Justin Hicks takes the lead at the 2020 TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Western Regional at Lake Mead with 10-5.
Justin Hicks missed his five-bass limit by one fish, but still managed to lead Day 1 of the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Western Regional at Lake Mead with 10 pounds, 5 ounces.
Leading the field by a pound, the angler, who is competing for the Utah B.A.S.S. Nation team, said his day could have been even better, but he failed to convert on a few key bites.
“I had every opportunity to catch my fifth fish,” he said. “I stuck to one area, and I didn’t execute. That should have been a much better day than it was, but I’m happy. You can’t win ’em all.”
Noting that Lake Mead’s bass are in a transitional stage between summer and fall patterns, Hicks said his success hinged on mobility. He worked a 5- to 6-mile area of the lake and hit 30 different spots.
“The key is move, move, move,” he said. “It seemed that on a certain stretch of this lake, those quality fish are just there. I’m fishing main-channel, small, nothing-special type dents.”
Bait schools typically factor into fall fishing, as bass follow the forage and feed heavily. However, Hicks said he’s fishing near baitfish but not necessarily right over them.
“I think the baitfish are just moving up and down these shorelines and these fish are just intercepting them — they’re just lazy,” he said. “There aren’t very many fish. There’s just one here, one there.”
Hicks’ bag included a 3-3 largemouth and a smallmouth close to 3 pounds.
“I caught that smallmouth doing the same things I was doing for largemouth,” Hicks said. “That smallmouth was in 3 feet of water. Both species are mixing in the same areas.
“There are probably more smallmouth shallow than largemouth, but the largemouth are much, much bigger.”
Hicks said he caught his fish on a mix of topwater lures, jerkbaits and frogs. He’s optimistic he can catch another good bag Thursday, but he’ll be mindful not to repeat Wednesday’s strategic error.
“I think to go catch a limit of smallmouth is probably not as difficult,” Hicks said. “I probably should have done that today at 2 o’clock instead of staying on my big fish spot.”
Hicks said he believes his area holds plenty of fish for another good run. Wednesday’s hot, still conditions proved challenging across the board, and Hicks said he’s hoping Thursday brings some wind.
“I had a midday lull that hurt today,” Hicks said. “But an hour before I came in, they started showing up again. So, hopefully, I can get on them tomorrow.”
Jason Billmaier of Las Vegas, Nev., is in second place with 9-4. Filling his limit with smallmouth, Billmaier found a one-two punch that delivered the weight.
“I got on a little pattern this morning where they were chasing a Norman DD22 crankbait, and then we were dropping a drop shot on them in 25 feet and catching them,” he said. “I was drop shotting a 4-inch Roboworm in hologram shad.
“Over the weekend, the area I was fishing was really muddy, but I noticed today that it cleared up. The smallmouth were doing their thing for us today, so it worked out.”
Ralph Encizo of Fresno, Calif., is in third place with 8-4. Despite a late boat draw and an engine issue that slowed his running speed, Encizo still reached his starting point and found he had it all to himself.
“I was surprised no one was there, and on my second cast I caught one on a topwater,” Encizo said. “The fish were boiling in there, and my nonboater and I got two keepers each. I moved around twice and culled a few times. I caught my biggest one — a 2 3/4-pounder — around noon.”
Jason Hickey of Weiser, Idaho, is in the lead for Big Bass honors with his 3-8.
Clif Gallagher of Saint George, Utah, leads the co-angler division with 6-4. Gallagher’s day included a kicker — a 3-pound smallmouth that ate a drop shot like the other two smallies that comprised his limit.
“It was about 9:30 when I caught that big one,” Gallagher said. “It had just slowed down and we saw some fish busting shad. I threw my drop shot in there and got bit immediately.”
Ken Simbro of West Haven, Utah, holds the Big Bass lead among co-anglers with a 4-2.
The Arizona B.A.S.S. Nation leads the team competition with a combined weight of 76-14. The Utah B.A.S.S. Nation follows in second with 70-0 and the Nevada B.A.S.S. Nation is third with 68-14.
Thursday’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.