PAGE, Ariz. — Montana’s Austin Johnson benefitted from a big largemouth bite and leads the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Western Regional at Lake Powell with a two-day total of 22 pounds, 7 ounces.
Johnson opened the tournament in fourth-place with a bag weighing 9-10 on Day 1, but caught a 4 1/2-pound largemouth early on Day 2 that anchored a 12-13 Day 2 mixed bag.
Since he was 16 years old, Johnson has been fishing as a member of the Montana Nation, starting as a co-angler before moving to the boater side. This is the last year of the current B.A.S.S. Nation format, and Johnson said he would love to qualify for the Nation Championship this time around.
“With the amount of experience at this event and the amount of guys who are just hammers, I am surprised I’m leading,” the now 26-year-old said. “This is the last time we are ever going to have this event, and I want it badly. I came in second one time as a nonboater and I really want that trophy.”
A multispecies guide on Noxon Reservoir in western Montana, Johnson had never been to Lake Powell before this week. But he has made several trips to Nation Regionals that were held on Lake Mead — events that have helped him greatly this week.
“B.A.S.S. has been sending us to the desert for a few years and this place isn’t too far from Lake Mead,” he said. “It fishes identical to Mead. I am looking for Lake Mead-looking stuff. If it is good Lake Mead stuff, it is good Powell stuff.”
After a productive practice, Day 1 was Johnson’s worst day of the week.
“Today they just bit. I saw them yesterday,” Johnson said. “Yesterday was my worst day of the trip. In practice, I was on good fish and today they showed up again. (Day 1) I didn’t get a keeper in the boat until 10:30. That was really odd because I was getting a ton of bites in practice.”
On the second day, Johnson fished solo after finding out his nonboater was dealing with some health issues and could not continue in the tournament. While disappointing, Johnson knew he would be able to position himself better in his areas and he was able to capitalize with three largemouth bites as well as two smallmouth.
“I camped on three spots today,” he said. “I caught that big one early in the day and that gave me the confidence to sit on what I was doing. I only got seven keeper bites all day.”
The majority of his bites have come between the bank and 20 feet of water and three shad-style baits have caught the bulk of his weight.
“There is a different type of vegetation that no one else is targeting,” Johnson added.
Johnson’s Montana teammate Sean Andrachick remains in second place with a two-day total of 21-14, adding 10-14 Thursday to his 11-0 Day 1 performance. Team Wyoming boater Zach Taylor is third with a two-day total of 19-7 and also landed a 4-12 largemouth, the Big Bass of the Tournament to this point.
California’s Kin Pui Wong leads the nonboater standings with a two-day total of 12-4 and also caught the Big Bass of the Tournament thus far for that division, which weighed 3-11. Arizona’s Brandon Kahoun is second with 12-0 and his teammate Hayden Spradling is third with 11-0.
The Utah State Team won the overall team competition with a two-day total of 220-9. California finished in second with 218-14 and Idaho finished third with 214-2. Arizona was fourth with 208-14 and Montana was fifth with 199-6.
The top 16 boaters and nonboaters, as well as the top two boaters and nonboaters from each state that aren’t already inside the cut, will launch from Stateline Boat Ramp beginning at 6:10 a.m. MST and return for weigh-in at 3 p.m.
The top finishing boater and nonboater from each state at the end of the tournament will qualify for the TNT B.A.S.S. Nation Championship at Lake Hartwell scheduled for October.
Visit Page is hosting the event.