Back to the starting line - Major League Fishing

Back to the starting line

Weights return to zero as Western heavyweights begin day three at Shasta
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Pro Jim Riley (left) and co-angler Justin Regelin head up the competition in boat No. 1 as the semifinalists line up for Friday's action at Lake Shasta. Photo by Jeff Schroeder. Anglers: Jim Riley, Justin Regelin.
March 31, 2006 • Jeff Schroeder • Toyota Series

REDDING, Calif. – Local pro Jim Riley established an admirable 6-pound lead over the rest of the field the first two days of Stren Series Western Division competition at Lake Shasta, but that means little as everyone’s weights zero out and he faces off against a well-heeled top-20 field in the two-day final round.

Now the real fun begins.

“Tired. Nervous and tired,” Riley said, joking about his state of mind as he waited at the dock for takeoff Friday morning. “It’s not like there are any good sticks back there.”

One glance at the final-round competition at Shasta this week would make anyone tired. Taking off behind Riley was a string of past Stren Series champions and simply intimidating Western anglers.

In Boat No. 2 Friday was Gary Dobyns, perennial top-10 finisher and winner at the California Delta in 2003.

In boat No. 7 was Jimmy Reese, who won the last Western Division event at Clear Lake earlier this month. Reese has made every cut this season and has a definitive lead in the Western standings.

In fact, the winners from both of the first two Western events are fishing today. In addition to Reese, young phenom John Billheimer Jr. took off in boat No. 19. The 16-year-old won at Lake Havasu in February, becoming the youngest pro ever to win an FLW Outdoors event.

In boat No. 12 is Clayton Meyer, also a Lake Havasu winner, in 2005.

And if that’s not enough to wear an angler out, there’s always the prospect of facing perennial top-10 finishers and Western veterans like Mark Meddock (boat No. 3), Dave Nollar (No. 4), Paul Hodges (No.7), Fred Ward (No. 10), Steve Tosh (No. 11) and Jon Strelic (No. 18).

Add to that the threat of the local Shasta Lake pros, Bill Townsend (No. 6) and Bret Gouvea (No. 13), and it makes for one sleepless Thursday night.

Anglers take off under a low cloud cover for day three of competition at Lake Shasta.Conditions Friday are similar to what anglers have seen the first two days, cloudy and rainy, though the wind has picked up significantly. Expect those spotted-bass limits to keep coming.

Day-three weigh-in festivities begin at 4 p.m. Pacific time at the Wal-Mart store located at 1515 Dana Drive in Redding. Following today’s competition, both the pro and co-angler fields will be cut to the top 10 anglers for Saturday’s final round.

Friday’s conditions:

Sunrise: 5:55 a.m.

Temperature at takeoff: 49 degrees

Expected high temperature: 52 degrees

Water temperature: 48-50 degrees

Wind: S at 17 mph

Maximum humidity: 71 percent

Day’s outlook: rain/thunder