Outdistancing the Field


Yang takes silver, Myers gets bronze as all three to qualify for Hobie Tournament of Champions


OCEANSIDE, Calif.  - With temperatures soaring into the triple digits, there was little doubt Hobie’s California Delta B.O.S. (Bass Open Series) event was going to be hotly contested. The battle, however, turned out to be for second place as 42-year old Daniel Balaba of San Bruno, California, scorched the field by 14 inches to claim the weekend’s top prize ahead of Pua Yang and John Myers.

“The weather definitely played a role in this tournament,” said tournament director, A.J. McWhorter. “We had extreme heat and tough conditions. Still, 50 competitors spread out across the California Delta to battle the elements, challenge their skills and find their five best bass each day. By the time we wrapped up, they had caught and released nearly 520 bigmouths to 22 inches in length. Every fish caught this weekend was truly earned,” continues McWhorter. “I was impressed by the dedication and hard work these top-level kayak anglers displayed, and I appreciate how everyone followed our Covid-19 guidelines. Given the current situation in California, this entire event featured a virtual format.”

Concentrating his efforts south of Mildred Island, Balaba punched his way to victory, slugging it out with bigmouths buried deep in the hyacinth in water depths ranging from three to 12 feet. Scoring with consistency, he racked up 94.50 inches of bass to lead the field on Day 1 (Saturday), and 86.50 inches for second place on Day 2 (Sunday,) ringing up 181 total inches.

Finishing in the 19 spot on Day 1 and first on Day 2, Yang tallied 167 inches while Myers total came to 166.25 inches. For their efforts, Balaba earned $3,280, Yang received $1,900 and Myers walked away with $1,250 as the top 10 anglers finished in the money. The three top finishers also qualified for the Hobie Tournament of Champions (T.O.C.), quite an accomplishment considering this was the first Hobie B.O.S. event for each.

“I managed a couple of fish on crankbaits and Z-Man ChatterBaits,” says Balaba, “but it was a 1.5-ounce punch jig with a Missile Baits creature trailer that brought most of my strikes. The crankbaits worked around wood while the ChatterBaits produced some fish around scattered grass in shallow water. With the punch baits, I got on an interesting pattern that saw the bass keying on hyacinth growing amongst primrose. The most productive matts were set back about three feet from the lip of a channel edge. After 10 or 11 a.m., working those matts produced everything I caught. All of that action was on an ebbing tide, and I had to go looking for deeper water as it bottomed out each day.”

Balaba, who was hoping to contend for a money spot heading into event since he lives in the Delta area and knows these waters intimately, noted the heat matched up well with his punching game as it drove bass deep into the weeds looking for shade. On both days of the tournament he had to move “a couple miles” from his early spots to his late spots to cover all the bases. It was while transiting between spots late on Day 1 that he spooked a nice bass. That fish tipped him off to the hyacinth/primrose pattern, which ultimately made a big difference in his score.

Factoring the heat into his presentation, Yang, 37, concentrated on slowly probing from the shore to 12-foot depths with a combination of flipping, pitching, and punching. Like Balaba, he found a fair number of measurable fish holding around hyacinth, in this case surrounded tullies and hydrilla. He also did well by targeting overhanging brush and submerged trees. Living near the Delta in the town of Elk Grove, he also fishes these waters frequently.

“I’m thrilled with my performance in this tournament,” said Yang, “especially considering it was my first kayak event - and the first spot I tried to hit on Day 1 had the gates closed forcing me to rerout my efforts. I know these waters well, so I was hoping to have a good day. Hobie is such a famous name with a great reputation and I was thrilled they set up an event in this area. It was exceptionally hot out – 105 degrees at one point - but the tournament ran great, the competitors followed all the safety guidelines, and everyone had a chance to really put their skills to the test. I couldn’t be more pleased with how things turned out.” 

Myers, 57, said he worked “damn hard” for every fish he managed over the weekend. A California Delta resident from Atwater, he’s been entering fishing tournaments on these waters since 1986. Still, this was his first B.O.S. event, and he came away impressed.

“This is a huge stretch of water, and all of it looks fishy,” explained Myers. “In a boat, you can figure out a pattern and run for miles matching up the perfect water to make things work. In a kayak, however, you can only cover so much area, so you have to be extra versatile and carefully plan which stretches you need to fish. Here on the California Delta, you need to not only consider water depth, water temperature and wind, but the tidal influence as well. That’s a lot of factors to try and line up.”

Myers threw ChatterBaits early on both days but had to head his Hobie PA12 to a secondary spot over an hour away as the tide bottomed out. Later each day, he spent most of his time punching pennywort mixed with hydrilla. “On every point I’d catch two or three fish in shallow water but none were the size I needed to climb up the leader board, so late on Day 2, I headed nearly all the way back to my launch site to work the ten-foot depths of a marina. There I managed to cull a couple of fish and, with about 20 minutes left on the clock, drilled a 20.5-inch bass to move into third. Man, that was an exciting finish. I took it right down to the wire. It doesn’t get any better than that.”

Next up on the Hobie B.O.S. schedule is Lake Dardanelle, in Russellville, Arkansas, on September 12 and 13.