Photos courtesy of Bryant Smith
The fall is known to be Tournament of Champions (TOC) time at Clear Lake. Each year the last week of September through the month of October, the big bass fishery plays host to several multi-day, yearend events as well as the FLW Western Division final circuit stop. This year was no different.
Last weekend, the first TOC - U.S. Angler's Choice launched in to some of the lowest water conditions in recent angler's memories. Reactions to the bite, that greeted the 62 qualifying teams varied. Many found the fishing tough, while the top 11 teams broke the 20 lb per day average. The winners - Greg McCosker and Mark Crutcher hauled up a tournament total of 62.40. The runner-up team of Bryant Smith and Dustin Tacker came in with 58.48 for their two days on the lake.
This weekend the annual Triton Owner's Tournament - West followed up the AC event on the lake. The 65 Triton teams faced warming conditions and a second week of heavy pressure on the lake. Bryant Smith of Castro Valley did not succumb to the obstacles and again found the fish to climb to the top. However this week, he surpassed his previous 2nd place finish from the AC event, and claimed victory with Triton partner Mark Gomez.
Although he changed partners, Bryant stuck to the same pattern. He was tight-lipped with much of the details as he is fishing the upcoming FLW Rayovac and ABA events in the next several weeks. "What I'm doing isn't a secret anymore, but I would like to keep it as quiet as possible," said Smith. "I will say that I've been flippin'. Last week and again this week."
He did reveal that he was focused on a pattern that involved four or five different areas. "The fish are there and they will be there next week; but it will be a matter of getting them to keep biting with all of the pressure," said Smith. " The boat pressure has really increased in my areas. The quality of the size of fish has already gone down because of it; but there is still a lot of big fish out there."
Smith has been fishing Clear Lake for the last eight years, competitively for the past six. Aside from his 2nd place and champion finishes over the last two weeks, he earned a notable top-5 in this year's annual WON BASS California Open at Clear Lake in June. "I think my experience and decision-making skills have made the difference in my finishes this past year," he stated. "I keep myself calmer and that really helps a lot. I used to spin out more; but now I have a lot more confidence in myself to do what I need to do.
Smith met Gomez at a California Tournament Trail (CTT) event at New Melones earlier this year. This is the second team event that the pair has fished together.