LAKEPORT, CALIF. – Some may wonder how the two top teams, after the first round of competition at the 2018 Academy Sports + Outdoors B.A.S.S. Nation Western Regional presented by Magellan Outdoors on California’s beautiful Clear Lake, hail from states known more for their trout than bass. But the Montana and Colorado anglers that managed to put together the only 80 bass limits understand how that can happen.
Currently leading the two Mountain States are Lane Coale of Grand Junction in first place and Shane Baertsch of Missoula, who is tied for second.
“There aren’t very many places to target bass in Colorado,” admits Coale, who actually learned to fish in Oklahoma, “and there aren’t a lot of big lakes. But I’ve always liked bass so that’s what I fished for when I moved there.”
Coale went on to explain that the conditions, which are far from ideal for growing bass, actually make Colorado resident’s better anglers.
“The waters that do have bass are usually pretty clear,” says Coale, “and that forces us [Colorado anglers] to become precise with our presentations. Technique-wise we have to make really long casts if we want to catch fish.”
Coale, who has been residing in Colorado for eight years now, adds that there will be some fish in heavy cover in his present home state. But because there’s not an abundance of hiding places the lion’s share are typically in open water.
“We’re forced to learn to finesse and catch bass under some pretty tough conditions,” says Coale. “It’s all about fooling the fish and we have to figure out a better way to get bit. As a result, Colorado always puts together a good team.”
An angler that wants to pursue bass in Montana, a state known for its cold-water fisheries even more so than Colorado, finds they have to fish in a similar way.
“It’s so cold in Montana that we’re only able to fish for five or six months of the year,” says Baertsch. “But bass are bass no matter where you are – you’ll catch them if you know where they like to hold and what they eat. The biggest difference in my state is we have to learn to finesse to be consistent.”
That forces Montana anglers to slow down, fishing areas methodically. And that’s exactly what landed him in a tie for second place after Day 1 on Clear Lake.
“I covered a lot of water during practice here,” acknowledges Baertsch, “but once the tournament started I just sowed down and started fishing, thoroughly covering the two areas I stayed in all day.”
Of note also is that Quincy Grupenhoff, the first place co-angler after the first day of competition, is also from Montana.