Twins tackle the Flaming Gorge

Ron and Don Welch don’t just look a lot alike; the pair are twins, and both qualified for the 2012 Cabela’s Bassmaster Federation Nation Western Divisional, this week on Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge Reservoir.

The happy-go-lucky brothers are members of California’s Gilroy Bassmasters, where Don is vice president. After Don qualified in the state’s northern division, he called Ron and told him he had to qualify in the south — so he did!

The Welches are among the biggest field for a divisional; 11 states send 12 contenders each to compete, plus two Junior Bassmaster contenders for the final day of competition. That makes a full field of 132 adult anglers and 22 Junior Bassmasters. At the end of the tournament Friday evening, 11 anglers will be qualified to fish the 2012 Cabela’s Bassmaster Federation Nation Championship in October, and two juniors will be qualified for the concurrent 2012 Bassmaster Junior World Championship.

The competitors will be looking for smallmouth this week, but in practice, they found a lot of rainbow and lake trout — up to 20 inches! An earlier article on predicted a winning weight of 47 pounds, but Jon Stewart, tournament manager, said he expects 40 pounds to take it based on practice.

Aaron Leon, Nevada B.A.S.S. Federation Nation angler, agreed. “I think it will take 13 pounds a day to win it — and whoever gets it will have to have a whole lot of luck!” The bass are all over the place, said Leon, and in practice, he caught them on three or four different lures.

The winds will be the test today on Wyoming’s Flaming Gorge Reservoir, officially forecast at 26 mph with some unofficial reports topping 40 mph. But all week, the temperatures will be mild — lows in the mid-40s and highs around the mid-70s. Precipitation likely won’t be a factor.

A special challenge for this tournament is that the contenders can’t cull. If a competitor chooses to keep a small bass in the morning, he can’t throw it back later in the day when he catches a big one.

“It will be feast or famine,” said Stewart. “Some guys were struggling in practice. We’ll see how it all shakes out.”

The 11 states competing are Arizona, California, Colorado, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, New Mexico, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Wyoming.