UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Clear Lake

Rise and Grind Time at Lake Mead

Rise and Grind Time at Lake Mead

Strong winds on the heels of a prolonged cold-weather period may prove to turn the Costa FLW Series Western Division opener into a true grind fest this week as pros and co-anglers take off from Callville Bay – Forever Resorts on Lake Mead in southern Nevada. The tournament, presented by Ranger Boats and hosted by City of Henderson Department of Cultural Arts and Tourism, has the potential to impress should strong southern winds churn up a little dingy water on the ultra-clear-water fishery, but if the practice period was any indication, notching a top finish may come down to filling a limit each day.

Ranger Cup-qualified pros have a chance to take home more than $32,000 and a new Ranger bass boat with a win on Mead, and, as is always the case early in the tournament schedule, getting out to a hot start could mean taking a giant step toward qualifying for the Costa FLW Series Championship on Lake Cumberland Oct. 31-Nov. 2.

 

About the fishery

Lake Mead is a huge body of water. It’s also incredibly deep with ultra-clear water that creates visibility up to 40 feet in some areas. After some seriously cold weather for this part of the country in the weeks leading up to the tournament, fish are still working toward getting into a prespawn pattern. Mix in a little wind, and those who are unfamiliar with the fishery could be facing some unique challenges this week.

Mead is full of quality largemouths, but recent years have precipitated a vast increase in the quantity and quality of smallmouths as well. There’s a good chance the top-placing anglers turn in multiple limits comprised of both species.

“Fishing’s been tough — probably the toughest I’ve ever experienced here getting ready for a tournament on Lake Mead,” says Joe Uribe Jr., last season's Angler of the Year runner-up, who considers Mead to be his home lake. “With the drastic change in weather — we’ve had snow, which is very unusual. I heard from locals it’s been 20 years since they’ve seen snow here. The drastic temperature drop in the water did something to it.”

Colder-than-usual water has left fish clinging to deeper water and more lethargic than they would otherwise be this time of year. They’re not moving up to spawn yet, and they aren’t schooling up either.

“It’s hard to even graph fish right now,” Uribe adds. “The fish are very dormant, very lethargic and on the bottom. A lot of fish are deep.

“There’s no bait right now. The shad are out in the middle, suspended. Most of the fish we’ve seen are eating crawdads right now. They’re not schooled up by any means. There’s one here, one there, and timing is everything.”

Considering how clear Lake Mead water is, there isn’t much dingy shallow water for pros to target with reaction baits, adding yet another variable to the already complicated equation. Anglers might be forced to fish fairly deep, extra slow, for fish that are easily spooked.

 

Current conditions

The fact that the wind is coming out of the southwest (as opposed to the north) is a somewhat fortuitous sign today. Northerly winds could cool the water even more and cause some serious chop issues. Instead, anglers are faced with mid-teens windspeeds with gusts up into the 20-mph range.

Not great, but it could be worse.

Uribe is hoping the windy conditions might churn up water enough to add a little stain, giving fish more of a reason to move up shallower to feed.

“I think fish are going to be stirred up, and you could get more fish to move up right now with that wind,” he says. “The water is gin-clear right now in the main lake. It’s very intimidating for guys who are coming from other parts who aren’t used to being able to see 30 or 40 feet down. I think the wind actually could help us, but too much could make it tough to fish.”

But apart from wind, the weather at Mead is downright gorgeous right now, with highs in the high-60s to mid-70s expected for all three days of the event. It might be enough to warm the water just enough to entice fish to keep moving up shallow to prepare for the spawn.

 

Tactics in play

Uribe spent a ton of time in practice throwing around moving baits such as shallow-diving crankbaits, spinnerbaits and swim jigs, though he didn’t have much luck getting a lot of bites with those reaction tactics. Again, warming and dingier water could make a big difference, but as of right now, it might be the finesse game that does the trick on day one.

Drop-shots and tubes are going to be key for targeting smallmouths, while a jig could end up being the ticket for filling out a limit of quality largemouths that are feeding on crawfish. As Uribe puts it, “If you can catch five a day on a jig, I think you’re going to win the tournament.”

Still, it wouldn’t be spring on Mead without a healthy dose of spinnerbaits and crankbaits, which we’ll likely see a lot of from the field this week.

 

Critical factors

  • The wind: Making the right casts is important, but being able to even get to key spots is even more important. A little wind goes a long way on Mead, and with enough chop on the surface, making long runs to the farthest sections of the lake could be tricky on day one. It might be worth it, though, if that wind churns up enough water to add a little stain. Luckily, the forecast calls for calmer conditions on day two, with winds not expected to exceed 15 mph.
  • Warm weather: Any other year, fish would already be moved up into the shallows preparing to spawn. The fact that it hasn’t happened yet is mostly due to cold weather the last couple weeks. It’s been much warmer this week, and with a couple more pleasant, sunny days on Mead, more and more fish are going to be moving up to bed down. That’s a big deal on a fishery this deep.
  • Efficiency: With more than 158,000 acres of water to dissect, anglers are going to have to make the most of the time they were able to spend during practice this week. Covering water is key on Mead, so having already found some productive locations is critical for success during this tournament. If anglers aren’t able to make the runs they want to make due to wind, breaking down new water efficiently and effectively could be the ticket.

 

Dock talk

Mead has the potential to churn out some quality bags of fish, but the chatter at the registration meeting suggests 12 to 15 pounds a day will be plenty to crack the top five and perhaps net a win. Consistency will be the name of the game this week. As hard as it's been to get bites, it’s entirely possible to weigh in 15-plus pounds and only one or two fish the following day.

Like any tournament field, some anglers had a solid practice period that produced some patterns they believe will get the job done. It’ll just come down to executing on those plans when it really matters.

Mead could turn on today and prove everyone wrong. For now, it’s best to curb expectations until we see what kind of weights come across the weigh-in stage this afternoon.

 

Tournament details

All boaters and co-anglers will compete for two days. The top 10 boaters and co-anglers based on cumulative weight after two days of competition will advance to the third and final round, with the winner determined by the heaviest cumulative three-day weight.

Takeoff time: 6:30 a.m. PT

Takeoff location: Callville Bay - Forever Resorts, HCR 30 Box 100, Las Vegas, NV 89124

Weigh-in time: 2:30 p.m. PT

Weigh-in location: Callville Bay - Forever Resorts, HCR 30 Box 100, Las Vegas, NV 89124

Complete details

Tags: lake-mead  bass-fishing  flw  fishing-tournament  justin-onslow  morning-story  2019-02-28-lake-mead 

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