Open.  In looking at the previous 9 contests, there are a few insights that can be gathered.

In that inaugural year, 2008, Ray Lehrman and I decided to enter but neither one of us had any kind of experience on Moses Lake.  Ray and I decided we needed to spend a couple of days prefishing.  This was before the two-week off-limits so the weekend before we go up to try to figure something out.  On day one, in back to back casts we each caught our personal best Washington largemouth (upper 7’s).  We had 24 or 25 lbs for our best five.  The next day Ray breaks his 1 day old personal best largemouth record with one over 8.  We had another 24 or 25 lbs.  Despite the great fishing, a feeling of dread overcame both of us sometime that second prefish day.  I asked Ray, “if we are doing this good, how good are the guys doing that actually know this lake?”.  Turns out they were doing really good.  We caught 15 or 16 pounds on the tournament day (lesson learned – one week, much less two makes a huge difference this time of year) and knew it would take over 20 lbs to make the cut.  We were too embarrassed to bring them in.  Wolsky and Hendrickson killed them in that event, over 32 lbs on day one and 26 lbs on the second day. I talked to several others who caught their personal best either in prefish or during the tournament.  By the way, I wouldn’t recommend the “dump ’em” approach at the end of Saturday.  In 2010, it only took 16.46 lbs to make the cut.  We had 16.22 that year and finished Saturday in 12th place.

On the flip side, there have been times where we made the cut but burned up some fish on Saturday we didn’t need only to struggle some on Sunday.  A multi-day event gets into the area of “fish management” which, along with a few other topics, is seldom talked about.  Then there have been two other times where we backed off on day 1, thinking we had enough, only to just barely miss the cut.  Only the top ten make the cut, so the last few years, it was about catching what we could on day 1 and then worrying about day 2 when it came.  Over the years, we just added so many areas we could go to that it was impossible to fish them all, so then it became a matter of prioritizing them and trying to have as many key areas as possible we thought others wouldn’t try.  As fun as it is, it is also a headache from a strategy standpoint.  “Managing” smallmouth and largemouth bass it turns out, is about as easy as herding cats.

Times in the Top 10

So how often are some of the teams making the cut?  Some anglers have changed partners a time or two over the years which kind of makes it difficult to track.  The following individuals/teams have made the cut 3 or more times since the first Moses Lake Open in 2008.  (Wins are noted in red)

Wolsky (2)- 7 times & Hobbs (1) – 6 times

Lippincott & Treffry (1) – 5 times

Meseberg (3 different partners) – 5 times

Echternkamp & Kromm (3) –  4 times

Hall & Turner – 4 times

Hogue – 4 times & Lehrman – 3 times / Brown (1) – 3 times

McMannis and Marlow – 4 times

Abbott and Flowers – 3 times

Batey & Ratchford – 3 times

Broberg & Minderman – 3 times

C. Rider & Doucet/S. Rider – 3 times

There have been 90 possible positions in the cut over the years.  The group listed above has accounted for 47 of the 90 available spots.  These 11 teams have taken about half of the cut positions available.  

The veteran team of Batey and Ratchford have logged 3 top ten’s at the Nixon’s Moses Lake Open.

Other Notable Stats

Highest Cut Weight: 21.45 (2015)

Lowest Cut Weight:  16.46 (2010)

Average Cut Weight: 19.53

Current Streak:  Wolsky/Hobbs, 4 in a row.

What’s crazy, is that Wolsky/Hobbs finished 11th in 2012 and missed the cut by .4 of a pound.  If not for that hiccup, they would have made the cut 6 times in a row!

Mike Wolsky and Ron Hobbs Jr. (shown here after their win in 2013) have made the most cuts at the Nixon’s Moses Lake Open and are on a current four-year streak of making the cut. (Photo courtesy of

Kings of the Cut

So we asked Ron Hobbs Jr. what he thought the keys to this event were.  Ron and partner Mike Wolsky have only missed two cuts at this event.  Ron has notched one win on his belt and Mike has been a part of two winning teams at the Moses Lake Open.  Rare air indeed.

Ron Hobbs Jr – Keys to Success at the Moses Open

  1. Have to catch a couple largemouth
  2. Have to be able to catch the smallmouth on beds
  3. Have to time when to do the first two

Ron went on to elaborate…

“If you have to cast at a bed more than 5 times to catch a smallmouth, you’re wasting too much time.  We usually catch 3 to 4 largemouth and about 35+ smallmouth a day because you can’t tell a 3.9 smallmouth from the 4.25 smallmouth and most of the time you can’t see the fish, you can only see the bed.”

That little tidbit leads to some amazingly close contests, either to make the cut or on the final day.  For example, in 2013, the spread between the 1st spot (Hall & Turner 22.84) after day 1 and the 10th spot (Wolsky and Hobbs 21.10) was only 1.74 lbs.!

When it comes to knowing how much weight is safe to get into the cut, Ron doesn’t believe in saving fish, unless…”we get one largemouth over 6 or two that are 5 pounds, but we won’t stop catching smallmouth until it’s time to go in.”

