Wal-Mart FLW Series National Guard Western Division
Columbia River, Tri-Cities, Wash.
Opening round, Thursday
So why are they all fishing for smallies? … The big-bass award for the day – and the week, so far – went to co-angler Mike Marsh, who landed a 7-pound, 5-ounce Columbia River whale Thursday. The unique part? It was a largemouth, which was a refreshing sight at a tournament where well over 90 percent of the fish weighed in are smallmouths. Also of note, Marsh caught the big bass on a little-bitty bait: a drop-shot armed with a wacky-rigged Zoom finesse worm.
Oh, that’s why … Yes, Marsh’s largemouth was the biggest, but the smallies weren’t anything to sneeze at, either. Anglers weighed in numerous 4- and 5-pound bronzebacks for the big-bass award in both divisions, topped off by Jon Neudorfer’s 5-pound, 7-ounce big-bass winner on the pro side. Yesterday, nobody broke the 5-pound barrier for big fish, but today, there were more 5-pound smallies than you could count.
Why it’s called fishing, not catching … It was a tougher day for many pros on day two. The wind came up a bit, the clouds came out, and apparently the current slowed for many anglers hunting for smallies. Consequently, many of the top pros from day one, while they still caught limits, failed to maintain their pace. The top two Wednesday, Clayton Meyer and Jason Hickey, went from 16-13 to 9-15 Thursday (Meyer) and 15-8 to 9-0 (Hickey). They, however, managed to stay in the top 10. Those who did not included Michael Bennett (14-6 to 8-13), Neil Russell (14-4 to 8-10), Cory Dispensiero (14-14 to 7-13), Gary Dobyns (14-0 to 7-11), Bill Stutzman (15-2 to 6-2) and Jim Jeffords (13-11 to 6-2). “I don’t know, I tried really hard,” said pro Scott Mascadri, who dropped from 12-7 to 6-14, “but today they lowered the water and, with the wind, I just don’t know what happened.”
On the other hand … There were some real comebacks on day two from pros who didn’t break double digits on the first day. Leon Knight went from 9-13 Wednesday to 14-8 Thursday, Cody King 9-2 to 13-3, Patrick Whitaker 6-1 to 14-12, Ken Schmitt 6-7 to 12-12, Rich Tauber 5-9 to 12-12 and Jimmy Walker 3-1 to 14-4. “I think I just slowed down,” Walker said. “Yesterday, if I didn’t get any bites right away, I ran to another spot. Today, I had no pressure, so I settled down and managed to catch a few.”
Rough week … Pro Jason Borofka weighed in a couple fish worth 2-8 Thursday, but he was just happy to be able to come to the scale. On his morning run, his motor sheered off at the jack plate and caused a harrowing breakdown for him and co-angler Duane Dunstone. “We were going 50 mph when I heard a noise and looked behind me,” a visibly shaken Borofka said at weigh-in. “The motor came completely off and just went flying. It was going all by itself right next to us, flying past us. Then the cowling just exploded and came apart. We spun out of control, but we came to a stop and we were still alive, so we just laughed. It was all we could do at that point.” At this point, laughter might be the best remedy for Borofka, who’s had a rough couple of days to start the week. “Yesterday, we broke a down and couldn’t get to our spot, either,” he said. “But it was pretty exciting to watch your motor fly off your boat and explode.”
“I’m telling you, he’s got them pegged. He was throwing back 2-pounders that I would have loved to have. But you’ve got to run for them; tomorrow, he’s going to be cutting it close.”
– Co-angler Jirii Sakata, on his day of fishing with pro leader Charlie Weyer.
“If the wind is like it was today, I think I can get there and back with 10 minutes to spare tomorrow.”
– Weyer, who is making a long run downriver and locking through to catch his big sacks.
“It’s a real thrill to fish a tournament sponsored by my life.”
– Pro Marc Marcantonio, a retired Army National Guardsman of 23 years
“I’ll tell you what, this has just put the Columbia River on the map.”
– FLW Series tournament director Chris Jones, enjoying the fruitful bounty of this smallmouth fishery on FLW Outdoors’ first visit to Washington. To further that sentiment, this tournament site is tailor-made for an event like this. It’s not just the awesome smallmouth fishery; the convenient and generous accommodations, marina and the overwhelming hospitality of the Tri-Cities area has shown that this is a tournament site nonpareil. And that’s an objective observation from someone who’s seen a lot of bass tournaments.