Western Division Rolls at Havasu - Major League Fishing

Western Division Rolls at Havasu

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March 3, 2022 • Erik Gaffron • Toyota Series

LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. – The Toyota Series Presented by A.R.E. Western Division kicks off with the near-yearly trip to Lake Havasu just in time to truly take advantage of the spring bite. A recent cold front has struck the area earlier this week. With continually changing conditions predicted throughout the event, there should be plenty of twists thrown at the pros and Strike King co-anglers.

About the Fishery

Dammed in 1938, Lake Havasu is a Colorado River impoundment nestled on the California and Arizona border. The 19,000-acre reservoir is the smallest playing field the Western Division will see in 2022, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t room for exploration. Anglers will be able to expand into a variety of distinct areas throughout Havasu. Namely, the Colorado River, the basin, the stretch running from the basin to the dam and the Bill Williams arm.

Working from north to south, the upper, Colorado River portion of Havasu is shallower and dirtier than most of the system. It offers an expanse of backwaters to explore with more powerful current at play. The main basin near Lake Havasu City offers deeper and clearer water, along with a mix of largemouth and smallmouth for competitors to chase. As the reservoir narrows on its way towards the damn, the water clarity continues to improve as banks steepen into more defined bluff walls. The final noteworthy portion of the lake is formed by the Bill Williams River meeting the Colorado River. It is often home to the warmest and dirtiest water in the system.

Tules, vegetation and timber make up the limited natural cover found on Havasu, as manmade structures offer the bulk of cover for an abundance for largemouth and smallmouth bass alike. Both species will likely come into play this week, as bags of both, or either species have been known to take the top spot in tournaments on the scenic desert lake.

Current Conditions

Havasu finds itself in an awkward spring phase presently, thanks to a stout cold front seen in the area in the days leading up to the event. Tackle Warehouse Pro Circuit angler Tai Au notes a small portion of fish that have already spawned or are spawning but says most of the fish he is finding are in prespawn staging areas, waiting to move up to spawn.

“Originally, heading into this tournament on the schedule, I thought it was going to be another slugfest sight fishing deal, but it just is not working out because of that cold front. It really messed [Havasu] up last week,” Au said.

Au also believes the cold front forecasted for the second and third days of competition will not hinder the bite, noting that an incoming low-pressure system should keep fish chewing all week.

Tactics in Play

Au expects that traditional Havasu prespawn tactics are going to play the biggest factor for success this week. Warming water temperatures have all but squashed any lingering late winter bite, as most fish are being found in and around common staging areas.

“Whoever can figure out those prespawn largemouth is going to do it. Deep cranking and looking for cages and main lake stuff, ‘yo-yoing’ an LV 500 in the grass,” Au said. “The swimbait bite can turn on in the next couple of days, I’ve got a couple tied on. The guy that fishes the moment and finds an area they’re moving up on, that’s who will get it done.”

Other tactics that could come into play include flipping, frogging and other power-fishing techniques, as well as traditional west coast finesse staples such as a drop-shot and shaky head.

Critical Factors

  • Finding fresh fish – With fish constantly on the move and looking for places to spawn, finding new fish coming to an area will be a necessity for any angler looking to crack the final day cut. Constant adjustment and adaptations will be essential for anglers as the weather conditions will be anything but stable.
  • Managing boat traffic – It’s March, and as one of the west’s most popular spring break destinations, Havasu has a plethora of pleasure boaters on its waters. Anglers that can ignore the constant traffic and focus on catching fish will be partying with a new trophy at week’s end.

Dock Talk

Au estimates an average of 19 to 21 pounds a day to win, a sentiment nearly echoed by Bass Pro Tour pro Dean Rojas

“It will probably take 18 to 20 pounds a day to win, but the real key is going to be consistency,” Rojas said. 

Both anglers’ guesses put the three-day total for the winner right around 60 pounds, and that should be spot on if recent history is any indicator. Both Au in 2020 and Andrew Loberg in 2021 put similar weights on the scales to take their respective titles on the Western Division’s previous two trips.