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Lake Mead pressured ahead of U.S. Open

Lake Mead pressured ahead of U.S. Open

(Editor's note: This report comes from longtime western bass journalist George Kramer, who'll be among the competitors for this year's WON Bass U.S. Open. The tournament will take place Oct. 16-18).

When Johnny Johnson, the 2016 U.S. Open Champion on Lake Mead, recently lectured participants on easing up during the pre-practice or “prefish” (as it is commonly referred to out west), he was probably hoping more were listening.

Having spent almost a week in a cabin at Temple Bar Marina, I discovered the lake has been getting increased pressure, especially in Gregg Basin, the northern extreme end of the lake where most anticipate the winning fish will come.

In Johnson’s words, “It’s a big lake, but it fishes small.” In particular is how he perceives the changes in the fishing between the scouting period and the competition days. “It’s not the same lake,” he explained. “We’ve caught the easy fish, then come tournament time, we’ve worn it out.”

Traditionally the Open is held in the summer, so conditions are clearly different. In the last few weeks, the surface water temperature has dropped slightly and ranges from 74 to 78 degrees, depending on the area. Grass beds are starting to turn brown, yet ironically, this late in the year the lake level is rising slowly.

Despite being more than 150 feet below the spillway level, Mead still retains a characteristic that was found way back in 1971. That’s when champion Bobby Murray and fast-closing Roland Martin fished spinnerbaits in the backs of the washes in the inaugural Bassmaster Classic. With the rising water this month, the washes again tout green bushes (see accompanying photo).

So what will it take? The safe answer remains 10 pounds a day – an almost guarantee for a top-10 finish. And as Johnny Johnson found (with a 28-pound total a year ago), that 10 pounds could be enough to win.

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