Three days, 124 boats, one victor - "This is what you try to do your whole life."
Jim Moulton of Merced, Calif. claims the FLW Western Division championship on the tidal waters of the California Delta.
The whole tournament, I basically was watchin' everybody and everybody was cruisin' down the bank," said Moulton."Everybody was doin' the exact same thing - they were flippin' or pitchin' or throwin' chatterbaits or spinnerbaits. I just kind of keyed in on that and decided these fish are gettin' beat up. I noticed nobody was fishin' off the bank and on the Delta, a lot of the banks go out 25- to 30-feet and they're just loaded with grass. Everybody was just drivin' through that grass. I just backed off and was targeting channels in the grass that all the guys were drivin' over."
With this pattern, Moulton predominately used an orange and brown Revenge Baits chatterbait with a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver in Big Texan as a trailer. "I was kind of matchin' the hatch of the crawdads," he added. "The fish were pukin' up crawdads and it was really easy to grab one of those and throw it on your deck.
A key factor in tempting his bass to bite was the Sweet Beav's belly color. Moulton explained the orange side had to be down. "I know that sounds odd," he admitted. "I don't what it was; but it did make the difference, because when I put them the other way, I didn't catch 'em."
He tied this on with braid for ease in rippin' it through the grass. "I would throw it out there and when it would hit the grass, I would jerk like there was a fish on it," he said. "A lot of times that would be when I would get my hits, just like it was a reaction bite - fish would see it and they'd smack it."
The other lure that he put to use was a Blade Runner Tackle Underspin with a paddle tail swimbait. This was responsible for two key weigh fish on the second day - one that went seven pounds and another that came in over six. He threw this in bends and oxbows adjacent to grass flats. "A lot of spots on the Delta, your boat could be in 12-feet and three-feet from you, it's two-feet deep. So, when I would come to that scenario, I would just throw out that swimbait and slow roll it. I picked up a few doin' that. I got on that pattern a few years ago and it kind of carried on."
He fished this on 14- to 15-lb Seaguar fluoro. "It's not so obvious, when you're a little more out in the open," he said. "It's a little more stealth."
He chose a 4 1/2- to 5-inch swimbait to match the size of the fry he found. "All these guys are throwin' these great big baits," he stated. "Sometimes I think they get too big and these fish don't see 'em. Now, Clear Lake that is a different story."
All baits were rigged on Dobyns Rods with Daiwa Steez and Zillion reels.
Moulton concentrated his time in the East Delta, where he located more grass and found the water a bit clearer. "When I practiced out west, it was too muddy and it was smaller fish," he stated. "So, I went out east. All my fish were pretty shallow. The flats I was fishing were four-feet, three-feet."
Although the chatterbait and swimbait were critical in his win- catching 14 of his 15 weigh fish, Moulton did attempt to flip some on Day One
"I caught a five pounder the very first day, flippin' a big Brush Hog in a Red Bug color," he recalled. "They seemed to be keying in on red. I flipped quite a few fish the first day, but none of them were over a 1 3/4-lb and I knew the ratchet fish would be better, so I just put it away. I had to go for big fish - 120th pays the exact same as 26th place and I'm not going to go for 26th place. I'm goin' to go for it." He ended that day with 19-4 and locked in 19th place.
"My bite was really challenging; because it came on at the end of the day," explained Moulton. "So, I would sit in my boat with two or three fish at 12 o'clock, with a rock in my stomach, eatin' me up, just knowin' that I need the tide, I need the wind, I need that afternoon bite and everyday it came through."
His boated his best bag on Day Two. He hauled up the largest limit of the day at 26-02 and rocketed up the leaderboard into the runner-up position, less than three-pounds behind the leader - Bub Tosh.
The last day Moulton heaved his lightest limit to the stage and was worried about the outcome. "I really thought I threw it," he stated. "I didn't think I had much over 10. I didn't get the big bite today; but I got the right bites."
While he caught the most fish on Day Three - 20 keepers - the fish were smaller and tipped the scales at 14-07. "I was just whackin' 'em up, but they were all two pounders," Moulton exclaimed. "Thank God, that's all I needed. I needed 2 1/2-pounders to win. This is exciting! This is what you try to do your whole life!"
Moulton ended the event with 59-13 and earned $34,636 and a 2013 Ranger Z518.