LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. – The thrill of taking the Day 1 lead in a tournament goes hand in hand with a restless night afterward; anticipation high to get going as quickly as possible for Day 2.
So imagine the agony of catching a Day-1 best limit of 18 pounds, 8 ounces, and then having to sit on your hands for a day and a half waiting for your next opportunity to wet a line.
That’s what Matty Wong of Culver City, Calif., experienced after taking the lead Wednesday in the TNT Fireworks B.A.S.S. Nation Western Regional here on the Arizona/California border. Wong’s five bass gave him only a 6-ounce lead over the nearest competitor, but he was excited about the chance of repeating the feat on Thursday.
Mother Nature, and B.A.S.S. officials, had other plans however. With sustained winds of 25 mph Thursday morning on Lake Havasu and gusts up to 40 mph, Day 2 of the season-opening event on the 2021 B.A.S.S. schedule was canceled.
That puts the entire field of 177 anglers from nine western states back on the water Friday in a shortened two-day tournament format. Had the wind not interrupted things, the field was to be cut to 17 on both the angler and co-angler sides on what would have been the third day of the regional.
The weather was more cooperative Friday morning, however, and anglers shot out of Lake Havasu State Park at 7:30 a.m. and onto this 19,300-acre impoundment of the Colorado River. It’s still expected to be windy on the lake, with steady winds of up to 15 mph forecast later this afternoon, and that could have some anglers looking for sheltered areas to fish.
Wong likely isn’t one of them. He said there are two phases to his game plan, and one of them includes a lengthy run to a spot where he caught his biggest bass on Wednesday – a 4-plus pounder he spotted in practice and was lucky enough to find again in the same spot on Day 1.
“I think I’m on a pattern that’s pretty consistent,” he said Thursday evening, after spending the day readying his gear, tinkering with his YouTube channel and chatting on the phone with well-wishing family and friends.
“I’m actually excited for a little wind,” Wong said. “I think it will help my bite, so I’m definitely sticking with my plan. I have a few places in my rotation, and I haven’t seen many boats. So I’m not having to compete for water. I can slow down and focus on the fish I want because the vast majority of other boats are just blowing right by.”
Wong, a 32-year-old native Hawaiian, has been fishing since he was a young boy. But he only started competing three years ago, not long after he moved to the Los Angeles area.
“I got an overwhelming amount of support and love in the past 24 hours,” he said Thursday night. “I was able to stay focused today taking one call at a time, not overthinking. The calls are very humbling, and they keep me in check.”
Taylor Smith of Valleyfield, Wash., was in second place after Day 1 with an 18-2 limit. He fishes the Columbia River back home, a large and rapid-moving river that often is a bumpy ride for anglers. Knowing what that’s like, he was happy to ride out the guster from land on Thursday.
“It was definitely the right call to not fish (Thursday),” Smith said. “I don’t have a lot of experience on this lake, so I’ll stick to what I do know. It’ll be really tempting to run up the river with the wind less a factor … but I just don’t know. I’ll play it by ear and make the best decisions I can.”
Smith focused on his electronics Thursday, hoping to find a few protected areas on a map he’s doesn’t know well.
“You can’t dwell on it too much, missing a day,” he said. “I’m excited for the chance to make things happen today.”
Steve Lund of Glendale, Ariz., was in fourth place in the angler division with 16-1 caught on Day 1. He and his son Kalib, who’s also fishing in the regional, passed the time Thursday by catching the latest Liam Neeson flick at a local movie theater.
“I have to be fluid and adapt to what I see out there,” Lund said of his plans Friday on Lake Havasu. “I think it’ll be similar to what we saw on Wednesday, but if the wind is up again, it could definitely change a few things. I think the smallmouth bite might turn on in the wind, and I have to keep that in mind.”
Jay Evans of Missoula, Mont., is third in the angler division with 17-10 caught on Day 1, including the big bass of the day, a 6-0 largemouth. Tom Nokes of Riverton, Utah, leads the co-angler field with a three-bass limit of 8-6 and Dean Yamagata of Las Vegas caught a 4-2, which was the heaviest in that division.
Big Bass Awards of $500 and $250 will be awarded in the angler and co-angler divisions, respectively.
The top angler overall will win $5,000, and the leading co-angler will earn $2,500. There’s a total purse of $27,200 up for grabs in the tournament, which is the first of five B.A.S.S. Nation regionals scheduled for 2021.
Friday’s weigh-in is scheduled to begin at 5:15 p.m. ET at Lake Havasu State Park. Catch all the action on Bassmaster.com.
Lake Havasu City is hosting the tournament.