Big bites key on Mead

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Dan Jordan

Like an oasis in the desert, one big bite will prove transformative for anglers competing on Day 2 of the the TNT Fireworks Western Regional at Lake Mead. The pursuit of quality fish may require a significant commitment of time and patience, but it’s a gamble worth taking.

Sitting about 24 miles southeast of the Las Vegas Strip, this Colorado River impoundment’s harsh, dry surroundings provided a fitting metaphor to describe the slim pickings anglers found on Day 1. A field of 75 boaters found only 15 5-fish limits, with six anglers blanking. Non-boaters produced 15 3-fish limits, with 19 goose eggs.

No one’s poking here; Mead’s fishing tough. Much of that has to do with that awkward transition between summer and fall. Even though high heat persists, shortening daylight periods prompt fish to leave their deeper haunts and head toward creeks and pockets where they’ll gorge on baitfish.

During this transition, the fish tend to be scattered, indecisive and generally frustrating. However, windows of opportunity will occasionally open, so diligence — and mobility — may be rewarded.

For example, Colorado angler Justin Hicks, who’s competing for the Utah B.A.S.S. Nation Team, leads the boater field with 10 pounds, 5 ounces. That’s a lead of 1-1 over second-place boater Jason Fox (Billmaier) — but Hicks took the top spot with four bass.

Noting that he committed to a 5- to 6-mile area of the lake, in which he hit 30 spots, Hicks said the key to his success was “move, move, move.” He found an area with quality fish — largemouth and smallmouth — and he kept bouncing from spot to spot, fishing a mix of wood, rock and vegetation.

For non-boater Ken Simbro, one big bite was a legitimate day-maker. The angler from West Haven, Utah weighed a lone keeper, but that 4-pound, 2 ounce largemouth has him in 10th place. His fish also leads his division’s Big Bass competition.

Jason Hickey of Weiser, Idaho had only three keepers, but he found the biggest bass on the boater side, a 3-8 that helped place him in the 22nd spot. Not far behind, Dan Jordan of Camas, Wa. included a 3-3 in his 3-fish bag and landed in 27th.

A key scenario fall fishermen seek is schooling — bass round up baitfish, push them to the surface and ravage them as long as the moment lasts. Schooling reports were few, but one of them came from third-place boater Ralph Encizo of Fresno, Ca., whose first spot presented a boil of activity that yielded two of his five keepers.

Likewise, non-boater leader Clif Gallagher of Saint George, Utah built nearly half of his 6-4 total weight with the 3-pound smallmouth he caught from a schooling scenario.

Whether it’s frantically firing into schooling activity, or methodically picking through key habitat features in promising areas, the anglers that excel in this event will have a big bite or two somewhere in their program.