Western Divisional competition heats up

BLOOMFIELD, N.M. --- Host team New Mexico will need to bring in some heavy limits today if it hopes to overtake Colorado on the final day of the Western Divisional presented by Yamaha and Skeeter.

Colorado leads Montana by 15-13 and New Mexico by 22-10 at this tournament being staged on Navajo Lake in the Four Corners area of New Mexico.

But making up more than 22 pounds is not as unlikely as it once might have been, according to Steve Ragsdale, president of the New Mexico B.A.S.S. Federation Nation.

“Until about 10 years ago, the bass didn’t grow much,” he said. “Then yellow perch got in here somehow and the bass have been growing much better.

Before that additional forage, largemouths and smallmouths fed mostly on flathead minnows, bluegill, and crawfish. Water temperature is too low to sustain shad in this lake that also contains trout, kokanee salmon, and northern pike.

A prime example of that better growth is a largemouth weighing 8.67 pounds caught during a tournament in April. Additionally, 5- and 6-pound smallmouths reportedly were caught during practice for the divisional -- and before cold weather moved in early this week.

Not surprisingly, bass didn’t like the change and the bite slowed down. Just 27 limits were brought in by 166 anglers from the 11 western states on Wednesday and 33 on Thursday. Additionally, the largest bass weighed thus far has been 4-14, with the heaviest limit 15-9 by New Mexico’s Jay Salisbury on Day One.

“Normally, you’d expect to see some 20-pound bags this time of year,” Ragsdale said.

The downside for today’s milder weather and possibly more and bigger bass for New Mexico is that catches likely will improve for anglers from other states as well -- especially Colorado.

“This is kind of our home lake,” said John Gardner, who lives just across the state line in Durango.

Whichever state takes the team title, most of the fish likely will be caught early. On Day One, Montana’s Ken Riska said that he “could have come in by 7:30,” after boating his limit.  And yesterday, California’s Andrew Sayles had his limit by 9.

Individual leader Salisbury hasn’t revealed how or when he is catching his fish, but Ragsdale hopes that he can maintain his success, as well as help his teammates.

Montanan’s Curtis Spindler is in second, New Mexico’s Kenny Hansel third, Washington’s Tony Lind fourth, and Idaho’s Josh Polfer fifth.

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