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FLW College Fishing Western Regional Championship under way

Opening takeoff is only moments away for FLW College Fishing Western Regional qualifiers.

TEMPE, Ariz. - With sunny skies, calm winds and modest temperatures setting the stage for the final collegiate tournament of the 2011 FLW season, 20 of the top Western Division qualifying teams hit the open water of Saguaro Lake shortly after 7 a.m. to kick of the start of the three-day FLW College Western Regional Championship.

At stake is not only a tournament title, which comes with a top award of $50,000, but also five premium berths in the prestigious 2012 FLW College Fishing National Championship. However, before anglers can even begin to start thinking about raising the first-place trophy over their heads, they must first design a successful strategy for targeting Saguaro Lake - which, by most accounts, will be easier said than done.

"The fishing has really been kind of slow but I think if we can hit them early and hit them hard, we should be alright," said Boise State team member Jared Spickelmier. "We have a feeling that the drop-shot is going to be a key technique this week. So, as far as our strategy is concerned, I think we're going to start the day throwing topwaters and then switch over to more finesse tactics later in the day."

University of Oregon team member Reed Frazier of San Rafael, Calif., echoed the thoughts of many anglers in the field, arguing that with the tough bite, finesse tactics will probably be the way to go.

National Guard FLW College Fishing Western Regional Championship anglers patiently await the start of opening takeoff on Saguaro Lake as the sun slowly drifts over the horizon."It's definitely a finesse bite," said Frazier. "So, for the most part, we're going to be throwing a lot of Shaky Heads and spoons - just like everyone else. My guess is that 10 to 12 pounds a day is going to be a really good stringer. But I think if you can just come back with a limit, you should be doing pretty well because it's a pretty tough bite out there."

Regardless of the final outcome, many teams said they were happy just to qualify for the regional championship.

"So far it's been a real blast," said Spickelmier. "To get to the next level and get to fish against the best of the best from the West, that's pretty cool."

Because this tournament represents the third straight regional championship for the University of Oregon, Reed said he has his eye set on a few larger goals as well.

"This is our third regional in a row so it's great to be back," said Reed. "But I had a chance to go to nationals the first year so I really want to get back there (in 2012). So far the western guys haven't been able to finish in the top five at any national championship and it'd be great if we could be the first team to do that."

Tourney format and event logistics

Twenty college teams will compete for a top award of $50,000 to be split between the school and bass fishing club; $37,500 for the bass club, which includes $12,500 in cash as well as a Ranger 177TR with a 90 horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard wrapped in school colors, and $12,500 for their school.

FLW College Fishing Western Regional qualifiers get ready for the start of takeoff on Saguaro Lake.Anglers will take off from Saguaro Del Norte Recreation Site located at 14011 North Bush Highway in Mesa, Ariz., at 7 a.m. each morning. All weigh-ins will be held outside the Wells Fargo Arena on the Arizona State University campus at 606 East Alpha Drive. Thursday and Friday weigh-ins will begin at 4 p.m. Saturday's final weigh-in will begin at 5 p.m., just prior to the Arizona State vs. Arizona football game.

Takeoffs and weigh-ins are free and open to the public.

Schools competing in the Western Regional include:

Arizona State University - Joseph Jarrell, Phoenix, Ariz., and Kyle Keegan, Tempe, Ariz.
Arizona State University - Mark Walker, Cave Creek, Ariz., and Craig Carroll, Chandler, Ariz.
Boise State - Jared Spickelmier, Boise, Idaho, and Jacob Leanna, Menominee, Mich.
Boise State - Michael Zawacki, Boise, Idaho, and Tanner Bice, Middleton, Idaho
California Polytechnic - Scott Hellesen and Damian Bean, both of San Luis Obispo, Calif.
California State University, Long Beach - Justin Gangel, Oceanside, Calif., and Alex Cox, Long Beach, Calif.
California State University, Monterey Bay - David Hamblin, Morgan Hill, Calif., and Matthew Diaz, Castroville, Calif.
Chico State - Bo Harkins, Chico, Calif., and Anthony Dayton, Walnut Creek, Calif.
Chico State - Bryce Hayes, Taft, Calif., and Lucas Russell, Chico, Calif.
Chico State - Nicholas Carrico, Oroville, Calif., and Matthew Wetmore, Chico, Calif.
Chico State - Thomas White, Fountain Valley, Calif., and Frank Vogt, Chico, Calif.
Fresno State - Christopher Delgado and Kong Moua, both of Fresno, Calif.
Humboldt State University - Ben Smith and Dominic Vitali, both of Samoa, Calif.
Northern Arizona University - Nicole Albright and Brent Perkins, both of Phoenix, Ariz.
Sacramento State - Kyle Derbish and Greg Taluban, both of Sacramento, Calif.
Sacramento State - Robert Matsuura, Sacramento, Calif., and Thomas Kanemoto, Elk Grove, Calif.
University of Nevada, Reno - Brandon Murphy, Reno, Nev., and Jared Malone, Sonora, Calif.
University of Oregon - Ross Richards, Eugene, Ore., and Reed Frazier San Rafael, Calif.
University of Oregon - William Crowl, Eugene, Ore., and Kyle Schneider, Beaverton, Ore.
University of Oregon - Zachary Niesen and Nick Doring, both of Mill Valley, Calif.

The top five teams from FLW College Western Regional Championship will advance to the FLW College Fishing National Championship, which features a first-place award of $100,000; $25,000 for their school and $50,000 cash and a Ranger 177TR bass boat with a 90 horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard wrapped in school colors for their fishing club.

Teams carefully trailer their boats down into Saguaro Lake.Arizona State will be hosting the College Fishing Festival throughout the three-day tournament. Students and fishing fans alike will be treated to a Ranger Boat simulator, Sony PS3 Gaming Trailer, tailgate games, a sports zone along with contests for cash and several prize giveaways. The festival will take place outside the Wells Fargo Arena located at 606 East Alpha Drive in Tempe from 2 - 4 p.m. on Thursday and Friday; and from 2:30 p.m. - 7:30 p.m. on Saturday.

College Fishing is free to enter. FLW provides boats and drivers for each competing team along with travel allowances. All participants must be registered, full-time undergraduate students at a four-year college or university and members of a fishing club recognized by their college or university.

Bass-fishing fans take note

FLW College anglers make some last-minute equipment checks before opening takeoff.Western College Regional Championship action continues during Thursday weigh-in, slated to take place at 4 p.m. outside the Wells Fargo Arena on the Arizona State University campus at 606 East Alpha Drive in Tempe, Ariz.

Coverage of the Western Regional Championship will be broadcast in high-definition (HD) on VERSUS. "FLW Outdoors," will air Dec. 25 from 1 - 2 p.m. ET. "FLW Outdoors," hosted by Jason Harper, is broadcast to approximately 500 million households worldwide.

Want to watch Thursday's FLW College Fishing Western Regional Championship weigh-in live but can't make it in person? Then tune into FLW Live on FLWOutdoors.com shortly before 4 p.m. Mountain time to watch live streaming video and audio of today's weigh in.

FLW College Fishing Western Regional qualifiers get ready for the start of the opening round of tournament action.Vital statistics:

Sunrise: 7:01 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 54 degrees
Expected high temperature: 79 degrees
Water temperature: 65-67 degrees
Wind: From the east-northeast at 3-4 mph
Humidity: 29 percent
Day's outlook: Sunny

Related links:

College Fishing Festival
Event schedule

Tags: gary-mortenson  morning-story  2011-11-17-western-regional-saguaro-lake 

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