The western anglers in the boater division will be competing for a $50,000 top prize. In addition, they will be jockeying for position to qualify for the 2005 CITGO Bassmaster Classic presented by Busch Beer in Pittsburgh, Pa.
The tournament field of 175 boaters and their non-boater partners will compete in a three-day tournament; at the end of the tournament, they will receive season points based on their finishes. At the end of the season, 20 pros with the most cumulative points will advance to the CITGO Bassmaster Open Championship presented by Busch Beer, which will send its top five finishers to the 2005 Classic.
The BASS train last stopped at Shasta Lake in November of 2000. California’s Aaron Martens was the winner with 32 pounds, 5 ounces caught by drop-shotting a 4-inch worm around deep-water points and coves in the Sacramento River.
One of California’s premier recreation lakes, Shasta is also home to a quality bass fishery that includes largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass. It has 29,500 surface acres and 370 miles of shoreline.
Surrounded by snow-capped Mount Shasta, picturesque Shasta Lake was built in 1944 for flood control, irrigation and power production for the upper Sacramento Valley. Four rivers contribute to this scenic impoundment: Sacramento, McCloud, Pit and Squaw Creek.
“It’s a typical deep, clear mountain lake,” top California pro Skeet Reese said. “It fluctuates a lot. Every year, it averages at least a 100- to 120-foot fluctuation. I think right now it’s down about 100 feet or so.
“It gets some color in it because of the water dropping so much and the boat traffic. You get a lot of silt lines and mud lines. But there are certain arms where it’s all rock and you can see down 15 to 20 feet.”
Martens said the low water level should translate into more action from the cooperative bass this time around.
“There should be a good bite and you’ll see a lot of numbers,” he said. “It will be hard to get 2- to 3-pounders, but we should see a lot of the 7- to 9-pound limits. Getting anywhere from 10 to 12 pounds is always a challenge this time of year.”
Reese was asked to assess the lake’s three-pronged bass fishery.
“The lake is getting stronger,” he replied. “The spots are getting bigger and bigger. But the lake doesn’t hold up well to multi-day events. In one-day events you see guys catching 15- to 18-pound limits. But with boat traffic and all, it puts a lot of the big fish down so we don’t tend to see the big stringers.
“It will probably be 95 percent spotted bass weighed in. There are some largemouth in the lake, but it’s usually not a factor. Somebody usually catches one or two big largemouth during an event that anchor a big limit, but it’s almost always won on spots. It used to be an all smallmouth fishery years ago, but then spots were introduced and they took over the lake and pretty much wiped out the smallmouth. Smallmouth are not something that you can chase on that lake. There’s not enough of them to pattern.
“There’s a lot of big spots in the lake. We’re seeing 25- to 27-pound limits of spots coming out of there. Every year, there’s always a bunch of 6- or 7-pound spots getting caught out of the lake.”
Like the 2000 BASS tournament, Reese expects the fishing to revolve around deep, offshore structure.
“It really depends on if we get any weather the next couple of weeks or not,” he said. “If it stays the way it is — the nights are getting into the upper 50s with the days in the 80s — the water temperature is to cool, but not as much as I’d like to see it. The majority of the fish are going to get caught deep in the 30- to 80-foot zone. The primary technique will be a drop shot or some guys will fish a jighead. And some spoon fish.
“If we get some weather during the event — some wind and cloud cover — the fish will pull up shallow and there will be a lot more fish caught on spinnerbait, jerkbaits, crankbaits.
“I would imagine that 9 pounds a day would be pretty strong — probably enough to put you in the top five. And it might win it. I’m predicting that it’s going to take 10 or 11 pounds a day to win.”
Martens will look for a productive shallow-water bite early each day on crankbaits and topwaters. After that, he expects soft-plastics to take over, especially the techniques of drop-shotting, split-shotting and shaking.
“The water is a lot lower, so it will be a little different from last time,” he noted. “There will be a lot fish suspended. This time of year they move out and don’t relate to anything. They tend to school up and don’t really relate to the bottom. That makes them hard to catch.
“The areas that were real good last time won’t be good this time.”
The final Western Open will be Nov. 18-20 on Clear Lake, near Lakeport, Calif.
Daily weigh-ins will begin at 3:30 p.m. and the launch will be at 7:15 a.m. at Bridge Bay Marina. Both are free to the public.
BASS is the world's largest fishing organization, sanctioning more than 20,000 tournaments worldwide through its Federation. The CITGO Bassmaster Tournament Trail presented by Busch Beer, which includes the all-new Bassmaster Elite 50 series, is the oldest and most prestigious pro bass fishing tournament circuit and continues to set the standard for credibility, professionalism and sportsmanship as it has since 1968.
Sponsors of the CITGO Bassmaster Northern Open include CITGO Petroleum Corp., Busch Beer, Purolator, Triton Boats, Mercury Marine, Toyota, Berkley, Abu Garcia, Lowrance Electronics, Flowmaster Exhaust Systems, MotorGuide, Bass Pro Shops, and BankOne.
Local Sponsors include Shasta Lake Chamber of Commerce and Phil’s Propellers.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (334) 551-2375 or visit www.bassmaster.com.