LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. – Lake Havasu threw a lot of hurdles at EverStart Series anglers this week: heavy rain, then sun, even a high-speed water-ski race. But the biggest hurdle of all was the season; the bass just don’t like to bite here in January.
One by one, all of the contenders fell prey to the Havasu winter bass blues except one: Clayton Meyer, who worked his little brown jig pattern into a decisive, $9,600 pro victory at the Western Division season opener Saturday.
“I feel pretty good,” the 39-year-old auto repairman from San Diego said after his first EverStart victory. “I was a little dizzy up on the stage, though.”
Meyer spun everybody’s heads when he brought in another five-bass limit Saturday worth 12 pounds, 2 ounces and defeated second-place David Kromm by almost 5 ½ pounds in the finals. Meyer totaled 25-10 over the last two days while Kromm, his closest competition, tallied 20-5.
Most impressively, Meyer was the only angler out of the field of 330 to catch limits all four days of the tournament.
“I’ll tell you what about these Lake Havasu bass: When they don’t want to bite, they are tough,” said pro Gary Dobyns, who caught the day’s biggest limit but ultimately finished in fifth place due to a weak day three.
Arizona pro Gregg Warne, who finished 10th, put it this way: “I’d rather take a whipping than fish this lake in the wintertime.” Then he credited recent fish-habitat rebuilding efforts and added: “But this lake has really turned around in recent years with the quality of the fish and I did have a great week.”
The greatest week, of course, belonged to Meyer. How he managed to catch fish when almost everyone else couldn’t seems simple enough on the surface, but one wonders if there’s more to it. All week long, he said that he fished points, cuts and humps on the main lake south of Lake Havasu City. He threw the same bait the entire week, as well – 3/8- and 1/2-ounce, brown-on-brown jigs that he received from a friend – and fished in between 5 and 15 feet of water.
“I’ve been using it for years,” he said. “And every time I’ve come here I’ve caught fish with it.”
Still, a lot of anglers were throwing jigs this week, probably a lot of brown ones, too. What likely separated Meyer from the rest were his locations. He found spots that were veritable highways for prespawn smallmouths – and some largemouths – moving up for the spring.
“I was just fishing the sides of points, and that’s about it,” he said. “They just kept coming up and coming up and coming up.”
He said the areas he fished are “common areas” on Havasu, and he focused exclusively on the Arizona side of the lake the first three days. The fourth day, however, he moved to the California side of the lake.
“I only caught five fish today,” Meyer said. “And I caught them all on spots that I hadn’t fished before.”
A lot of the key was timing. When the sun came out Friday, most anglers said it was either a morning or afternoon bite – with nothing in between. The same was true of Saturday, where Meyer caught just one fish early then had to wait until after the water-ski race was done around 12:30 p.m. to move. Then he ran to the other side of the lake, caught his second one – a 4-pound kicker smallie – and eventually filled out his limit.
Said the winner, who also won a new Ranger 519 VX for his efforts: “I’m beginning to really, really like this lake.”
Kromm, of Kennewick, Wash., had the best shot to catch Meyer, but ultimately fell short when he made a long run upriver to some backwaters and failed to catch a keeper. Eventually, he retreated closer to the main lake and landed three bass that weighed 7 pounds, 1 ounce, but it wasn’t nearly enough for victory.
“I didn’t get a fish on my water,” he said. “I wasted a lot of time trying to get up there and now I wish that I hadn’t.”
Kromm, who fished out of an aluminum boat in order to access the remote water, caught his fish this week on a variety of presentations: drop-shots, split-shots and a few on spinnerbaits.
“I found a lot of areas that people overlooked,” he said. “The key for me was just going in on stealth mode. I made a lot of really long casts and had to be really patient.”
He earned $9,600 for second place.
Art Roland of Brentwood, Calif., finished third in the Pro Division with a final-round total of six bass weighing 18 pounds, 5 ounces. He earned $8,650.
“I just fished really shallow,” he said. “I was flipping docks with a ¼-ounce purple jig and a crawdad trailer.”
After finishing third at this tournament last year, Justin Kerr of Simi Valley, Calif., slipped to fourth place this year at Havasu. He caught 11 bass weighing 17 pounds, 10 ounces in the final round and collected $7,650.
Dobyns rebounds for fifth
Dobyns, of Yuba City, Calif., caught the heaviest limit of the day – 13 pounds, 11 ounces – and salvaged a fifth-place finish with a final-round total of 17-7. The former EverStart champion collected $7,150 this week at Havasu.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 Pro Division finishers at Lake Havasu:
6th: Tim Klinger of Boulder City, Nev., six bass, 14-2, $6,150
7th: Clifford Pirch of Payson, Ariz., five bass, 13-4, $5,150
8th: Richard Smith of Santa Clarita, Calif., five bass, 12-11, $4,650
9th: Paul Hodges of Glendale, Ariz., six bass, 10-14, $4,150
10th: Gregg Warne of Mesa, Ariz., three bass, 6-1, $3,650
The next EverStart Series event is a Central Division contest at Sam Rayburn Reservoir near Jasper, Texas, Feb. 23-26.
The next Western Division tournament will be held at Clear Lake near Lakeport, Calif., March 9-12.