HENDERSON, Nev. — Knowing when to shift gears allowed Justin Hicks, who’s competing for the Utah B.A.S.S. Nation Team, to fill his five-fish limit with 6 pounds, 2 ounces and retain the lead on Day 2 of the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Western Regional at Lake Mead.
Hicks has a two-day total of 16-7 and holds a 3-ounce lead over second-place Jason Billmaier of Las Vegas. Aaron Leon of Henderson, Nev., is only 7 ounces back in third.
On Wednesday, Hicks led the field by over a pound with 10-5, but did so with only four bass. On Thursday, the Gunnison, Colo., resident realized the quality he found on Day 1 was not going to happen. So, rather than risk another short bag, he made a key adjustment and secured his limit.
“The quality is still there, but they were a little harder for me to catch today,” Hicks said. “I could see them, but they just weren’t biting like they were yesterday.
“I think the second day after a front (Thursday’s conditions) was a factor, but I think fishing pressure in my area also has something to do with it. The fish I’m catching are extremely shallow and extremely spooky.”
At the Day 1 weigh-in, Hicks admitted he probably stayed in his big-fish areas too long and cost himself a full limit by doing so. Thursday, he avoided that temptation.
“I absolutely had to switch gears just to catch fish today,” he said. “In fact, I caught fish today on water I’d never fished before. I had to give up on my big fish and go to a totally different game plan.
“The bigger fish are really specific, and the smaller fish are easier to catch.”
Hicks said he swapped the reaction baits that yielded Wednesday’s quality for a white soft-plastic jerkbait rigged on a 5/0 Gamakatsu wide gap hook. Even though his bait color more closely resembled a shad, Hicks said the presence of panfish played in his favor.
“Anywhere there were some baby bluegill, I stayed with it,” he said. “I don’t think the color mattered; I think it’s strictly the action. My bites were coming from no deeper than 6 feet.”
Hicks said he fished the same general area he fished on Day 1 and simply adjusted his target zone.
“These smaller fish were a little farther in,” he said.
After anchoring his Day 1 bag with a 3-3 largemouth and a smallmouth close to 3-0, Hicks said he’s hoping Friday brings a different complexion than Thursday’s hot, still conditions that stymied his reaction baits.
“Wind would help tremendously,” he said. “There’s a lot of shad in my area. Yesterday, the shad helped, but today, the fish didn’t seem to be around those bigger populations of shad.”
Billmaier remains in second place after adding 7-0 to the 9-4 he caught Wednesday, tallying a total weight of 16-4. Leading the Nevada B.A.S.S. Nation team, Billmaier said his day began with a quick pace but then slowed considerably.
“I pulled into my first spot and had my limit by 8 o’clock,” Billmaier said. “I don’t think the weather’s affecting what I’m doing; the quality was just a little less today.”
Billmaier said he used a Lucky Craft lipless bait to find fish, and if they followed without biting, he’d pitch a drop shot with a 4-inch hologram shad-colored Roboworm. The latter produced all of his catches.
With a two-day total of 16-0, Aaron Leon drew on his lifetime of local knowledge and added 9-5 to his first-round weight of 6-11 and moved up from 14th place.
“I just went to a place where I knew there were good fish, and I just put my head down and ground it out,” Leon said. “I got five bites today, and I caught my last fish at 1:30. It was tough today, but I got ’em by fishing light line and finesse baits on points.”
Jason Hickey of Weiser, Idaho, is in the lead for Big Bass honors with his 3-8.
Aryn Coroneos of Henderson, Nev., leads the nonboater division with 10-9. Also leading the Nevada B.A.S.S. Nation team’s nonboaters, Coroneos placed fourth on Day 1 with 4-13 and gained three spots by adding 5-12 Thursday.
Ken Simbro of West Haven, Utah, holds the Big Bass lead among co-anglers with a 4-2.
In tomorrow’s final round, 21 boaters and 21 nonboaters compete for the top prize and a spot in the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, Nov. 11-13 on Pickwick Lake.
In the state team competition, the Arizona B.A.S.S. Nation accumulated a two-day total of 133 pounds, 9 ounces and won the top prize of $5,000. The Nevada B.A.S.S. Nation took second with 128-13 and won $3,100. Finishing third with 125-0, the California B.A.S.S. Nation earned $1,500.
Friday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6:15 a.m. PT from Callville Bay Marina. The weigh-in will be held at the marina at 2:15 p.m.
The tournament is being hosted by Visit Henderson.