Let's start off with the Delta. The big thing to keep in mind is that it fishes shallow like many of the impoundments we have in the south. 8-12 feet is considered deep on the Delta. We have very large and powerful fish on the River. Toss in the wide variety of cover, obstructions, rocks, tulles, barges and such, you need to be prepared and come west with stout equipment.
In an event of this type, you should bring nothing less than 15# test line for plastics, cranks and topwaters and 20#+ test for blades, jigs, froggin and buzzers. I personally only use 16# & 25# Sugoi Fluorocarbon line. The fluorocarbon with it's low stretch, high sensitivity and low abrasion resistance will out perform any line on this river. With the exception, I would highly recommend one reel spooled with heavy braid in the event ya do some froggin.
As for rods, leave the light stuff and spinning tackle at home! There truly is no place for light tackle on the Delta. 6'6" & 7' heavy and Medium heavy action rods are required. You'll also wanna bring a couple of glass rods for potential crankin and blade bites. A 7'6" telescopic flippen stick would be recommended also.
As for baits, it's very simple. And I highly recommend that ya keep it simple, there's no need to carry a wide variety of colors. As for plastics, Junebug, Green Pumkin, Black w/blue flake, black w/red flake, earth tone browns and watermelon. Senkos are the rule here dude! Both the 5.25" Yamamoto 9 series and the 6" 9L are the ticket. You only need a couple of colors 021, 208, 213, 222, 297, 301 & 302. T-rigged plastics are next and you only need two baits at this time of year. Zooms 4" brush hog in Watermelon red and a 6" Iovinno Spade worm in S20! That's it, keep it simple. The trick with these two baits, is to fish them with as light of a bullet weight as you can possibly stand! I use 1/16th weight with a RED!, glass bead (Very important!)and fish it very slow through the grass pockets.
For cranks, Red craw is a MUST! Chrome and fire Tigers are the back ups. Lipless cranks, especially the 3/4 oz Rattle Trap in Red Texas craw will draw strikes from some of the River's biggest bass if you find yourself in the right kind of area.
No trip onto this river system can be made without a jig! It is my number one bait out here and will produce the kind of 30#+ bags a day that most guys dream of. Again, I can't emphasize enough ta keep it very simple. Black jigs & brown jigs, period. Ya don't need ta git into all the fancy coloring shades of black & brown. Two trailers are required, either a chunk of black/blue pork frog or a 5" Yamamoto single tail grub in 164, 209 or 213. If the water temp is above 65, I'll strictly use the grub trailer as it is the perfect bait to imitate the gills and various bream that are swarming the nests.
Spinnerbaits are simple, 1/2 & 3/4 oz double willows. Either white or chartreuse or a combo of these two colors. Sometimes if'n yer in stained water a few strands of either orange or blue with these two will make a difference. As for Buzzbaits, stick with black! Ya want a buzzer that has a high pitch squeak and or a clacker prop. Have a red buzzer as a back up!
You will have fish during that tournament in all stages of spawning! Most of the really giant bass, those over 9 pounds, will already be done. But it's not uncommon to stick a post spawn double-digit male or female during April. The watercolor of the Delta will limit sight fishing in 90% of the River. Unless ya draw one of the local western anglers, it's very unlikely that these guys are gonna find those back water clear areas to be able to sight fish. The fish will be all over the shallows and ya gotta cast and fish to what looks like a likely spawning bed area. The T rig and Senko are perfect for this approach. It would not surprise me to see the Senko win this event! It has caught everyone's attention out here and really produces lots of fish and I do mean a lot of fish. The current record on the Delta is 18.65 which was caught last February on a 9L 021 Senko. If I was fishing this event as an Am, it very well could be the only bait I would take as it allows you to fish it from every angle and position while your pro is concentrating on his stuff up front. I have been guiding on this river for 10 years and fishing it for more than 25, I have never seen a bait that puts so many fish in the well from the back seat like the Senko does. And one last point, especially for you Ams, do not concern your self with the tides! You are at the mercy of your Pro, and it has absolutely no bearing on weather you will catch fish or not. Just fish and fergit about the tide!
