Wal-Mart FLW Series National Guard Western Division
Columbia River, Tri-Cities, Wash.
Opening round, Wednesday
Hot cold front … A lot of pros surprised even themselves by the quantity of bass they caught on the Columbia River on Wednesday. A cold front during the three-day practice period over the weekend had dampened enthusiasm for big weights this week, but the fish seem to have warmed back up just in time for the tournament. “I wasn’t catching them all week, so I was happy with what I had,” said Western Division points leader Brent Ehrler, who caught 9-12. “That is, I was happy until I sat down there and heard all the big bags everybody else had.” Pro Jason Hickey, who’s never had a top-10 finish in his five-year FLW Outdoors career, came up with a big 15-8 limit and claimed second place. “For once, I actually had a pretty good day today,” he said. “I spent the last half of the day practicing, which was nice.” Pro Jim Opalecky, who had 9-7, said: “Usually 10 pounds a day is pretty good here, but it’s fishing really great right now, so it might take 11 or 12 pounds a day (to make the cut).”
A current affair … So why the great fishing? The Columbia River is notorious for its wind, but the breeze actually lay down pretty well for the anglers in the morning. Plus, it switched from the north to a more westerly direction by afternoon. And, despite the cold front, temperatures rose to a pleasant mid-70s by the afternoon. Most important, though, might have been the current and the effect it had on the smallie bite. Officials likely opened the floodgates sometime in the early afternoon, because most of the top limits came in with the later flights; in fact, the top two pros, Clayton Meyer and Hickey, weighed in with the last five anglers. Perennial Western standouts Jimmy Reese and Michael Tuck, who both caught middling limits in the 9- and 10-pound range, returned with earlier flights Wednesday and were musing about the water flow as they watched the end of weigh-in. “They must have started pulling water after I left,” Reese said. “It won’t be that hard to make it up, though. There are 13-pound bags here, easily.”
Dobber down … It’s no secret to Western anglers that Gary Dobyns is a consummate professional. The guy just catches `em like he owns `em everywhere he fishes. He eats top-10 finishes for breakfast. Today, for instance, he landed a 14-pound limit for eighth place, positioning himself for yet another cut. And he did it under the most difficult of circumstances: His best friend passed away right before the tournament. “I lost my 15-year-old Labrador retriever, Jake, last night,” Dobyns said. “My head really wasn’t into it today. I’ve been in a fog all day.”
99: Percentage of Wednesday’s overall fish catch that were smallmouths, as estimated by FLW Outdoors staffer and fish-bumper extraordinaire Todd Guenthart.
79: Percentage of the Pro Division that caught limits, a total of 136 pros out of 173.
1: Number of pros who failed to catch at least a single keeper.
“It’s not much fish, but, hey, don’t you feel sorry for everybody who’s not us?”
– Pro Mike Knight, who caught just 5-15, echoing the sentiment that even a bad day’s fishing is better than a good day’s working Wednesday.
“What Andy didn’t do was read the memo: bass only.”
– Pro Jim Lyons, talking about his co-angler partner, Andy Scholz, who apparently caught a host of the Columbia River’s other quarry Wednesday including salmon, bream and, of all things, a duck.