The final qualifying event of the 2004 season took place at New Melones. Sixty anglers signed up to fish for the top 20 pro and amateur spots that will send them to the 2004 Pro Championship.

Spring like conditions had returned to the central valley with temperatures hovering around a comfortable 80 degrees instead of the mid 90's we had been subjected to the past few weeks.

The anglers were greeted with overcast skies and cool temperatures as they arrived for morning check-in at Glory Hole Sports. Storeowners, Dan and Melanie Lewis had the store open and hot coffee for the anglers.

The bite leading up to the event had been reported as spotty by many of the competitors. Many said, "Catching numbers of fish has been tough enough, let alone catching anything of quality."

Pre tournament talk was right on about catching quality fish, as only 2 fish over 3 pounds were brought to the scales. However catching numbers wasn't a problem 25 of 30 boats brought in five-fish limits.

The competitors reported catching fish on everything but the kitchen sink! Angler's splitshot, dropshotted, used jigs, topwater and reaction baits. The magic depth for the teams was 20 feet. The competitors brought 144 bass to the scales weighing 225 pounds.

First place went to Oakdale pro Jeff Stewart and partner Milton Reynolds, of San Carlos. Stewart and Reynolds brought in a 10.88-pound five-fish limit. The anglers fished main lake structure with reaction baits, worms and jigs.

The pairs weight was anchored by Reynolds' 2.90-pound lunker that took big fish in the amateur division. For their solid performance, Stewart took home $1,861 while Reynolds earned $1,133 for a team total of $3,194.

Copperopolis pro Ira Eads and his partner Richard Marchini, of Le Grand finished 2nd with their five-fish limit that tipped the scales at 9.80 pounds. The pair keyed on rock banks with mud lines in the main lake. Their fish came on Lucky Craft and Mega Bait rips on 14-pound Berkley line with St Croix rods and Shimano reels.

For their finish Eads took home $1,387 while Reynolds earned $609 for a team total of $1,996.

Finishing 3rd with their 9.68-pound five-fish limit was Folsom pro Ron Knight and his partner Jon Blanc, of Modesto.

Knight and Blanc keyed on brush piles in 20 to 27 feet of water. Their fish came by dropshotting 4-inch Aarons Magic FX worms on 8-pound Stren line with St. Croix rods and Shimano reels.

Knight also took second big fish in the pro division with his 3.44-pound lunker. Knight won $988 while Blanc earned $402 for a team total of $1,390.

Rounding out the top five in fourth place was Tracy pro Gary Thomas and his partner Ron Billings, of Hughson. Thomas and Billings brought in a 9.36-pound five-fish limit. Thomas took home $520 while Billings earned $149 for a team total of $$669.

Fifth place went to Brentwood pro Angel Valdez and his partner Tom Bossard, of Modesto. The pair brought in a 9.26-pound five-fish that was anchored by Bossard's 2.72-pound lunker that took 2nd big fish in the am division. Valdez took home $312 while Bossard won $208 for a team total of $520.

Big fish in the pro division went to Le Grand pro Steve Greene. Greene's 4.08-pound lunker sealed up his 6th place finish and earned the pro a total of $372.

Clovis Pro Jeff Mathews wrapped up the pro division Angler of the Year title with his 8th place finish at Melones. Mathews edged out Oakdale pro Bruce Harris 515 points to 509. Mathews' title earned the pro $750 in 2005 entries.

Modesto's Bill Clayton ran away with the am division Angler of the Year title by 22 points. Clayton finished with 527 points to Modesto's Jon Blanc, who had 505. Clayton earned $375 in 2005 entries for his title run.

New for 2004 is Nor-Cal's push to encourage new pro's to join our circuit. As an incentive to fish Nor-Cal Pro-Am's, we have added the Bob's Marine Pro Rookie Bonus Cash and the Thompson Chevrolet Pro Rookie Point's Race.

The Bob's Marine Pro Bonus Cash awards $100 to the highest finishing pro at each event, who is fishing in their first season as a Nor-Cal pro. The bonus cash at New Melones went to 3rd place pro Ron Knight.

The Thompson Chevrolet Pro Rookie Point's Race tracks the same anglers throughout the season and awards a prize package at the end of the year worth several hundred dollars. Kerman pro Tim Turner took the title by edging out Fresno's Sieg Taylor by 1 point, 488 to 487.

Thompson Chevrolet is also offering special pricing on new vehicle purchases through their dealership in Patterson for all Nor-Cal members. If you're in the market for a new vehicle, shop around and then come to Thompson and see what Nor-Cal pricing can save you! Special thanks goes to our tournament trail sponsors, Stratos Boats and Evinrude Outboards. Because of their support, Nor-Cal Bass will be awarding a fully rigged Stratos/Evinrude prize package at their Pro Championship tournament. Visit Bob's Marine to take a look at this great boat and motor combination!

Thanks also to Glory Hole Sports for hosting our check-in and meeting. Thanks also to Glory Hole Marina for hosting our weigh-in and awards ceremony.

Thanks also to our official rod sponsor, St Croix, for supporting our anglers and awarding their quality built rods at the 2004 Pro Championship.

Nor-Cal Bass Tournament Trail sponsors are: Stratos Boats, Evinrude Outboards, Bob's Marine, St Croix Rods, Thompson Chevrolet, Autolife Sporting Goods, Escalon Bait & Tackle, Tom's Truck Repair, Tracy Oasis Marina, Del Taco Manteca/Oakdale, Thermo Oil Batteries, Super Pork, Keeper Custom Worms, Predator Worms, McClure Painting & Plastering, Hildebrand?s Auto Repair and PMZ Realty.

For more information on our tournament trail, visit our website,, or call (209) 634-8754.