Havasu Western Stren
Friday, February 03, 2006
16-Year-Old In The Lead
Nah, it can't really happen, can it? A 16-year-old can't beat out a bunch of seasoned pro sticks in his first tournament at this level, a tough-bite event on a lake he's never been to before. Or can he? Stay tuned tomorrow, because John Billheimer Jr., a high school junior from California, is in position to pull off just such a feat. He caught four fish for 11-07 today and leads the Havasu Western Stren by 1-10.
John Billheimer Jr. is fishing one bait in one place, and he leads after day 3 of the Havasu Western Stren.
Jimmy Reese, older brother of Skeet, is 2nd with 9-13 and day 2 leader Aaron Coleman is 3rd with 9-07. Pat Clement is 4th with 8-05 and Randy McAbee follows with 7-02 as Californians reclaimed all five of the top slots on the lake that lies along that state's border with Arizona.
Here are the other anglers who'll fish tomorrow:
6. Fred Ward: 6-07
7. David Kromm: 6-01
8. Jimmy Walker: 5-07
9. William McAninch: 4-12
10. Brent Lyon: 4-10
The weather remained beautiful, but the bite stayed brutal. Among today's cut casualties as the field was reduced from 20 to 10 were tour pro and day 1 leader Robert Lee, who managed just one 2-pounder. Everybody who caught more than a single keeper advanced, and four of the Top 20 were blanked.
Conditions will be sunny, warm (the high temperature might hit 80) and calm again tomorrow and recreational boaters will be out in force, so nobody expects the fishing action to pick up. If Billheimer manages another handful of bites, he might have quite a tale to share on Monday at Liberty High in the San Francisco Bay Area city of Brentwood.
Billheimer Locked In
The kid's performance thus far has been no fairy-tale: He's fished one spot with one type of bait on all 3 days, and he's exhibited the patience of someone who's been fishing high-level tournaments for twice as long as he's been alive. He's getting his bites in spurts with long periods of inactivity between.
"I'm fishing a channel, and the fish are just sitting in the middle of it, waiting to move up and spawn," he said. "They'll come up and feed for a few minutes, and then they'll shut down and be done for awhile.
"I know there's a lot of fish there – it's a highway they're moving through on their way to spawn. I hooked one today and there were six or seven more right behind it."
He's not getting many bites (about four per day), but he's on some big largemouths. His fish are averaging more than 3 pounds each.
Did he expect to do this well down here? Uh, no. And his confidence level was really low after he got a total of three bites in 5 days of practice. "I didn't think I was going to catch a fish," he said. "But I thought I figured something out that last day of practice, and it turns out I did."
He'll be back in his spot tomorrow. If it doesn't produce, he won't have the faintest idea of where else to go. "It's really all I can do. I have no other plan. I haven't caught any other fish.
"I'm not really nervous yet, and I don't think I will be until tomorrow at the weigh-in," he added. "I'm more excited than anything because I know the fish are there."
Fewer Bites for Reese
Reese had been getting about 10 bites per day, but he got only half that number today. He boated four and lost one.
"I think my areas might be drying up, but I did find a new bank today," he said. "I'm targeting smallmouths and trying to narrow things down, and I think the fish I caught today were shade-related. I'm trying to work a little faster and hit whatever shade pockets there are."
He thinks he'll need 11 to 12 pounds tomorrow to have a chance to win. The recreational traffic won't help him get it, but he said he might not be as affected by the pleasure-boaters as some others in the field.
"I'm fishing just off the main lake, so maybe it won't hurt me too bad," he said. "But because it'll be Saturday and the weather will be nice, you'd better get (your fish) early. Everybody and their grandma's going to be out here."
Coleman had been working two patterns – one on the main lake and another on the Colorado River. The river option was taken out of the equation today by low water.
"I know for a fact that I wouldn't have been able to get in my spot because of this one rock I look at every time I go in," he said. "I knew that was a no-no. It was about a foot and a half down from yesterday."
He got seven bites on the lake and caught five. "I lost one that felt like a good one," he said. "But I caught a fish on the very next cast, so I'm saying it was the same fish."
If his river spot is accessible tomorrow, he'll hit it first. He'll try to get a limit by noon and then come back to the main lake in search of a kicker.
He said he's put some serious mileage on his Skeeter this week. "When I got here, my brand-new Yamaha motor had two hours on it, and since then I've put on about 400 miles," he said. "But I have total confidence in it."
> Day 3 stats: 20 anglers, two limits, four zeroes.
> Billheimer hopes to launch a pro career right after high school. "That's the plan," he said. "I have family in Tennessee, so that will be the headquarters."
> Billheimer was Reese's co-angler when the latter won a recent U.S. Angler's Choice regional championship event at Clear Lake. "He's a stick," Reese said. "In fact, he helped me win it."
Day 3 Standings
1. John Billheimer Jr. -- Discovery Bay, Ca -- 4, 11-07
2. Jimmy Reese -- Witter Springs, Ca -- 4, 9-13
3. Aaron Coleman -- Oakland, Ca -- 5, 9-07
4. Patrick Clement -- Anderson, Ca -- 5, 8-05
5. Randy Mcabee -- Bakersfield, Ca -- 3, 7-02
6. Fred Ward -- Phoenix, Az -- 3, 6-07
7. David Kromm -- Kennewick, Wa -- 4, 6-01
8. Jimmy Walker -- Alpine, Ca -- 2, 5-07
9. William Mcaninch -- Sylmar, Ca -- 2, 4-12
10. Brent Lyon -- Reno, Nv -- 2, 4-10
The following anglers did not make the cut and will not be fishing tomorrow.
11. Brian Trusso -- Covina, Ca -- 1, 2-08 -- $3,000
12. John Neudorfer -- Spokane, Wa --, 2-04 -- $2,750
13. Robert Lee -- Angels Camp, Ca -- 1, 2-00 -- $2,500
14. Matt Newman -- Agoura Hills, Ca -- 1, 1-14 -- $2,250
15. Clayton Meyer -- San Diego, Ca -- 1, 1-13 -- $2,000
16. Mark Meddock -- West Sacramento, Ca -- 1, 1-08 -- $1,800
17. Jason Borofka -- Salinas, Ca -- 0, 0-00 -- $1,800
18. Wayne Crowder -- Orem, Ut -- 0, 0-00 -- $1,800
19. Justin Kerr -- Simi Valley, Ca -- 0, 0-00 -- $1,800
20. Wade Headrick -- Draper, Ut -- 0, 0-00 -- $1,800