"Chief" Torrez and Kory Ray load the boat

LAKEPORT, Calif. — Fishing partners Kory Ray and Mark “Chief” Torrez needed 10 weigh-in bags to haul their fish to the scales at Wednesday’s B.A.S.S. Nation Western Divisional underway on Clear Lake.

What sounds like a fish story is really the truth.

Ray’s 5-bass limit weighed 29 pounds, 1 ounce, while the limit caught by Torrez tipped the scales at 30-10. That makes Torrez, of Camarillo, Calif., the Day 1 leader.

California state law, in the name of live fish care, is the reason for the overload of weigh-in bags. The state requires any bass believed to weigh 5 pounds or more to be carried in a separate bag. The catches of both anglers easily qualified for the extra bags.

The weights could have been much more. The tournament day was shortened by over an hour due to a fog delay. Obviously, the lost time didn’t hurt Torrez. In his case, it helped.

“Once the fog lifted and the sun came out, it was over,” he said. “The fish fed early, were spread out and then disappeared.”

That’s not surprising at all and goes with the prevailing pattern for the season. Clear Lake’s bass are in pre-spawn mode, meaning the big females are staging on offshore habitat. Their next move will be into the backs of coves to spawn.

“This is all about light and the cold snap we just experienced,” Torrez said.

Daytime high temperatures in the 80s prior to the tournament had the fish beyond where they are now. The warming trend under way now could push the fish into ultra shallow and clear water.  

That scenario might develop before the tournament ends. Temperatures are expected to gradually warm each day. Should that happen, look for even better catches, predicted Torrez.

Ray agreed. “If the fish stay on the move then we’ll do it again tomorrow.”

With the fish on the move, without blinding sunshine, the bait of choice is no secret. Many of the anglers are using lipless crankbaits that resemble shad being fed upon by the bass. The lure is favored for covering water and causing the predatory bass to strike when in search of food.

Fish on the move create a mind-boggling puzzle for the fishermen to solve. Ray, who provided the boat for the leading anglers, knows what that can mean.

“I don’t expect those fish to be there tomorrow,” he said. “In this tournament it’s all about staying on the move, just like the fish. They can be in one place today, another area tomorrow.”

Up for grabs at this tournament are state bragging rights, among other prizes. After the conclusion of the three-day event, the state posting the highest collective weight is awarded a Triton 189 TRx rigged with Mercury outboard, Lowrance electronics and a MotorGuide trolling motor.

The highest placing individual advances to the B.A.S.S. Nation Championship, the highest level of bass club competition. So far, that berth belongs to Torrez, whose Ventura County Bass Club has five members on the team from California. 

California leads the state competition with 115-2. Idaho follows with 112-2 and Oregon is third with 109-12. Washington is fourth place with 95-7 with Utah in fifth with 95-7.

Another competition is brewing in this diverse event. Teenage anglers from the states are competing for the reward of the top high school division. That prize is awarded on Friday, the final day of the tournament.

Stay tuned to Bassmaster.com during the 2015 B.A.S.S. Nation Western Divisional. The top anglers from each state advance to the championship next March at Grand Lake, Okla.