“I’m getting a lot of bites,” said Riehl, who has three top-10 finishes in FLW Outdoors events. “I figure if I’m getting 30, 40 or 50 bites a day, chances are with the amount of big fish in this body of water, I’ll get a couple of them.” Riehl said the majority of the fish he caught fell for black and blue soft plastic creature baits he fished slowly in deeper water. He said he fished 15 spots Thursday and caught fish on them all day.
“Every day, we’re getting a later high tide, so the bite actually picked up this morning,” Riehl said. “And the little bit of drizzle we had helped. Once the sun came out and the tide came up, I struggled for a while. As soon as the tide moved back out, it turned on again.”
Riehl said his confidence on the California Delta was the key to his success in the first two days of competition.
“Knowing spots, having confidence that the fish are there and not giving up is what it’s about,” Riehl said. Unlike Riehl, Ehrler’s confidence in his ability to sustain his top-10 status was more of an issue for him.
“I started out flipping, but the wind kind of hurt me today,” Ehrler said. “I basically started beating the bank with a crankbait. I just started running around fishing and was fortunate to get a few bites here and there. It wasn’t great, but I couldn’t do anything else.
“I think the fish I’m flipping are kind of done,” Ehrler added. “I might just have to beat the bank. I may catch them and I may not. I honestly don’t know.”
Rounding out the top five pros are Team Coppertone pro Brett Hite of Phoenix (10 bass, 51-2); Louis Fernandes of Santa Maria, Calif. (10 bass, 50-2) and Andre Moore of Alabaster, Ala. (10 bass, 49-5).
Brett Davies of Davis, Calif., earned the day’s $476 Snickers Big Bass award in the Pro Division thanks to a 13-pound, 11-ounce bass, which is the fourth-largest bass ever caught in an FLW Outdoors event. Davies fooled the giant on a watermelon red flake soft plastic stickbait on a grassline in 7 feet of water.
“When it first bit, it just kind of rattled the bait, kind of like a one-pounder might,” Davies said. “I swung and got a couple of cranks on it and said, ‘Oh. It’s a good one.’ I didn’t realize how good until I actually got it to the boat, and then it surged down and went under the boat, and I said, ‘It’s real good.’ It came to the surface and (my co-angler and I) were really shaking. Not too much later we had it in the net.”
Overall there were 835 bass weighing 2,862 pounds, 11 ounces caught by 187 pros Thursday. The catch included 139 five-bass limits.
Pros are competing this week for a top award of $125,000 plus valuable points in the hope of qualifying for the BP East-National Guard West Fish-Off and a shot at advancing to the $2 million, 2009 Forrest Wood Cup, where the winning pro will earn as much as $1 million – the sport’s biggest award.
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Robert Jones of Clayton, Calif., leads the Co-angler Division with a two-day total of 10 bass weighing 43-7 followed by Jim Sall of Pasco, Wash., in second place with 10 bass weighing 37-6.
“I didn’t have a fish in the bag for about an hour and a half,” said Jones, who is fishing in only his second FLW Series event. “The wind picked up pretty bad and we hung in there and kept going around the tules and flipped our rear-ends off and stayed with it and found an area that held a few small fish and one big one.”
Jones caught five bass weighing 20-1 while fishing with pro Tim Edington of Bakersfield, Calif., Wednesday and five bass weighing 23-6 while fishing with pro Jim Hawkes of Apache Junction, Ariz., Thursday.
Rounding out the top five co-anglers are Robert Faaborg of Ramona, Calif. (10 bass, 37-0); Robert Castner of Chino, Calif. (10 bass, 36-3) and Greig Sniffen of Saratoga, Calif. (10 bass, 36-3).
Team National Guard co-angler Justin Lucas of Folsom, Calif., earned $290 for the Snickers Big Bass award in the Co-angler Division thanks to a 13-pound, 9-ounce bass, which is the fifth-largest bass ever caught in an FLW Outdoors event. Lucas caught the huge largemouth on a 6-inch Berkley Triple Margarita Power Finesse Worm Hand Pour on a drop-shot rig.
“My pro said, ‘We have to go. We only have three minutes left,’” Lucas said. “I said, ‘One more cast, dude, one more cast.’ I fired up in the tules and set the hook and said, ‘Oh my gosh, I’ve got a giant. I’ve got a giant.’ I didn’t know if it was a seal or a catfish or what at first it was pulling so hard. So we got it in the net, threw it in and took off.”
Overall there were 568 bass weighing 1,667 pounds, 11 ounces caught by 170 co-anglers Thursday. The catch included 57 five-bass limits.
Co-anglers are competing this week for a top award of $25,000. Like the pros, the top 30 co-anglers from both FLW Series divisions after four qualifying events are complete will advance to the East-West Fish-Off for a shot at qualifying for the Forrest Wood Cup.
Anglers will take off at 7:30 each morning from Russo’s Marina located at 3995 Willow Rd. in Bethel Island. Friday’s weigh-in will be held at the marina beginning at 2:30 p.m. Saturday’s weigh-in will be held at the Wal-Mart store located at 4893 Lone Tree Way in Antioch, Calif., beginning at 4 p.m. Children will also be treated to a Family Fun Zone prior to Saturday’s weigh-in from noon to 4 p.m. at Wal-Mart. Activities in the Family Fun Zone include the Kellogg’s trout pond, a Ranger boat simulator and assorted fishing-themed games. All activities are free and open to the public.
In FLW Series competition, the entire field competes for the first three days, and co-angler competition concludes on day three with the winner determined by the heaviest accumulated three-day weight. The top 10 professionals continue competition on day four, and the winner is determined by the heaviest accumulated weight from all four days.
Coverage of the California Delta FLW Series tournament will be broadcast to 81 million FSN (Fox Sports Net) subscribers in the United States as part of the “FLW Outdoors” television program airing April 20. “FLW Outdoors” is also broadcast in Canada on WFN (World Fishing Network) and to more than 429 million households in the United Kingdom, Europe, Russia, Australia, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East through a distribution agreement with Matchroom Sport, making it the most widely distributed fishing program in the world. The program airs Sunday mornings at 11 Eastern time in most markets. Check local listings for times in your area.
FLW Outdoors, named after Forrest L. Wood, the legendary founder of Ranger Boats, is the largest fishing tournament organization in the world. In 2008 alone the organization is offering more than 90,000 anglers the chance to win over $40 million through 230 tournaments in 10 circuits targeting bass, walleye, redfish, kingfish and striped bass. FLW Outdoors is also taking fishing mainstream with the largest cash awards in the history of fantasy sports, $7.3 million.
For more information about FLW Outdoors and its tournaments, visit FLWOutdoors.com or call (270) 252-1000. For more information about FLW Fantasy Fishing and Player’s Advantage, visit FantasyFishing.com.
FLW Outdoors historically maintains a 98 percent live release rate in all of its bass tournaments.