Much is on the line at this week’s Western Divisional, which features six boaters and six non-boaters from seven states – Arizona, California, Idaho, Oregon, Utah, Washington and Wyoming. Where an angler finishes overall is not as important as where he finishes among the 12 competitors representing his state, as the top angler from each state will advance to the 2008 TBF National Championship as a boater. The No. 2 competitor from each state will also advance to the national championship, but as a co-angler.
Therefore, Hobbs not only tops the 84-angler field but also the Washington state contingent, which he currently leads by 3 pounds, 9 ounces. Like most, he reported a tough fishing day out on Potholes Reservoir, with the payoff being a nice sack of spawning bass.
“There are a lot of fish, but they’re in certain little areas,” Hobbs said. “You really have to pound them.”
Hobbs caught fish a variety of ways today, including on jigs, Sweet Beavers, drop-shots and shaky heads: “Just about everything,” he said.
Another unique feature of TBF divisionals is that no one is a co-angler per se – half the state fields are entered as boaters, and half are entered as non-boaters and do not fish out of their own boat during the event. Pairings are random, and competitors paired together decide together how they will split front-of-boat fishing time. Hobbs fished as a boater today with California non-boater Cameron Smith, who caught 12-5 himself.
“I had a good partner,” Hobbs said. “I’ve still got a ton of fish out there, and I didn’t hit half the spots I wanted to.”
While some competitors are targeting smallmouths and others are aiming for largemouths, most anglers came in today with a mixed bag. Hobbs is no exception, though his primary targets were largemouths. He weighed in two smallies and three largemouths.
“I caught two largemouths off beds,” he said. “The largemouth beds are really hard to see. Those fish aren’t cruisers – there’s a bed around there somewhere. Luckily, I did a good job prefishing, and I knew where the sweet spots were.”
One of the keys to Hobbs’ day-one success was a Panic Minnow, which he fed to bass after they responded to a jig or a Reaction Innovations Flirt.
“I caught quite a few fish today,” he said. “I’d throw that Panic Minnow in there, and it was almost automatic.”
McFarland second overall, leads Idaho
Eric McFarland caught 17-15 today to lead the Idaho state team and sit in second place on the overall weight list.In second place in overall weight is Eric McFarland of Meridian, Idaho, with a five-bass catch weighing 17 pounds, 15 ounces that has him leading the Idaho state team by 11 ounces. McFarland is fishing this week as a boater.
“I’m fishing for bedding fish,” McFarland said. “There are a bunch of fish moving up this time of year. I saw a lot of fish cruising last week, and now they’re starting to lock on and go my way.”
McFarland negotiated a deal with his day-one non-boater partner, Craig Hartline of Lake Powell, Utah, to fish McFarland’s spots. For McFarland, that was a good thing, though it did allow Hartline to catch five of McFarland’s bedding bass.
“The largemouths are probably going to wind up winning it,” McFarland said of this week’s event. “I’m targeting largemouths on shallow grassy flats.”
He caught bass today throwing a drop-shot and shaking a Margarita Mutilator Roboworm.
Schachten leads Wyoming from No. 4 spot overall
Leading the Wyoming contingent is Tom Schachten with 17 pounds, 2 ounces on day one.With a limit weighing 17 pounds, 2 ounces, Tom Schachten of Murphys, Calif., leads the Wyoming state team by 1 pound, 1 ounce. The weight was also hefty enough to land him in fourth place overall after day one.
Like the rest of the leaders, Schachten is sight-fishing, a bite that didn’t start heating up in some areas until as late as yesterday.
“They started moving up a lot yesterday, and I caught everything on Senkos,” Schachten said. “I sight-fished everything, and I was away from a whole mess of people. Being a non-boater, I didn’t know how I could do it, but the other fellow was really cooperative.”
Schachten fished with boater Patrick Harris of Canby, Ore., today, and he says this is the first time he has competed as a non-boater. He has, as he put it, “pretty much done everything” one can do in competitive bass fishing, including a stint at the 2003 Bassmaster Classic. Should he advance to the TBF National Championship, he will be in the running for a coveted slot in the 2008 Forrest Wood Cup, bass fishing’s premier event that pays as much as $1 million to the winning pro.
Elsea leads California, Gibney leads Oregon
Michael Gibney took a 3-pound, 8-ounce lead on the Oregon state team with a day-one catch of 16 pounds, 11 ounces.Leading the California state team is Jim Elsea of Clovis, Calif., with a limit of bass weighing 16 pounds, 12 ounces. That stringer put him fifth overall but he leads his state team by a scant 2 ounces. Elsea is fishing this event as a boater.
Taking a sizable lead on the Oregon team is Michael Gibney of Troutdale, Ore., with five bass weighing 16 pounds, 11 ounces. That catch landed him in sixth place overall and first in his state by a 3-pound, 8-ounce margin. Not surprisingly, Gibney too was a sight-fisherman today.
“Pretty much all the fish I caught were on beds,” said Gibney, who competed as a non-boater with partner Robert Knight of Utah. “I stuck with smallmouths. I was going to go after largemouths, but the better fish were smallmouths.”
Gibney pointed out that the hefty weights of today may not hold up the final two days of the tournament simply because the majority of the fish were on beds.
“It got picked pretty clean,” he said of Potholes. “A lot of fish out there were weighed in today.”
No. 9 Beauvais leads Arizona state team
In eighth place overall but first on the Arizona team is Neil Beauvais with a day-one limit weighing 16 pounds, 3 ounces.Tops from Arizona after day one is Neil Beauvais of Mesa, Ariz., with a limit of bass that weighed 16 pounds, 3 ounces. Beauvais is fishing this week as a non-boater and competed today with Terry Ballard of Oregon on his way to catching the day’s ninth-heaviest limit.
“It started off a little slow, but once the sun comes up, my pattern tends to take off,” Beauvais said. “I’m mostly sight-fishing, staying kind of shallow.”
While Beauvais may be relying on the same sight-fishing pattern as the rest of the leaders, he says he has something going that could be an advantage the next two days.
“I’m doing something a little different,” he said. “I’ve got a little twist that seems to be working well. I’m fishing strictly for largemouths – I never even tried for smallmouths.”
Swaney leads Utah by 8 ounces
Tyler Swaney leads the Utah team with his day-one catch that weighed 15 pounds, 2 ounces.Tyler Swaney of Craig, Colo., caught a limit of bass today weighing 15 pounds, 2 ounces that leads the Utah state team by 8 ounces. The weight was also enough to land him in 13th overall.
“I was just chasing bedding smallies,” said Swaney, who is competing as a boater. “It was tough between the largemouths and the smallmouths, but I thought that I’d go get me some smallies.”
The decision paid off, though Swaney says he caught only six fish today, mainly due to early-morning weather conditions that stymied the sight-fishing.
“We had quite a bit of wind this morning that I didn’t expect,” he said. “It made looking at beds harder. This is a tough fishery. Hopefully I can figure out the largemouths, because I don’t know if I have enough smallies to last me.”
Competition continues tomorrow
TBF Western Divisional qualifiers will head out again tomorrow on Potholes Reservoir with a 6 a.m. takeoff from Mardon Resort, located at 8198 Highway 262 SE in Othello. Tomorrow’s weigh-in will also be held there beginning at 3 p.m.