UMATILLA - The Columbia River is no stranger to FLW Series National Guard Western Division bass competition, but this year the event has picked up its tent stakes and crossed the river and will take off from the Umatilla Marina and RV Park today through Saturday.
Everything else, though, will remain the same. Contestants are still limited to the choppy waters between the McNary and John Day dams and will still be subject to the usually harsh conditions of the Inland Empire.
Last year, the heat and stagnant conditions led to tough going for the fishermen, but Kennewick native David Kromm persevered and won in his own backyard with a tournament total weight of 55 pounds, 12 ounces.
Kromm will be back this year, as will the $125,000 purse for the tournament's top professional. The Co-Angler purse starts at $25,000 and last year was won by Justin Lucas for the second year in a row.
With the FLW Series just one event deep - the Lake Havasu Tournament opening competition March 22-25 - the Angler of the Year trophy is still up for grabs, but taking an early lead was Brent Ehrler, who has been on the tour since 2003, fishing in 53 events.
Ehrler completed a somewhat emotional victory at Lake Havasu, Ariz. earning $114,361 with a total weight of 57 pounds, 11 ounces.
For the Columbia River Tournament, Ehrler has been paired with co-angler Gayle Janes, while top co-angler after one event Hideki Maeda will pair with the No. 9 ranked professional Tim Klinger.
Trying to make it a repeat performance as champion, Kromm was paired with Tracy Cardwell. Kromm sits 26th after the Lake Havasu Tournament, reeling in 13 bass for a weight of 35 pounds, 1 ounce and a $9,830 purse.