LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. – Calm conditions prevailed for The Bass Federation’s Western Divisional contenders on the first day of competition on Arizona’s Lake Havasu, with the host state’s own Jason Rayls taking the overall lead with 15 pounds, 11 ounces. Rayls is followed closely by Washington’s Chris Lambert, who caught a five-bass limit weighing 15 pounds, 4 ounces to finish the day in second on the overall weight list.
Competitors from Arizona, Washington, California, Idaho, Utah, Colorado, Wyoming and Montana descended upon Lake Havasu this week in search of coveted slots in the 2009 TBF National Championship. Each state team is made up of 12 anglers, and the top-finishing angler from each team will advance as a boater to the 2009 TBF National Championship presented by the National Guard. The No. 2 competitor from each state team will advance to the National Championship as a co-angler.
Half of the state’s 12 contenders are competing as boaters, with the other half competing as nonboaters. The top three state teams will be awarded trophies and cash prizes. The angler with the heaviest three-day weight will also earn a $500 Wal-Mart gift card as the Castrol Maximum Performer.
Currently, Rayls leads the third-place Arizona squad by a 2-pound, 14-ounce margin and sits atop the overall weight list with a 7-ounce lead.
“It started out kind of slow,” said Rayls, who is competing this week on the boater side. “We didn’t get many fish really early. When we got into them, things started coming together, and it got better as the day went on.”
With two days of competition remaining, Rayls remained tight-lipped about his methods, saying only that he was finesse fishing. According to Rayls, the key to fishing Havasu this week is being patient.
“I feel great about tomorrow,” he said. “I like my chances. It’ll get tough if it’s windy, but it’s going to be tough for everybody if it’s windy. I don’t think it’s going to hurt me more than it’s going to hurt everybody else.”
Lambert makes it a family affair
In second on the overall list is Chris Lambert of Olympia, Wash., with a day-one weight of 15 pounds, 4 ounces. That limit leads the Washington team, which in turn led all teams in total weight caught on day one, with 12 team members catching a day-high weight of 134 pounds, 5 ounces to edge past the California team’s 125-12.
Like Rayls, Lambert said finesse fishing brought him his day-one success, and Lambert reported catching largemouths and smallmouths in all stages. Unlike Rayls, who hails from the host state, Lambert and his wife, Wendy, and their 3-year-old and 3-month-old made a three-day drive to Lake Havasu in preparation for this event.
“She sacrificed big-time to get me out here,” Lambert said. “There is no way I would have even fished this tournament because I didn’t want to leave her home alone, and she said, ‘Let’s make a road trip out of it.’”
So far, so good for the Lamberts, as the changes he noted in practice helped him fish strongly on day one.
“I’ve been here for a week, and the fish are changing,” Lambert said. “I’ve been here for so long that I’ve seen a couple changes now, and that’s one thing that really worries me, is keeping up with how they’re changing. I still need to figure that out.”
Lambert, who is competing this week as a boater, seemed unsure about his chances tomorrow.
“It could go either way,” he said. “I found a really big group of fish in practice, and I only caught one of them today. It could go great or it could fall to pieces; it’s hard to say. I’m on the fish to do it again, but whether or not that’ll happen is out of my hands.”
Leading the California team with a day-one weight of 13 pounds, 11 ounces is Troy Lindner of Los Angeles. On top in Idaho is Justin Soppe of Middleton with a limit weighing 12-8. Don Allphin leads the Utah team with his Wednesday weight of 13-2, and Joe Conway of Colorado Springs sits atop the Colorado squad with an opening-day catch of 12-4. Kevin Brazell of Teton Village, Wyo., leads his state team with five weighing 12-5, and Sean Andrachick heads up the Montana team with 12-11.
Competition continues tomorrow
TBF Western Divisional qualifiers will head out again tomorrow on Lake Havasu with a 6 a.m. takeoff from Lake Havasu Marina, located at 1100 McCulloch Blvd. in Lake Havasu City. Tomorrow’s weigh-in will also be held there beginning at 3 p.m.