HENDERSON, Nev. — Patiently waiting for his bites and then capitalizing on the window of opportunity allowed Justin Hicks, who’s competing for the Utah B.A.S.S. Nation Team, to complete his wire-to-wire victory at the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Western Regional at Lake Mead with a three-day total of 22 pounds, 15 ounces.
Turning in daily weights of 10-5, 6-2 and Friday’s 6-8, the Gunnison, Colo., angler edged out second-place boater Justin Kerr by 12 ounces. Hicks won $5,000 and a spot in the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, Nov. 11-13 on Alabama's Pickwick Lake.
In a week that required daily adjustments, Hicks said he found his best quality on Day 1 when he set the early lead despite missing his five-fish limit by one keeper. Day 2 saw him abandoning his big fish spots in an effort to secure a limit, and Friday saw a similar program.
“The fishing actually got better today; they actually got shallower,” Hicks said. “A little bit later in the morning they got a little bit easier to catch. We ran and ran and ran and caught all of our fish between 10:30 and 1 o’clock.”
Hicks attributes his midday success to sun angles.
“I believe the fish we were catching today were relating to bluegill,” he said. “When that sun got up and it cast a shadow up where those bluegill were, the fish got active.”
Hicks said he employed a one-two punch comprising a Jackall frog in a bluegill pattern and a pearl white Zoom Super Fluke rigged on a 5/0 Gamakatsu wide gap hook.
Presentations were essential to triggering bites. Hicks said that using subtle rod work with a lot of slack line enabled him to keep his frog in one area as long as possible to entice the fish.
“The longer you can keep that frog in one spot, the more the fish can’t stand it,” Hicks said.
The Super Fluke produced the majority of his bites, and Hicks said that soft-plastic bait was most effective when he fished it with a fast, erratic pace.
Fishing the Temple Bar area, Hicks stayed in the same 5- to 6-mile area throughout the tournament. He focused his efforts on small pockets off main channels.
“If you had the right combination of shade and grass, there was fish in it,” he said.
With most of his fish in 6 feet or less, Hicks said stealth and spacing were essential to his success.
“The quality was there, we were looking at the fish,” Hicks said of his shallow-water targets. “We were staying way off of them and making long casts.”
Finishing first on the Nevada B.A.S.S. Nation Team, Kerr placed fifth on Day 1 with 7-15 and slipped to 11th on Day 2 after catching 5-2. On Friday, he turned in his best performance of the week — 9-2 — and gained nine spots to finished second with 22-3.
Hailing from Lake Havasu, Ariz., Kerr caught his fish on a homemade 1/2-ounce flipping jig with a green pumpkin Yamamoto Craw and an Evergreen CR-6 crankbait in a shad color.
“I just fished hard and made as many casts as I could,” he said. “The last couple of days have been tough, so today I changed up a little bit. I put completely new rods on my deck and went fishing.”
Timothy Wells of Clovis, Calif., finished third with 21-12. After placing 20th on Day 1 with 5-14, Wells added 7-15 Thursday and improved to eighth. Sacking up another 7-15 Friday, Wells finished atop the California B.A.S.S. Nation Team.
Jason Hickey of Weiser, Idaho, won the $500 Big Bass honors with his 3-8.
Aaryn Coroneos of Henderson, Nev., won the nonboater division with a three-day total of 14-11. Coroneos placed fourth on Day 1 with 4-13 and improved to first on Thursday by adding 5-12. Today’s limit of 4-2 gave him the win by a margin of 2-1 over Cliff Gallagher of Saint George, Utah.
“The key this week was two baits: I threw a Texas-rigged green pumpkin Yamamoto Stretch 40 with a 1/8-ounce weight and a natural shad colored Yamamoto Hula Grub on a 1/2-ounce football-head jig.
“All I did all week was throw in the middle of pockets and drag deep grass. I got three bites today and it was a grind.”
Coroneos earned the top prize of $2,500, along with a spot in the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship.
Ken Simbro of West Haven, Utah, won the $250 Big Bass award among co-anglers with a 4-2.
The tournament was hosted by Visit Henderson.