April 25, 2016 by Chris Burgan
Practice was perfect for the Costa FLW Series Western Division event presented by Mercury on Clear Lake. Bass were moving up to spawn, and the fishing was good. Anglers brought in hefty limits on day one, but as so often happens, Mother Nature changed the game, and a front moved in mid-tournament. Scattered clouds on day one turned to rain on day two, which was followed by clear, chilly conditions on day three.
No two days saw the same conditions. No two anglers in the top 10 utilized the same pattern.
Bass were caught in all three phases of the spawn, but nobody caught more than Todd Woods, the tournament champion. Woods worked a mile-long gravel bank where prespawn bass were feeding on spawning shad. He alternated between a swimbait and umbrella rig to bring in 77 pounds of bass in three days.
Here’s a look at how the rest of the top 10 found their fish.
2. Hawk makes final-day jump
Roy Hawk of Lake Havasu City, Ariz., went from eighth to second on the final day of competition thanks to a 26-pound, 3-ounce limit. His three-day total was 70 pounds.
Hawk sight-fished and threw a homemade bladed jig around tule lines on the first two days of competition. On the final day, he suffered mechanical issues. A creek mouth near the Konocti Vista Resort Casino & Marina takeoff site was one of his few options.
“When I realized we were without a motor, I turned the trolling motor on high and went straight there,” he says. “We sat there all day.”
Slow-rolling a bladed jig, Hawk upgrade every hour or so to put together his big stringer.
“The fish replenished throughout the day, moving up in waves,” he adds “They went from deeper to shallow and started to lift in the water column.”
3. Curtiss goes to moving baits
Wade Curtiss of Meadow Vista, Calif., caught 69 pounds, 11 ounces for third place.
Curtiss sight-fished his way to sixth place on day one, but the incoming front forced him to switch game plans on the final two days.
He ended up throwing a 3.8-inch Keitech Swing Impact FAT swimbait around tule points and creek mouths.
“The front really slowed them down, and they seemed to pull off,” he says. “They were still in the same areas. On day two they were around the bank, and on the colder day three they were way off.”
4. Breazeale catches bed fish
Wayne Breazeale of Kelseyville, Calif., was committed to one program, no matter the conditions. He sight-fished from start to finish.
“In my three days of practice, I never picked up a rod,” he says. “I had 57 fish over 7 pounds marked [on GPS].”
Doing his homework paid off on day one when Breazeale brought in 28 pounds, 3 ounces, which was good enough for fourth place.
“I ran out of fish after day one. They got picked over, and the cold weather made them get off the beds,” Breazeale says.
After that, Breazeale kept the trolling motor on high in his search for new fish. He targeted pockets out of the wind with clear water and put together a three-day total of 66-14.
Breazeale’s bed-fishing bait was a white Yamamoto Hula Grub on a 5/8-ounce jighead.
5. Schlander adjusts daily for fifth
Hunter Schlander of Modesto, Calif., moved up from 10th to fifth on the final day with a 24-pound, 8-ounce bag that bumped his tournament total to 66-07.
“All three days I had to make adjustments. It was never the same,” he explains. “My pattern was to stay around the docks and the shad.
“I looked for the deeper spawning bays and headed to the back of them. Whenever there was a bit of depth and some weeds, I’d throw in the shade pockets. That’s how I got my fish.”
On day one Schlander skipped Yamamoto Senkos and under-spins rigged with Keitech swimbaits under docks. He found the fish starting to pull away from the bank as the weekend progressed. Making an adjustment, he threw a YUM YUMbrella Flash Mob umbrella rig on day two and mixed it up with the umbrella rig and under-spin for a solid final-day limit.
6. Moulton sticks to sight-fishing
“If I can’t see them, I can’t catch them,” was Jim Moulton’s mantra for the week. It paid off big time on day one, when he caught the largest single-day bag of the event at 33 pounds, 2 ounces. He unfortunately wasn’t able to repeat his opening-round performance and slipped to sixth place with 66-04.
Moulton used a 1/2-ounce white and chartreuse California Reservoir Lures swim jig paired with a white Yamamoto Single Tail Grub for the trailer.
Moulton fished tule lines in the southern half of the lake. While other anglers worked the outer edge of the tules, Moulton was right in the thick of it.
7. Caruso shallow-shots docks
Michael Caruso of Peoria, Ariz., totaled 65 pounds, 13 ounces over the three days of competition.
Every fish Caruso weighed was caught on a drop-shot around docks. He cast to each individual dock piling to target his fish. When the wind blew on the final days, Caruso ran protected pockets in the northern end of the lake.
Caruso switched between MMIII and margarita mutilator-colored 6-inch Roboworm FAT Worms.
8. Dixon starts with bed fish, moves to postspawn bass
Garrett Dixon of Durham, Calif., brought spawning and postspawn fish to the scales to amass 61 pounds, 3 ounces.
Dixon caught a limit of bed fish early on day one and spent the afternoon searching for new fish. On day two, he caught the fish that he’d located in the afternoon of day one, then keyed in on a new pattern for day three.
Dixon finished by targeting tule points with a white Koppers LIVETARGET Frog and a G-Rat Custom Baits Walking Mouse, a homemade jointed topwater.
“They were actually postspawn fish,” Dixon says of his topwater bass. “You’re not going to catch a lot of them, but they’ll be good ones.
“I would ideally cast the bait on a hard bank and bring it out. Most of the bites would come in open water about 3 feet off the structure.”
9. Valdivia switches up to take ninth
David Valdivia of Norwalk, Calif., caught 59 pounds, 10 ounces to finish ninth.
Valdivia did his homework in practice, marking several bed fish. He then joined in on day one’s bed-fishing bonanza using a Texas-rigged Senko. Day two had him switching up his strategy.
“Knowing the weather was coming in, I decided to throw reaction baits around the deep grass lines,” he says. “I was fishing for the same fish. They were pulling off due to the weather.”
A 3/16-ounce under-spin with a Zoom Super Fluke Jr. rigged on a spinning reel got the job done on day two. Valdivia tried to use the same strategy on the third day with little success. After noticing that the water temperature was rising, he switched to bed-fishing to finish out the remainder of the day and caught 15-11.
10. Salewske keeps it simple for 10th
Rusty Salewske of Alpine, Calif., brought in a three-day total of 52 pounds for the final spot in the top 10. He flipped tule lines all week and was targeting prespawn bass.
“I think they were en route,” he says. “They were about ready to jump in there and start spawning.”
Salewske slowly worked deeper tule lines. He had several key areas that included several tule islands and a couple of stretches of straight bank. A green pumpkin Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver with a pegged 1/2-ounce weight was his bait of choice.