Ryan Beason and Jody Hass are the unofficial king and queen of the Territorial Sportsman Golden North Salmon Derby. Since 1956, sixty-seven people have won the Golden North. Beason and Hass are the only two to have won twice.
As fishing royalty, the honorary ambassadors for the derby are happy to talk about their success. But royalty doesn’t broach certain topics, and as the pair prepares to ascend the Golden North throne for the third time, they remain tight-lipped about their fishing secrets.
“You know I can’t tell you that,” Hass, 37, said when asked what she gear she used to catch her 27.4-pound winner in 2015. “We were fishing with a pole and a downrigger.”
Though Beason, 27, and Hass are reluctant to share the complete blueprints to their success, the Empire caught up with them in the run-up to the 70th Derby, which kicks off Friday, to steal as many secrets as we could and learn what it’s like to be a living derby legacy.
The richest 12-year-old in town
[See Ryan Beason tell his fish story in this video here]
In 2001 and 2002, Ryan and his father Randy Beason were in the right place at the right time. Twice. Each of Beason’s winning fish were caught on the first day of the derby in Doty Cove, near the southern boundary of the Derby on the west side of Stephens Passage.
Both fish posed their own problems.
“In 2001, we had a doubleheader on, two fish at once, and my dad’s fish took a bunch of line on the surface and came up and was gone,” Ryan said. “My fish went straight down deep; we thought it was a halibut, and it gets next to the boat and finned and it was a short and fat king. We got a little excited; we knew it was a contender.”
After a surprising lack of a fight, the Beasons got the fish on board and trolled for another hour before heading to town to enter their fish. The elder Beason had been up until midnight the night before working on engine problems on their 19-foot Glasply boat and when he went to turn the main engine over and head to town, a breakdown threw a wrench in their plans.
“We broke down as soon as we started the main engine back up, so we came all the way back on our kicker,” Ryan said. “People were feeling sorry for us, but they didn’t know we had a big fish on board.”
It took the pair four hours to get back to town on their backup engine and turn the fish in at Douglas Harbor. At 33.9 pounds, Beason bit his nails until the final day of the Derby. When the winner was finalized that Tuesday, he had a $15,000 prize waiting for him. That might as well be a blank check to a 12-year-old, but Beason’s parents weren’t about to let him blow it all on go-karts and candy.
“It went straight towards my college fund, so it helped pay for a good chunk of college. At that age anything I wanted was relatively cheap in comparison to what the derby gave us. I may have gotten a game system or something, but nearly all of it went to college,” he said.
Having lost a fish right before his son landed 2001’s derby winner, Randy Beason felt 2002 was his year, and back at Doty Cove on the first day of the 2002 Derby, it looked like it would be.
“My dad’s depth was catching all the king salmon and I was fishing a little shallower. He went to change his bait and I dropped my line down a little deeper,” Ryan said. “Not a minute later my line hit with the derby-winning king, so I guess it was meant to be for me. As long as the winner was on the boat, my dad was happy. It probably should have been his fish but it worked out in my favor.”
The second fish, weighing in at a nearly identical 34 pounds, put up more of a fight than the first.
“What I remember is it was super rough weather. … The fish was barely hooked, it came up to the boat and we tried to net it, missed, it took a run and we thought we were gonna lose it. We had no chance but it came back to the boat and a second barb had set in the fish and it was hooked a little better.”
The Beasons took the fish in right away. At the end of the 2002 Derby, the then-13-year-old angler had his second winner. Beason now has his own 19-foot Glasply and has been fishing the Derby every year since 2000. In 2007, he received a Derby scholarship from Territorial Sportsman, totalling the money he’s received to $40,000. The college fund his parents set up with the winnings helped him receive a bachelors degree in accounting from Pacific University.
Beason is now a member of the Territorial Sportsman board and works for Elgee Rehfeld Mertz, LLC as an accountant. It’s not lost on him how much the Derby has changed his life.
“I am trying to give back,” Beason said. “I mean, 40,000 dollars has gone straight towards my college education, so I can give back a little bit.”
‘You could just hear line zinging off it’
[See Jody Hass tell her fish story in this video here]
Hass, a surgical technician at Bartlett Regional Hospital, moved to Juneau with her husband Jason Hass 14 years ago. A friend introduced them to sport fishing as soon as they got here and they were hooked from the first time they went out.
Parents of 9-year-old Carvin and 7-year-old Landia, the Hasses loved sport fishing so much they managed to save “enough pennies” to upgrade from a skiff to a 22-foot Olympic with a “nice warm cabin.” Jody netted her first Derby winner on the Olympic on the last day of the Derby in 2013.
“It was the middle of a hot, sunny day. We had tried everything. Changed flashers, changed hoochies, changed bait, tried strip bait, plug bait, everything, but we hadn’t really caught a whole lot up to that point,” Jody said of the moments preceding the winning strike. “The kids were really tired of being on the boat, my husband and I were really tired of being on the boat. … I was busy making lunch while we were still trolling when both our rods went off. We looked out the back deck and both rods were doubled over like they were still in the downriggers, but the one you could just hear line zinging off it.”
The fish fought Jody for 45 minutes before she could land it.
“It took a couple good dives underneath the boat. We were kind of concerned it would hit the motors or get away,” she said. When the 29.2-pounder surfaced next to the boat, Jody’s husband said: “‘Whatever you do, don’t flip out.’ He didn’t want me to lose the fish,” she said.
After landing the whopper, the Hasses “threw lunch out the window and ran in as fast as we could. … We weighed it on deck but we didn’t know how accurate our scale was. We knew it was a top-five fish but we didn’t know if it was the fish. We only had a few hours to wait to see if the fish would hold up,” Jody said. “But those few hours can feel like forever, man.”
The Hasses used the winnings to put a down payment on a property in Gustavus. Two years later they returned to the same fishing spot, a place only the Hasses’ good friends know about.
“On Friday morning, we right away went out near the same spot we caught the previous derby-winner. We were trolling for a good hour or so and then it just hit,” Jody said. “It took off and started peeling line. I remember a lot of high-fives and woo-hooing. A good friend was trolling behind us, so we were happy to share that with some friends instead of being by ourselves.”
The Hasses weighed the fish in at Douglas Harbor before noon on the first day of the Derby. It tipped the scales at 27.4 pounds. “We went back out fishing because a 27-pound fish could be very easily beat. We continued to fish for the weekend biting our nails and listening to the radio,” Jody said.
By the end of the Derby, the fish had held up. The Hasses used that money to help them pay off the Gustavus property. “We’d like to build a cabin on it, maybe starting next spring. We’re very blessed and thankful for it,” Jody said.
• Contact Sports and Outdoors reporter Kevin Gullufsen at 523-2228 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
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