Moreno makes history with Strike King co-angler win - Major League Fishing

Moreno makes history with Strike King co-angler win

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With a sterling performance at the Cal Delta, Deanna Moreno became one of very few women to win in MLF competition. Photo by John Zeolla. Angler: Deanna Moreno.
June 7, 2024 • Mitchell Forde • Toyota Series

OAKLEY, Calif. — After the scale settled and the results became official, Deanna Moreno shared an emotional embrace with her husband, Mike.

Deanna had just brought 13 pounds, 1 ounce to the scales on Day 3 of the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats event on the California Delta, slamming the door on her first career win in the Strike King co-angler division. Her three-day total of 40-15 topped runner-up Rachel Uribe by 4-5 in the event, which was presented by Suzuki Marine. For the victory, she earned a Phoenix Boats prize package worth $33,500.

Deanna, who had fished 17 previous Toyota Series events as a co-angler, traveling alongside her husband to compete in the Western Division Presented by Tackle Warehouse, described celebrating her breakthrough win with Mike (who finished 23rd on the boater side) as “a rush.”

“I just couldn’t believe it,” she said. “Without his support, I wouldn’t be where I am as a fisherman today. He’s taught me everything. I know he’s been hard on me, but I know why he’s been hard on me. He’s my biggest supporter.”

The result wasn’t only cause for celebration for the Moreno family. Deanna’s victory made history. She became the third woman in MLF/FLW history to win a Toyota Series event and the first since 2001, when Renee Hensley won the co-angler competition at the Toyota Series Championship on Pickwick Lake. Her 1-2 finish with Uribe marks the first time that women have claimed the top two spots at a MLF tournament of any level.

“That’s an honor,” Deanna said. “Not that I want to be separated from males, because we’re all fishermen. But it’s an honor to do it as a female.”

Making all the right adjustments

Deanna Moreno has competed in Toyota Series events alongside her husband, Mike, for the past few years. Photo by John Zeolla

At least on paper, Moreno made the win look easy. Filling out a limit all three days, she sat in second after Day 1 with 15-0, then climbed into the lead with 12-14 on Day 2. Her 40-15 total would have landed a top-20 finish on the pro side.

But Moreno said it took plenty of patience and a few key adjustments to generate the winning bites, as she caught most of her weight on different baits each day.

On Day 1, she didn’t catch a keeper during the first half of the day, but she stayed calm, reminding herself that the outgoing tide should improve the bite. Indeed, fishing alongside Jon Strelic, she boated five keepers within a span of minutes from the same spot. Then, she culled in a big way with a 6-2 lunker. All of her Day 1 fish ate an M.M. III-colored Roboworm Straight Tail Worm on a drop-shot

“All of a sudden, in probably a 10-foot stretch, it was like one right after another on a drop-shot,” Moreno said. “Got my five, and then I was like, OK, they’re all schooled up, what is going on here? And I just kept throwing out there, and all of a sudden, I caught that 6-2.”

Moreno once again started slow on Day 2. This time, as the tide fell, she switched to a walking topwater, which produced the majority of her weight.

Mercifully, given that she was “super nervous” after sleeping on the lead, she didn’t have to wait nearly as long for the action to pick up on Day 3. Fishing alongside pro winner Cristian Melton, Moreno used a wacky-rigged Yamamoto Senko to fill her limit by 7:30 a.m.

“I had four little ones and then a nice one, and I was like, OK, I’ve got all day to upgrade here,” she said. “It did calm the nerves a little bit.”

Around noon, Moreno upgraded in style. Just as the boat containing MLF photographer John Zeolla found her and Melton, she boated her biggest fish of the day.

“You know how some people don’t like the camera boat around them?” Moreno said with a laugh. “Well, when the camera boat came around like noon, I caught a 3.8 on a Senko right in front of the camera boat. So, that was pretty cool. I really feel the camera boat is lucky.”

‘Get out there and fish’

A mid-day flurry that included a 3.8-pound largemouth sealed the win for Moreno. Photo by John Zeolla

Moreno insisted that she never wants to be treated differently than another co-angler because of her gender. Like any other tournament winner, her triumph on the Delta was memorable because of the work that went into it, the puzzle pieces clicking together, the thrill of fighting and landing big bass.

“We’re just out there, we enjoy this sport; it’s a passion,” she said. “I wish I could bottle up that feeling of the 6-pounder, the 5-pounder. It’s just great. It’s awesome. There’s nothing like it.”

But Moreno also recognizes the gravity of her and Uribe’s performances. Her message to other women who might see her with a trophy and want to give tournament fishing a try: “Get out there and fish.”

“Don’t be intimidated by it,” she said. “The guys that are out there, they help you, they support you. It’s just like fishing with your friends. I really feel like if women just go out there, you start doing it, you get confident, just work through it, you’ll do it.” 

Top 10 Strike King co-anglers

  1. Deanna Moreno – 40-15 (15) – $33,500
  2. Rachel Uribe – 36-10 (13) – $3,003
  3. Mike Alvarez – 35-11 (15) – $2,403
  4. Paul Buccola – 35-6 (15) – $2,102
  5. Brandon Gee – 34-0 (15) – $1,952
  6. Tracy Patton – 32-11 (15) – $1,502
  7. Blaine Christiansen – 32-9 (15) $1,201
  8. Rodney Brown – 31-1 (15) – $1,051
  9. Keith Adams – 30-6 (15) – $901
  10. Colton Underwood-Garside – 30-0 (15) – $751

Complete results