VETERAN GADLAGE TAKES LEAD AT BASSMASTER WESTERN OPEN

LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. - Increasingly strong winds blew in a bit of luck Friday as anglers struggled with sluggish bass at the CITGO Bassmaster Western Open presented by Busch Beer.

Kentucky's Jack Gadlage took the lead on day two, bringing home a five-fish limit of largemouth that weighed 12 pounds, 3 ounces, bringing his total weight to 22-10 going into the tournament's final day.

But Gadlage only makes it look easy. The reality, he said, is very different.

"It was actually a pretty tough day," he said. "I caught a fish right off the bat and then didn't catch another one for a few hours."

Midday, Gadlage switched from using spinnerbaits to a split-shot rod, a Western technique using soft plastic baits.

"They (the largemouth bass) seem to be really shut off," he said. "They're just staying in the mud, buried in the mud. They don't want anything to do with anything."

Gadlage was one of the few anglers who successfully targeted largemouth. Cliff Pirch, the Arizona angler who grabbed the lead with just two fish on day one, found a five-fish limit of smallmouth. His cumulative weight of 21-6 puts him 1 pound, 4 ounces out of the lead.

"I was able to get them to react a little better today," said Pirch, who said he is counting on the predatory smallmouths' aggressive response to stimuli to make them hit his lures. "Yesterday I was just leading them out (of their protective cover), but today I got them to bite."

The smallmouth, which are fewer and smaller than most of the largemouth bass in Havasu's clear waters, are the key to his strategy.

"The largemouth are getting beat up but the smallmouth are still pretty aggressive, if you can find them," he said. "Most guys aren't targeting smallmouth, but I think the guys weighing in limits are."

The 113-angler boater and non-boater fields were cut down to the top 50 in both divisions after Thursday's weigh-in at Windsor State Park. The top five boaters included Gadlage; Pirch; California's Dennis Kolender, 20-7; California's Clayton Meyer, 19-5; and California's Michael Bennett, 18-13. The top five non-boaters included California's Sieg Taylor, 14-10; Arizona's Jeff Walker, 12-15; Arizona's Mark White, 9-13; California's Patrick Wilson, 9-3; and California's Eddie Fletcher, 9-3.

Prize purses and trophies aren't the only thing at stake this weekend; this final event on the Western Open circuit will also determine the season's final points standings. The top 20 anglers after all three events will earn berths at the CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship presented by Busch Beer, slated for Louisiana's Toledo Bend Reservoir Dec. 4-7. The division's top three anglers will sew up tickets to bass fishing's world championship, the CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer, which will be held in Charlotte, N.C. July 30-Aug.1, 2004.

In addition to the final weigh-in at 3:15 p.m., there will also be a CastingKids event Saturday from 10:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Children between the ages of 7 and 14 are invited to compete for a chance at a scholarship. Arizona BASS Federation volunteers will teach children to pitch, flip and cast a hookless lure near the Windsor State Park boat launch site.

BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. In 2004, BASS will introduce the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 Series, a four-event, no-entry-fee circuit featuring a $1.6 million prize purse for the world's best anglers. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer 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 Lake Havasu Tourism Bureau.

For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375.