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Boulder City’s Klinger ready to catch big ones on Lake Mead

With the flick of a wrist Tim Klinger flip-casts his line with the accuracy of a frog’s tongue going for a fly.

He stands like a statue on the bow of his 18-foot Ranger boat with rod in hand and several others at his feet. His eyes are focused below the glassy surface of Lovers Cove near Callville Bay on Lake Mead looking for the big one.

He could be a weekend fisherman looking for a respite from city life, possibly trying to hook dinner or enjoying the tranquility of the lake on a calm, sunny day.

But Klinger is a professional bass angler.

The first giveaway is the vinyl decal that wraps his boat promoting one of his sponsors, the National Guard. Sponsors’ logos also cover nearly every inch of his uniform, making him look more like a NASCAR driver.

For nearly 10 hours Monday, the 1992 graduate of Boulder City High School studied the movements of largemouth bass 10 or 15 feet below the surface of the clear water through a pair of white-framed sunglasses with polarized lenses — another tool of his profession and not a fashion statement.

He is part Captain Ahab without the attitude, part marine biologist with sonar and part golfer with a great short game, using a rod instead of a club.

Klinger will be on Lake Mead eight hours daily today through Saturday and paid $2,000 to compete in the FLW Series Western Division bass tournament, which will pay the professional winner $50,000.

The world of pro bass fishing is far from Mayberry, where Sheriff Andy Taylor and son Opie would head to the ol’ fishin’ hole.

The tournament, which will be televised June 13, is part of FLW Outdoors, which this year will pay about $23 million in prize money in pro events shown on the Versus network. Another big-money organization, Bassmasters, is owned by Walt Disney Co. subsidiary ESPN, which also televises its major tournaments.

Landlubbers might be surprised to know that in the United States more people fish than play tennis and golf — combined — with about 30 million handling a rod in 2006, according to a study by the American Sportfishing Association. The FLW introduced a college fishing series last year, and it will be compete Saturday at Lake Mead with 40 schools entered, including UNR.

Klinger, 36, has won $550,000 in professional tournaments since 1997, and that doesn’t count the value of five bass boats he’s won. In 95 FLW events, he’s won twice and placed in the top-10 19 times.

The former electrician’s biggest cash payday was $200,000 in 2004 when he won an FLW Tour event on Beaver Lake in Rogers, Ark. That convinced him to compete professionally full time.

He will be one of 100 pro anglers competing this weekend, but fishing on one of his home lakes doesn’t mean an automatic advantage.

"Sometimes it’s almost like a jinx," he says. "I have about 50 spots where I know there are big bass, but sometimes you can know too much and give up on a spot too soon.

"I found a lot of fish (Monday) in practice, but that doesn’t mean I’ll be able get them to bite if I go back to those spots during the tournament."

He spent from nearly dawn to dusk Monday and Tuesday plotting his strategy. His quiet, battery-powered trolling motor provides precision movement above nesting areas, and his powerful Yamaha engine gets him from one spot to another in a hurry.

"You can’t waste time. You can’t catch anything if your line isn’t in the water."

He’ll have up to 15 rods at the ready, each with different line weights and lures for various situations.

Fishing at his level is mentally and physically demanding.

Contestants could cast up to 3,000 times each day of the tournament but can count only five fish toward each day’s haul. He hasn’t suffered common maladies such as wrist, shoulder and elbow injuries, but standing all day does take a toll.

"My back gets real sore, especially if it’s windy and you have to keep adjusting your balance."

Klinger remembers fishing on Lake Mead when he was a youngster with his father, Mike Klinger. The lake was about 120 feet higher then, but Klinger says the lower water line won’t hinder the fishing this weekend.

"Any springtime tournament is better because the fish are spawning. They’re getting ready to lay eggs and build nests. With the water dropping it prolongs the spawning."

He’s disappointed that coming into this tournament he’s ranked 28th and has won only $12,500 this season.

Klinger’s immediate goal — other than having the heaviest haul at Saturday’s 4 p.m. public weigh-in at the Henderson Civic Center — is to qualify for the Aug. 5-8 Forrest Wood Cup on Lake Lanier in Atlanta. The top 30 touring pros will be among 78 anglers invited to compete in the event, which will pay the winner $500,000.

Contact reporter Jeff Wolf at jwolf@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0247.

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