Personally, I’m a little embarrassed to admit that in 2014, Ray and I laid off the fish when we had about 20lbs.  We started “prefishing” for Sunday.  We finished Saturday in 11th, one tenth of a pound from the 10th spot.  I know we aren’t the only team that has been through this.  Wolsky and Hobbs did the same thing in 2012.  I’m sure there are quite a few others.

Which team besides themselves does Ron think is the biggest threat?  He mentioned the “usual suspects” (see list above), but singled out one team as the one that worries him most.

“Certain teams are super scary if they make the cut because they will go for five (big) bites the next day.  That’s why McMannis/Marlow are the scariest out of all the teams.”

The Team to Beat?

In two of the last three years, Marlow and McMannis have finished Saturday in the number one spot.  Last year they finished 2nd overall after Sunday by .1 (one tenth of a pound!)

In my little informal, pre-tournament survey, the team of McMannis and Marlow were mentioned multiple times as the team to watch out for.  So I asked Steve McMannis a few questions to get his take on this event.

I’ve had several prominent, well-known anglers single you and Dave (Marlow) out as the “team to beat”, the “team that worries them most” or the team that “impresses them the most at Moses.  What attitude/mentality do you take into the Open that seems to produce results in that format?
This is always the tournament we look forward to the most.  So I always go into it excited but also nervous that we won’t make the cut.  I always feel that there’s a 50/50 chance that we’ll make it, there’s so many good fishermen and I feel that it comes down to getting a big bite for us.  You never know when those type of bites will come, but we’ve been lucky to get them a few times.
How are your decisions on Sat of the Open affected by trying to make the cut, yet still have something to go to on Sunday?  Is it a total weight you are after?  Do you go get all you can Sat?
We catch all we can get on Saturday unless we hit a weight that we feel is going to make it for sure.  In the past we’ve gone into pre-fish mode once we’ve hit the 22 pound mark.  Realistically you could probably relax at 21, but we’re always a little paranoid. 
What role does teamwork play between you and Dave?  Are decisions planned out ahead of time or is there a lot of discussion on the water as to what to do?
We always talk for weeks/months leading up to the tournament, but honestly every year has been different for us.  We have a lot of discussion on the water as we’re fishing.  Whatever we’re feeling at the time we’ll go do next.  Dave and I always fish really well together.  We have a good time and this is definitely a tournament where we just go fishing, and hit as many spots/areas that we can.
Do you guys tend to spend a certain amount of time on LM and then go for SM or do you just go fish your best stuff regardless of the species?
It’s usually 50/50 for us.  When we first started fishing Moses it was largemouth or bust.  We busted the first couple Moses Opens and once we expanded to fishing for both we have been a lot better off.  The cool thing about Moses is that you can get that big bite you need fishing for either brown or green.
Do you guys enjoy the bed fishing aspect of the tournament or do you feel that bed fishing is often a waste of time and there are too many boats competing for those fish?
Bed fishing is always fun on Moses, those fish definitely get hammered on though.  But year after year a lot of the top ten is made up of guys who are doing it.  We join the party occasionally, it just depends how our days are going.  It’s hard to ignore them, especially with the size of the smallmouth swimming around those flats.
Do you prefer a good draw that first morning or do you favor the extra time to fish that the last flight offers?
The draw doesn’t matter to us much.  There are so many good areas to fish on Moses I never feel like being in the second flight isn’t a bad thing.  We’ve caught key fish on our first few cast of the day and we’ve caught key fish with the last cast or two of the day.  We don’t let the draw spin us out at all, you’re going to be fishing around people no matter if you’re the first or last boat out.
What is the most overrated aspect of the Moses Open?  Something that gets too much consideration by the anglers but really doesn’t matter much.
Probably people worrying about what other competitors are doing.  We just go do our thing, fish our asses off and if things line up we’ll be there on Sunday.  Just try to focus on getting the next bite….could be that 6 you need to make it to Sunday.  
What is the most underrated aspect of the Open.  Something that people rarely mention, but that you think is an important factor.  
Being willing to fish around other people and not letting it bother you.  Your  going to fish around a lot of boats and they’re going to catch a lot of fish too.  I think many people start to think more about what others are doing rather than keeping focused on what they’re doing.  I think they’re throwing this, or maybe it’s that!

Other Threats

With so many quality teams in the mix, there are a few that are worth a mention.

I think it’s important to note that Echternkamp and Kromm have won this thing 3 times!  They have made the top 10, four (4) times.  That’s pretty good odds –  if they make the cut, watch out!

Another team that is amazingly consistent at Moses is that of Lippincott and Treffry (5 time cut makers).  I’ve personally witnessed them show a level of patience that few if any other teams possess.

Maybe one of the secrets is a 3-man team? (photo courtesy of

Keys to the Cut and Teams to Watch Out For?

Marc Lippincott had this to say about the keys to making the cut.

“It’s always about the decisions.  A couple of the times we’ve made the cut, it was due to a good decision late in the day that turned the day around.”

And who to watch for?

“McMannis and Marlow have been as consistent as anyone.  Echternkamp and Kromm, Meseberg and Ross, Hobbs and Wolsky”



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