By David A. Brown
RICHLAND, Wash. — Despite a significant drop in productivity, Ronald Mace of Kennewick, Wash. tallied a two-day total of 42.91 pounds and held on to the top spot at the Wild West Bass Trail Pro-Am on the Columbia River presented by Tri-Cities, Wash.
On Day 1, Mace caught 24.25 — the event’s biggest bag — and led Travis Whitney by 5.44. Adding a second-round limit of 18.66, Mace heads into Championship Sunday with a lead of 4.49 over Justin Campbell.
“It’s kind of funny to say today was a grind when you have 18-plus pounds, but it was tough,” Mace said. “I used up all my fish yesterday and I was really wishing I would have saved a couple.
“They’re drying up and, unfortunately, I’m sharing water with (Campbell and Whitney). But it is what it is.”
Absent from Mace’s Day-2 bag was a big kicker like the 6.58 that buoyed his first limit. On the upside, he noticed that the smallmouth were starting to get set up in their summer patterns.
As Mace explained, a late spring had the fish behind in their spawning cycle, while strong river current further slowed their seasonal advancement. Fishing downriver, he found the situation taking encouraging form.
“I was catching fish on beds three weeks ago,” Mace said. “When they come off beds they’re (lethargic) for a while. The bait is finally showing up where it’s supposed to be and the fish are moving.”
Targeting weed edges in 4-5 feet of water, Mace caught his fish on a Texas-rigged green pumpkin Yamamoto Senko and a white Zoom Fluke. He visually spotted most of the fish he caught.
“I had my limit by 10 a.m. and then I started slowly culling,” Mace said. “The afternoon was terribly slow — its’ just the bright skies and there’s not a breath of wind. I think they’re moving out deep where I can’t see them.”
Mace has enjoyed a sizable advantage both days, but he’s taking nothing for granted. In fact, he’s does not consider his lead a significant advantage — particularly with two lethal pros nipping at his heels.
“I wouldn’t be comfortable with a 10-pound lead — these guys (Campbell and Whitney) are too good,” Mace said. “They’re tough to beat anytime of year. Those are big bags (I weighed), but it’s going to be hard to do that again. It’s wide open for both of them.
“Hopefully the fish will continue moving up. I have a couple more spots these guys aren’t fishing. Hopefully, they’ll produce for me tomorrow.”
Campbell, who makes his home in Pasco, Wash. turned in a third-place Day-1 bag that weighed 17.75. Stepping on the gas, he added a second-round limit of 20.67 and improved to second with 38.42.
“I started downriver and fished upriver,” Campbell said. “It was just boat draw; I was able to get on a public spot that has some big fish. I got a 5 1/2 around 7:30. Those fish are so healthy down there I didn’t know how big it was until the end of the day.”
Campbell caught three of his limit fish downriver on weed and sand transitions and two upriver on rocky current seams. He caught his fish on a homemade spinnerbait that Whitney — his team partner — makes, along with a Heddon Super Spook.
Despite his improvement, Campbell said he’ll head into the final round knowing he has his work cut out for him.
“I’m going to have to have close to what I had today and then Ronnie’s going to have to have the worst day he’s had,” Campbell said. “It’s going to be tough to get a big bag tomorrow, just the pressure on the fish. They’re getting educated pretty quick.”
Hailing from Kennewick, Wash. Whitney placed second on Day 1 with 18.81 but a slower Day 2 yielded only 14.65 and he slipped to third with 33.46.
“I spent the first four hours on Badger and Crescent islands below the Casey Pond area and after a few hours, I ran down to the Davis Point area,” Whitney said. “I only had three fish in the morning but I culled out everything I had downriver. I ended up pulling up on a main river point and caught the limit I had.”
Whitney caught all of his fish on a dropshot with a green pumpkin Strike King KVD Dream Shot and a 1/4-ounce weight. Whitney said a light line presentation was key. He used 10-pound Power Pro braid and downsized to a 4-pound Seaguar InvizX fluorocarbon leader.
Mace is in the lead for Big Bass honors with his 6.58.
Rodney Brown of Sacramento, Calif. leads the Co-angler division with 28.42. Brown, who won the Co-angler trophy at the Wild West Bass Trail Superclean Showdown on Shasta Lake in late January, added 17.89 to his first-round weight of 10.53.
“We were fishing very shallow in 2-4 feet over lightly rocky bottom,” Brown said. “It was only in the morning for the first three hours. I had my bag by about 10 o’clock and then it shut off immediately.”
Brown said he caught his fish on small weighted swimbaits. Retrieve speed, he said, was the key. Fishing his bait slowly — just fast enough to keep it off the bottom proved most productive.
Joseph Androyna of Graham, Wash. holds the Big Bass lead among co-anglers with a 4.56.
Sunday’s takeoff is scheduled for 5:15 a.m. Pacific at Columbia Point Marina Park. The weigh-in will be held at the park at 3 p.m.