UMATILLA -- It's bass fishing, not boxing. But listening to competitors talk about the rough waters after Thursday's second round of the FLW National Guard West Series stop on the Columbia River, it sounded as if they had just finished 15 rounds in the squared circle rather than a day skimming along the waves.
"My back is hamburger," said Kennewick pro Mitch Ratchford. "It's tough fishing in 5- to 6-foot swells. But I'm still fishing my fish. You just suck it up."
Ratchford is one of the seven pros from Washington and Oregon dominating the top 10 after two rounds of the third annual event on the Columbia. His full bag of five bass weighing 11 pounds, 7 ounces, vaulted him from 19th to 10th place.
Fellow Kennewick pro Ron Mace posted his second straight strong bag, netting 12-14 for a two-day total of 25-0 and third place.
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Ronald Hobbs Jr. of Orting fell on some hard times after his fantastic first-day haul of 17-11. Thursday, he managed just three fish for 7-15, and fell into a first-place tie with Joseph Caporuscio of Coto de Caza, Calif., at 25-10.
"I had five bites all day," Hobbs said. "I saw a ton of fish, but I couldn't get 'em to bite. They could have went the opposite way, and I could have come out with 17 pounds again."
Still, Hobbs said, it was a good day considering his trip up the Columbia was delayed a good 40 minutes behind a barge going through the locks. It certainly didn't help that the wind that sweeps through the steep canyons surrounding the Umatilla Marina and RV Park kicked up the waves, forcing boats to cut their speeds down from 70 mph to 35 or slower in the rough waters.
"You have to go slow or you'll tear everything apart," said Brent Ehrler, the pro from Redlands, Calif., who is the leader of the National Guard West Series and the overall Wal-Mart FLW Series.
Ratchford, who also made the trip upriver, estimated he spent 4 1/2 hours on the trip up and down the river, leaving about three hours of fishing time.
That begs the question, is it worth the long trip upriver when it leaves just a few hours to fish? As an answer, Ratchford opened up his bag, smiling over his full catch of five fish.
"I have got a lot of hot spots," he said.
The top 10 pros after today's third round advance to Saturday's final with the hope of winning the $100,000 first prize and a possible $25,000 bonus from Ranger Boats.
Dave Kromm, the Kennewick pro who won this event last year, is 14th overall at 19-3, nearly 3 pounds out of the top 10. Also, Pasco's Gene Batey is 20th at 18-6.
Among the co-anglers, who catch a ride in the pros' boats, Gary Haraguchi of Brentwood, Calif., increased his Day 1 lead to nearly 2 pounds with a 20-5 total. No local co-anglers are among the leaders, with Othello's Santos Garza of Othello in 46th place and Jim Sall of Pasco 49th.
Justin Lucas, the two-time winner of the co-angler portion of this event, is 19th in the pro standings.
FLW National Guard West Series
Umatilla Marina and RV Park
Ronal Hobbs Jr., Orting, 7 pounds, 15 ounces Day 2, 25 pounds, 10 ounces total; Joseph Caporuscio, Coto de Caza, Calif., 11-14, 25-10; Ron Mace, Kennewick, 12-14, 25-10; Marc Lippincott, Spokane, 10-11, 24-6; Bobby Barrack, Oakley, Calif., 11-15, 22-15; Rick Correa, Sherwood, Ore., 11-8, 22-12; Neil Russell, Nampa, Idaho, 10-0, 22-4; Cody King, Island City, Ore., 8-10, 22-2; Jay Yelas, Corvallis, 10-8, 22-0; Mitch Ratchford, Kennewick, 11-7, 21-15.
14, David Kromm, Kennewick, 11-0, 19-3; 20, Gene Bate, Pasco, 8-0, 18-6; 46, Clint Johanson, Benton City, 4-9, 14-10.
Gary Haraguchi, Brentwood, Calif., 8-6, 20-5; Chad LeBlanc, Sutter, Calif., 9-3, 18-6; Taylor Parsons, Sutter Creek, Calif., 9-4, 17-7; John Thompson, El Granada, Calif., 6-5, 17-2; Toby Farkas, Woodland, Calif., 9-3, 16-11; Sunny Hawk, Salt Lake City, 9-0, 16-3; Tony Zanotelli, Redding, Calif., 8-3, 15-7; Patrick Touey, Nipomo, Calif., 7-12, 14-14; Marvin Hawkes, Mesa, Ariz., 11-1, 14-7; Hideki Maeda, Osaka, Japan, 7-8, 14-6.
46, Sanots Garza, Othello, 1-9, 9-1; 49, Jim Sall, Pasco, 4-8, 8-12; 83, James Leachman, Kennewick, 0-0, 2-1.