Anglers cheered on during bass tournament at Lake Mead

Updated September 13, 2017 - 1:11 pm

Spectators are an important part of the sporting world. Some believe spectators and their excited expressions of support can change the outcome of a contest, but have you considered their role in the fishing sports?

Spectators enter the fishing game when competitors bring their catch to the scales for a weigh-in after each tournament day. It’s not exactly the best time to be an outcome changer, but it’s the place to cheer, clap and show appreciation for big fish and heavy bag weights. A bag is just that, a plastic bag that holds a competitor’s catch for the day, which can include no more than five fish.

On Saturday, I attended the second-day weigh-in of the Lucas Oil Western Classic Championship, the culminating event on the Wild West Bass Trail fishing circuit. The three-day pro-am event was based out of Callville Bay Marina at Lake Mead, and the weigh-ins took place in the marina parking lot.

Amateurs were randomly paired with one of the pros as a co-angler, but each angler fished for his own five-fish bag. Pros competed against pros and amateurs against amateurs, but despite those designations, and regardless of the weight of fish each angler brought to the scales, the crowd cheered for each competitor with equal enthusiasm.

And in an interesting twist for a sporting event, competitors cheered for one another as total bag weights determined the top 10 in each category.

“Lake Mead always is a challenge. Some anglers caught 20 to 25 keepers a day, and others struggled for a five-fish limit,” tournament co-owner Gary Dobyns said by email. “Overall, I’d rate fishing as very good. We had lots of limits and some very nice quality fish caught up to 6½ pounds.”

Dobyns said the key to catching bass at Lake Mead is flexibility and the willingness to change with conditions.

“Usually, anglers have to adjust and move around a bit to catch winning limits,” he said. “The striper population is huge, and they move the bait around quite a bit. Some days the bass are in the backs of the coves, and the next day the stripers aren’t pushing the bait and the bass are out on the points. These are the challenges that anglers face daily. The challenge of figuring out the fish, beating the hot temps and weather, and then beating the other anglers is what keeps it exciting to tournament anglers.”

California angler Nick Salvucci won the pro competition with a total of 34.87 pounds, the only participant to weigh in double-digit bags on each day. Californian David Valdivia was second at 29.19 pounds and Arizonan Tai Au third at 28.71. Au was named the WWBT Pro Angler of the Year.

On the amateur side, first-year angler Seth Meyers of California took first with 23.5 pounds, Tara Borofka of California was second with 16.46 and Jacob Shull of Arizona third with 16.29. Brandon Smith of California was named the WWBT Co-Angler of the Year.

Dobyns said the WWBT plans to keep Lake Mead on its list of tournament sites.

“Lake Mead is fishing well, with the water up about 5 feet from last year,” he said. “The new growth that’s in the water is giving Lake Mead a ‘new lake’ scenario, which makes for a strong fishery. We’ve had two great spawns in a row, and this will help fishing for years to come on Lake Mead.”

Freelance writer Doug Nielsen is a conservation educator for the Nevada Department of Wildlife. His “In the Outdoors” column, published Thursday in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, is not affiliated with or endorsed by the NDOW. Any opinions are his own. Find him on Facebook at @dougwritesoutdoors. He can be reached at

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