LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. — Matty Wong has only fished Lake Havasu four times, but the 32-year-old Los Angeles resident looked like an old pro here Wednesday on Day 1 of the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Western Regional.
Wong weighed a five-bass limit that totaled 18 pounds, 8 ounces, giving him a slim 6-ounce lead in the tournament, which is the season-opener on the 2021 B.A.S.S. schedule. A total of 177 anglers (89 boaters and 88 nonboaters) are competing, with anglers hailing from Arizona, California, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.
Wong was the standout on Wednesday. His best bass was only in the 4-pound range, but he backed it up with a quartet of keepers that were only ounces lighter.
Wong said he didn’t have a particularly easy day on the 19,300-acre impoundment straddling the Arizona/California border.
“It was tricky out there,” he said. “I was banking on the early-morning bite, and I was able to catch three by about 10 a.m. I kept my rotation going, but they quit eating. So I made a long run to a place where I spotted a big fish on the last day of practice, and she was still there. That was the biggest one and, luckily, I got her to eat.”
That bass, which Wong caught at about 1 p.m., provided him the extra ounces he needed to climb atop the leaderboard. A trio of competitors are hot on his heels, including Washington’s Taylor Smith with 18-2; Montana’s Jay Evans with 17-10; and Arizona’s Steve Lund with 16-1.
No other angler is within 5 pounds of Wong’s lead.
Smith, a 35-year-old insurance company supervisor from Spokane, Wash., said he was grouchy after a few lackluster practice rounds. His mood was considerably lighter with an 18-2 limit on the board.
“I got bit throughout the day and on a lot of different things,” Smith said. “Everything came together and I wasn’t expecting that. I concentrated on fishing slow because there are so many fish in here.”
Evans, a 50-year-old research scientist from Missoula, Mont., drove through a substantial snowstorm to arrive at Lake Havasu City, where temperatures were 75 degrees and the sun shined brightly on Wednesday.
Like Smith, he said the first day was much more productive than his practice rounds.
“We probably caught 10 keepers today, but they were good fish,” Evans said. “I found them in practice. We shook them off then and just didn’t realize the quality of the fish or how many were in there. It ended up being a really nice day.”
He also said patience was key.
“I’m fishing slow,” Evans said. “I couldn’t get much of a reaction bite going, so I just slowed down and picked it apart. That helped me get some bites. Patience was key.”
Day 2 could try the patience of all anglers and B.A.S.S. officials, too.
Strong winds are expected to begin sweeping across the region overnight, with steady winds of more than 20 mph predicted for the duration of tournament hours.
B.A.S.S. Nation Director Jon Stewart said he’ll consider his options Thursday morning and decide how to proceed based upon the weather.
If the three-day tournament continues without interruption, the field will be cut after Thursday’s round. The leading 17 anglers in both the angler and co-angler division — along with the Top 2 anglers and co-anglers from each state if they are not already in the Top 17 — will compete Friday. The angler with the heaviest three-day total will win a $5,000 cash prize, while the leading co-angler will earn $2,500. There’s a total purse of $27,200 up for grabs.
Evans caught a 6-pound bass, the heaviest in the angler division on Wednesday. The competitor with the heaviest fish after three days wins a $500 Big Bass Award. Dean Yamagata caught a 4-pound, 2-ounce bass and leads co-anglers for the $250 Big Bass Award.
Utah’s Tom Nokes leads the overall co-angler field with a limit of three bass weighing 8-6. Arizona’s Jake Morrison is second with 7-11 and Yamagata, who is from Las Vegas, is third with 6-8.
The nine states also are competing in a team competition this week on Lake Havasu. Washington leads with 40 bass for a 98-4 total. Nevada is second with 33 bass weighing 82-6, and Montana is third with 35 bass weighing 81-11.
This week’s tournament is the first of the 2021 B.A.S.S. season and the first of five B.A.S.S. Nation regionals scheduled this year. Other Nation events on the schedule include April 21-23 at Milford Lake in Junction City, Kan.; April 28-30 at Lake Hartwell in Anderson, S.C.; June 23-25 at Lake Erie/Presque Isle Bay in Erie, Pa.; and Sept. 1-3 on the upper Mississippi River in La Crosse, Wis. The B.A.S.S. Nation Championship will be held later this year when all regionals are complete, but a date and location have yet to be announced.
If the weather cooperates, Day 2 of the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Western Regional will begin with a takeoff at 7:15 a.m. MST from Lake Havasu State Park. Weigh-in is scheduled to begin at 3:15 p.m. and can be seen on Bassmaster.com.
The tournament is being hosted by Lake Havasu City, Ariz.