January 30, 2014 by Gary Mortenson
LAKE HAVASU CITY, Ariz. - As the 152-boat field departed Lake Havasu State Park marina shortly after 7:30 a.m. Thursday morning to commence the start of the very first Rayovac FLW Series Western Division event in FLW history, anglers were gearing up for a decidedly wind-swept day on the water.
With winds pouring in anywhere from 15 to 25 mph, anglers were bundled from head to toe as they set out in an effort position themselves for a grueling, and hopefully rewarding, three days of fishing on Lake Havasu.
However, while extremely windy conditions aren't the first thing an angler dreams about when hitting the water for the opening round of tournament action, in this case, the field might just be all right with the change in weather. After multiple days of calm weather during practice, most anglers agreed that the bite was brutally tough. But with the arrival of strong winds today, it is the hope that the blustery weather will spur on a bite that so far has definitely been lacking.
"I got here four or five days ago and that bite was pretty tough," said Rayovac FLW Series pro Mo Hassen of Alameda, Calif. "But with this wind, I think the fishing is going to be a lot better. I honestly think this wind is really going to help us out because it's going to put those fish on a nice reaction bite."
Rayovac FLW Series pro Michael Lavallee of Sandy, Utah, seconded that notion.
"I'm really hoping this wind helps us out because the bite up until now has been pretty tough," he said. "I've been here for four days of practice, spending anywhere from 10 to 11 hours on the water each day, and there have been days where I've only gotten one or two bites all day. So I think this weather is really going to help us."
However, the caveat is that it only applies if the wind doesn't get any worse than predicted.
"It's supposed to blow 15 to 25 mph today but it's already that windy this morning," said Hassen. "So I guess we'll have to see what happens."
As far as the fishing is concerned, anglers said that the fish are in a predominately pre-spawn mode and that reaction baits could be the key to success today.
"The lake is down 5 or 6 feet and that's really been throwing the fish off as far as their spawning," said Hassen. "You'll see some fish ready to spawn but most of the lake is in the pre-spawn right now. And with today's conditions, you'll be forced to fish a lot of reaction baits because it's really going to be tough to do any kind of finesse fishing."
Despite the wind, Lavallee said he's going to operate under a very specific gameplan.
"Basically I'm going to approach the main lake the first thing this morning because that's where I think the tournament is going to be won. I'll probably fish a little bit deep, anywhere from 20 to 35 feet. Then I'm going to run up the river, go flipping in anywhere from 3 to 5 feet and try to finish out my limit. After that I'm going to go back to the main lake and probably just get blown around in circles. The fish are definitely in the pre-spawn phase right now although in some parts of the lake the fish are just starting to move up. But like I said earlier, I think this warm, southwest wind is really going to help the bite today.'
And because the lake holds plenty of both largemouth and smallmouth, no one species should dominate the competition.
"I definitely see this as a mixed bag tournament," said Lavallee. "You can catch a 20-pound bag of largemouth here or a 20-pound bag of smallmouth. But that wasn't always the case. About five years ago you really needed largemouth to win. But over the years, the smallmouth bass have really blown up on this lake. So you're probably going to need some of both to win."
"I think with the wind today and a reaction bite, you're definitely going to see a lot of mixed bags," Hassen added.
In an effort to target those bass, anglers said there are plenty of options to choose from.
"Basically in this lake, there are massive amounts of manmade structures, particularly cages," said Lavallee. "The DNR placed those cages all around this lake to create artificial habitat for the fish and I really think this tournament will be won on those cages. But you can also fish trees - there are tons of trees on the main-lake channels. There are also some fish on rocks and pea gravel flats."
So what will an angler need to advance through the top-10 cut on day two and ultimately win the tournament outright?
"I think it's going to take an average of 16 1/2 pounds a day to make the cut," said Lavallee and about 18 1/2 pounds a day to win."
During Rayovac FLW Series competition, pros supply the boats, fish from the front deck against other pros and control boat movement. Co-anglers fish from the back deck and compete against other co-anglers. Anglers are permitted to weigh in their best five bass each day. Every angler who receives weight credit in a tournament earns points that determine angler standings. The full field competes on days one and two, with the top-10 pros and top 10 co-anglers advancing to Saturday's final round of competition based on their two-day accumulated weight. Winners ultimately will be determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from all three days.
Anglers will take off from Lake Havasu State Park, located at 699 London Bridge Road in Lake Havasu City, Ariz., 7:30 a.m. daily from Jan. 30 through Feb. 1. Weigh-ins will be held at the launch site beginning at 3:30 p.m. each day.
Takeoffs and weigh-ins are free and open to the public.
Pros will be competing for a top award of $40,000 plus a Ranger Z518C with a 200-horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard if Ranger Cup guidelines are met. Co-anglers will cast for a top award consisting of a Ranger Z117 with 90-horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard and $5,000 if Ranger Cup guidelines are met.
The Rayovac FLW Series consists of five divisions - Central, Northern, Southeast, Texas and Western. Each division consists of three tournaments and competitors will be vying for valuable points in each division that could earn them the Strike King Angler of the Year title and prize package along with a spot in the no entry fee Rayovac FLW Series Championship. The 2014 Rayovac FLW Series Championship is being held Oct. 30 to Nov. 1 on Wheeler Lake in Rogersville, Ala.
The Rayovac FLW Series tournament on Lake Havasu is being hosted by the Lake Havasu City Convention & Visitors Board.
For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the Rayovac FLW Series on Facebook at Facebook.com/FLWFishing and on Twitter at Twitter.com/FLWFishing.
Bass-fishing fans take note
Rayovac FLW Series action continues at today's weigh-in, scheduled to take place at 3:30 p.m. at Lake Havasu State Park, located at 699 London Bridge Road in Lake Havasu City, Ariz.
Want to watch the weigh in live but can't make it in person? Then tune into FLW Live on FLWOutdoors.com shortly before 3:30 p.m. Pacific Time to watch live streaming video and audio of today's opening-round weigh in.
Sunrise: 7:37 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 65 degrees
Expected high temperature: 77 degrees
Water temperature: 53-57 degrees
Wind: From the south-southwest at 15 to 25 mph
Humidity: 25 percent
Day's outlook: Sunny with increasing clouds throughout the afternoon