Okay, lets move 115 miles to the north! At Clear Lake, there are some subtle differences that I'd suggest. Basically you will have the exact same conditions at Clear Lake, the bass will be in all three phases of the spawn and the lake fishes shallow. Two big differences are, first and foremost, your gonna find MORE clear water here and, there are far more female fish that move up and stage to spawn that git left behind. It just seems to me, that the female population at Clear Lake appears to out number that of the available bucks up on the bank making beds. This leaves more fish in that staging zone or "hall way" versus in the "bed room". One other difference is, unless you're down in the deep parts of Cache Creek, the only current on this lake is that which is generated by the wind and there is no tidal changes. Otherwise, these two bodies of water do in fact fish a lot alike.
This situation really puts the back seater in a good position to catch a lot of quality fish. More so here at Clear Lake than on the Delta, the vast majority of the pros are gonna in fact be bed fishing! So they will be concentrating on isolated fish for long periods of time. This allows the back seater to fully cover the entire spectrum of baits and area surrounding the boat. I feel that only 30% of a lake's bass population is actually on beds at any given time, this leaves 70% of the fish near-by and accessible to the opportunistic angler.
So with this in mind, I'd recommend the same as on the Delta. Keep it simple and limit your selection of baits to those that are tried and tested. Stout rods and use as heavy a line as your comfortable with. Again, I wouldn't use anything less than 16# test for T-rigs and Senkos. And 20# test for jigs, topwater and swimbaits. And taking into consideration the fact you will have far more clear water up here, I'd highly recommend a fluorocarbon or green colored line that has low visibility to the fish for best results.
As for actual baits, Senkos would head my list. I would simplify it even more so on ClearLake than the Delta, stick to the 9L 6" series and ya only need the 194 watermelon seed and the 297 green pumpkin, that's it, just bring lots of em!
As for T-rigged plastics, go with the same setup I recommended for the Delta, 1/16th or 1/8th oz bullet sinker with a red bead. Another way ta go is to use a small split shot about 4" ahead of your worm. The key here with these light weights, is to create a slow moving, freely swimming target. Iovinno's S20 Spade and TomCat will work here too as well as anything by Roboworm in Aarons Magic and Margarita Mutilator. My preference is the 6" Shakin Zipper worms, but the 6" & 7" straight tails work too.
A jig is a must on ClearLake, black & blue jigs work extremely well up here, especially when flipping in stained water around wood. My preference though, is a 3/8oz or 1/2oz solid brown jig tipped with a melon colored or olive pork. It's big, it's bulky, it's slow moving and remarkably resembles the coloration of a hitch, which is a bass' arch number one enemy in the springtime up there. Anything resembling a hitch that gits within 10 feet of a bass' bed, will draw attention of every bass in the bedroom and hallway!
And last but not least, SWIMBAITS! You absolutely should not go fish this lake with out em in the spring! Osprey Talons, Castaics, Basstrix, the M.S. Slammer, select anyone of these, better yet, bring four of each! And guys, leave yer rainbow patterns at home! There are no trout in ClearLake, these bass up here despise them pesky hitch! So select the color patterns that match that of a hitch. The manufacturers that I mentioned above all make matching patterns for the ClearLake hitch. Tie one on and have it ready at all times. When yer guy has his nose buried on a bed fish, fan cast that swimbait 300 degrees around the boat, along the tulles, around the docks, down a launch ramp, at the mouths of creeks and just plain out in the middle of nowhere! You git one fish a day on this bait you is gonna be a happy fisher and better yet, ya manage a limit a day, yer prolly gonna take home a boat!
The key for you guys up here is ta keep it simple in your selection, yet be versatile and run the gamut of these baits when ya git in a position to where yer pro locks down on a bed fish. And one thing ya need ta keep in mind, as yer kickin his butt from the back of the boat, try not ta git too overly excited, ya don't want him ta blame you and your success from spookin or preventing him from catching that bed fish. Rest assured, if this happens, that Tour Pro is gonna become yer best friend and have you teaching him how ta go after these western giants on Clear Lake!
Good Luck & Keep a Tight Line!
Andy "Cooch" Cuccia