Jarrett Edwards, of Del-Norte, Colo., and Chris Lambert, of Olympia, Wash., led the field of 137 pros competing for their division's $50,000 top prize, each boating a 5-bass limit that weighed 15 pounds, 4 ounces.
"It's awesome," Lambert said. "I thought I'd be able to get close to 15 pounds today. I hoped."
Lambert and Edwards are both making what they describe as long runs along the tournament waters, which include portions of both the Columbia and Snake Rivers.
The competition was hard on their heels, with Washington's Gene Batey Jr. bringing in 14-14 for a solid second-place finish. Gary Dobyns, of California (14-6) and Clint Johanson, of Washington (14-1) rounded out the top five.
"It's really hit or miss out there," said Edwards. "I could come in tomorrow with no fish."
Both of the leaders are drop-shotting plastic baits and cited good practice sessions and timing as the keys to their success on the first of the three tournament days. Lambert said he was switching tackle all day, while Edwards said he used tubes on 6-pound-test line. He took a moment on stage to thank his partner, Kennewick's Doug McBride, for helping him by quickly netting the struggling fish.
"Those smallmouths on 6-pound line? Wow, you don't have long," he said. "When they're running, they're running."
In the non-boater division, Kyle Rasmussen of California took a 4-ounce lead over his closest competitor, weighing in 12-3. He is chased by fellow Californian Patrick Wilson (11-15). Kim Bain, of Queensland, Australia, (11-8) not only had the distinction of being the farthest-traveling angler, but also wrapped up the day in 3rd place. The top non-boater prize is a $24,000 boat-and-motor rig.
At the moment, the anglers are battling not just for first place, but also for the chance to survive the cut after day 2, which narrows the field to just the top 50 anglers in each division.
This is the first of three events in the Western Division that will send the top anglers to the inaugural Bassmaster Open Championship in December - and, ultimately, the coveted CITGO Bassmaster Classic next summer.
Anglers launch daily from Columbia Park at 6:15 a.m. Daily weigh-ins will begin Saturday at the park at 3:15.
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail 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 Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Chevrolet Trucks, Yamaha Outboards, Mercury Marine, Skeeter Boats, Triton Boats, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, Kumho Tires, Progressive Insurance, Abu Garcia, Berkley, Diamond Cut Jeans, MotorGuide Trolling Motors, and BankOne.
Associate Sponsors include Bryant Heating and Air Conditioning and G3 Boats.
Local sponsors include Apollo, Inc.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375.