SHASTA LAKE, Calif. – A fire captain, Greg Gutierrez fights fires for a living and bass for fun.

The California Division of Forestry captain had one main thought yesterday as he competed in the CITGO Bassmaster Western Open presented by Busch Beer at Shasta Lake.

“Where there were trout, there were bass,” said Gutierrez, who lives nearby in Red Bluff and is intimate with picturesque Shasta’s 365 miles of shoreline. Gutierrez, 42, took the Day One lead with five spotted bass totaling 13 pounds, 1 ounce. Dave Russell of nearby Chico was second with a limit of spotties totaling 12 pounds, 4 ounces.

This is the second of three Western Opens in a series that will send top anglers to both the CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship this December and to the CITGO Bassmaster Tour in the spring. The top 20 anglers in the season point standings will qualify for the Championship, where the top five anglers will win berths in bass fishing’s world championship, the CITGO Bassmaster Classic.

A high pressure front moved into Northern California yesterday and disrupted many of the catching patterns the anglers found in practice. Those who adapted weighed in good stringers. Those from the 256-angler field who didn’t probably won’t be fishing tomorrow after the field is cut to 50 top anglers. And local knowledge played well for men like Gutierrez and Russell.

“These bass are chasing trout,” Gutierrez said. “They’re really moving fast, so I fished jigs and worms faster than I normally would. But if you found trout, you found bass. And if you found big trout, you found big bass.”

Russell, who calls Shasta his local lake, caught his bigger bass on the surface early in the morning using a Zara Spook. Later the fish moved deeper and forced Russell to switch to drop-shotting plastic worms.

“This is kind of my home lake, so I know the patterns here pretty well,” Russell said.

Gutierrez won a pro-am at Shasta a few years ago, so he has a good feeling going into the second day of the three-day Western Open.

“I love this lake, and it’s always been a friend to me,” Gutierrez said. “It’s a place where you can catch a lot of fish and have a chance for a big bag of bass. And the community here is really great.”

Art Berry, a guide at Diamond Valley Lake in Hemet, was in third place in the boater division with 11 pounds, 4 ounces. Berry grew up fishing Southern California lakes with big bass that eat small trout, and that made him a natural here.

Another angler with local knowledge held the lead in the non-boater division, Clarence Pinkerton of nearby Lakehead, led with five bass totaling 9 pounds, 1 ounce. Pinkerton is president of an electronics company and guides on Shasta.

“These fish went deep when that bright sun came out,” Pinkerton said. “They suspended and held over structure. There was lots of trout activity. We could see the trout cutting through the shad, and if you could get a bait through the trout, you got a bass.”

Jonathan Harwood of Oak View, Calif., caught the boaters’ Purolator Big Bass of Day One, a 5-pounder worth $1,000. Brian Stafford of Fairfield, Calif., took Purolator Big Bass honors in the non-boater division with a 2-pound, 10-ouncer, earning $400 for that fish.

Daily weigh-ins will begin at 3:30 p.m. and the launch will be at 7:15 a.m. at Bridge Bay Marina. Both are free to the public.

BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer, which includes the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 series, is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.

Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Northern Open include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Toyota, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.

Local Sponsors include Shasta Lake Chamber of Commerce and Phil’s Propellers. For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit