SONORA, Calif. – Folsom pro Luke Johns, 20, hoisted the trophy at the Wild West Bass Trail (WWBT) Pro/Am on New Melones Lake presented by Bass Cat Boats.
Johns bested the 143-boat field using a two-prong pattern, targeting both dirty and clear water.
His presentation diversity claimed 12.51 for 17th place on Day One, rocketed him into the top trio on Day Two with another 15.59 and gave him the final boost to the top-spot with a five-fish limit of 16.31 on the final day.
For the three-day event, Johns sacked up a total of 44.41 and banked winnings of $25,500, including contingency dollars from P-Line and Yamamoto.
“It was an awesome time,” Johns exclaimed. “As the week went on, my bite kept getting better and better, the weather helped it and my areas weren’t getting the constant fishing pressure that others were. My fish were pretty much left just for me to catch and I just went to work on ‘em.”
CLEAR WATER FINESSE
Johns came into the event with two presentations for two different patterns on deck. He gave equal opportunity to both; however, each excelled on opposite days of the event, depending on weather.
He started with a five-inch, Green Pumpkin Yamamoto Senko on a Neko rig.
“This was for clear water finesse fishing,” he revealed. “I was fishing it really slow, targeting areas with brush and big rock.”
His down bait tempted fish as deep as 30-feet.
“I nail-weighted it in the front and used two sizes of weights, switching off, depending on depth,” he added.
“I caught all of my fish but one, on this the first day. It was about 50/50 between this and my other bait on the second day and by third day, I only caught one with finesse and the rest were on shallow power fishing. I think this had to do with how many people were finesse fishing in the tournament and the fish had just seen enough of it.”
DIRTY WATER REACTION
His other tactic was specific to dirtier, shallow water locations.
“I was throwing a real small crankbait,” he said. “The key to it was the water had to have color, whether it was a mudline from wind or just dirtier than the rest of the lake. The dirty color was the key. When I tried it in the main lake, like with 15-feet of visibility, I just couldn’t get bit on it.
“The area that I was predominately fishing was just naturally a dirtier water color in the entire area; so, I didn’t need wind or anything and I could fish it any time of the day and get bit.”
Johns reported that his crank dove up to eight-feet and he fished it in depths of 2- to 8-feet. He chose not to disclose the color.
With these patterns in mind, Johns ran spots that narrowed down through the days.
“I stated with about 10 on the first day and then cut that in half by day two,” he said. “I was dialed in to only three by the last day.
“I had one really big area that I was fishing that was about two miles of bank and I would pick random spots each day that would just seem to hold fish. Some of my other spots were really small, like 50 yards of bank, and on those, I knew exactly where the fish were and would just pick ‘em off and move on to the next spot.”
Johns has been a tournament competitor since the age of 14. This is his biggest win.
“It feels amazing,” he said. “I don’t think it has sunk in yet. I keep looking at the trophy to make sure I haven’t imagined it. I am already excited and can’t wait until the next time I get a shot at it, because this feeling is irreplaceable.”
Johns plans to use his winnings for upgrades to his boat with a new trolling motor and fish finder.
“I want to put some in the bank, save it for investing and set myself up for something down the road,” he shared. “Now, that I have one win, I am hungry to get more and hope it all goes in that direction.”
REST OF THE BEST | PRO TOP RESULTS
2nd 41.83 Juan Acosta $7,900
3rd 41.43 Nick Wood $6,900
4th 40.62 Travis Huckaby $7,230, including Big Bass dollars (Shown to the right with his 9.73)
5th 39.42 Tony Franceschi $4,600
CO-ANGLER TOP RESULTS
1st 39.63 Jesse Martin $10,250, including Yamamoto contingency
2nd 36.93 Dustin Maraviov $3,800
3rd 35.86 Chris Storey $3,815, including Big Bass dollars
4th 35.61 Jeff Boom $3,050, including P-Line contingency
5th 35.41 Will Doud Martin $2,815, including Big Bass dollars
The WWBT debuted in 2016. The trail includes a Pro/Am circuit and two Teams circuits – one based in California and the other in Arizona.
A special thanks to all the WWBT sponsors – Bass Cat Boats, Ben Green Insurance, Bobs Machine, Buck Knives, Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits, General Tire, Genesis Graphics, Fitzgerald Fishing, Lucas Oil, Lure Lock, McMillian Fiberglass Stocks, P-Line, Power-Pole, Protect the Harvest, Super Clean, Top This Premier Accessory Outfitters, Vets 4 Hunting and Fishing and Wood Brothers Flooring.