Cold, wet start to Western Divisional

BLOOMFIELD, N.M. --- Cold rain greeted anglers as they waited for takeoff on Day One of the Western Divisional presented by Yamaha and Skeeter on Navajo Lake.

But it had stopped by the time that competitors ventured out onto this 15,000-acre impoundment in the high desert country of northwestern New Mexico, and precipitation wasn’t expected to be a problem today or throughout the tournament.

Wind, however, likely could play a role in this three-day competition in which 11 states compete for bragging rights and the individual leader from each state goes on to participate in the National Championship, with a chance at making the Bassmaster Classic.

Weather forecast for today called for winds of 20 to 30 miles per hour out of the north/northwest, with gusts to 40. For Thursday, meteorologists said, gusts could hit 50.

Water still was flat at dawn, though, and anglers were hopeful that fishing would improve under cloudy skies.  To date, cold water has kept both the largemouth and smallmouth bass from becoming as active and cooperative as competitors would like.

“It’s a little frustrating because none of us have a pattern going,” said Josh Polfer, a member of the Idaho team. “It’s what we call ‘junk fishing’ because we’re just going to go fishing and hope we can scrounge up five bites per day.”

New Mexico’s Mark Williams added that some anglers managed just one or two fish during a week of practice.

“Some people have a knack of finding the fish and that’s what it takes,” he added. “Anybody can catch them. It’s a matter of finding them.”

And the record book confirms that Navajo Lake does contain some impressive bass, just waiting to be found. The New Mexico record smallmouth --- 6-14 --- was caught here in 1999, while the Colorado record --- 5-12 --- came from the upper reaches of the impoundment in 1993.

Of course, New Mexico anglers are hoping that being the home team will prove advantageous  this year, unlike in 2010 when host team Arizona finished 9th on the Colorado River, near Yuma. Washington won, with Oregon second, and New Mexico third.

Other teams competing in the Western Divisional include California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Utah, and Wyoming.

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