NAVAJO LAKE — Many bass fishing tournaments have taken place on Navajo Lake over the years, but this year's Ultimate Bass Team Tour Championship was the first-ever to give away a boat for first place.
A total of 51 teams, each with two people, competed in the tournament Friday and Saturday. Teams came to Navajo Lake from Nevada, Arizona, Utah, Colorado and New Mexico a week before the championship to "pre-fish." The championship itself consisted of two eight-and-a-half-hour days of fishing. At the end of each day, teams chose five fish and those weights were totaled.
David Perry, 61, of Farmington, finished in first place, winning a 2014 Legend 186 bass boat, 150 Mercury Pro XS engine, a motor guide and EZ-Loader trailer.
Perry was an unlikely winner. He competed by himself and placed 11th after the first day. But Saturday's 13.31 pound bag helped him out, and he finished with a two-day total weight of 21.37 pounds.
Perry, who has been fishing since he was young, has competed in tournaments for about 15 years. He said experience helps, but he also commended the junior competitors, many of whom he said easily adapted to the weather conditions.
For bait, Perry used spinnerbaits and jigs. On Friday, he fished in Francis Canyon and Saturday at Lahara Canyon. He says it is a constant struggle to know whether to stay in one place or to move around.
"The fish are there, you just gotta find them," he said.
The Ultimate Bass Team Tour is made up of eight divisions: Nevada, Lake Powell South, Lake Powell North, Southern Utah, Four Corners, Northern Utah, Central Arizona and Lake Havasu. A team can also be in a Tour Division, traveling to different divisions to compete. Each year, the championship takes place at a different location. To qualify for the championship, a team must have fished in at least six tournaments by September.
Over the weekend, anglers kept fish alive by placing them in an aerated live well on the boat, and only live fish are counted for competition. Fish are then released after weigh-in.
Conservation is a primary goal of the Ultimate Bass Team Tour, said Four Corners UBTT director Barry Stanley.
"We would hate to come in and kill all the fish," he said.
Local competitors usually have the "home water advantage," but last weekend's weather affected all the anglers.
"The lake has risen almost 8 feet in two weeks," Stanley said.
Though high water levels are ultimately better, the influx of water kept fish from biting, particularly because the new water is often dirty.
Friday was windy, cold and rainy, and Saturday began with the first fog delay Stanley says he has ever seen on Navajo Lake. It lasted only an hour, but the drastic change to bright, sunny skies caused fish to hunker down. At that point, Stanley said, the fish in the dirty water actually responded best because they were not so affected by the change in sunlight.
While for anglers like Perry, the main draw to fishing is making life-long friends, Stanley warned that tournaments can get competitive.
"There is not a lot of sharing information," he said. "If you get information ahead of time, it is probably a lie."
Tournament winner David Perry advises that you join the local bass fishing club, such as the Four Corners Bass Master. Go to fourcornerbassmaster.tripod.com/fcbm for details.
To learn more about the Ultimate Bass Team Tour, go to ultimatebassteams.com or call Four Corners UBTT director Barry Stanley at 505-320-9464.
Molly Maxwell covers outdoors for The Daily Times. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.