WON Bass Western Classic

Hi nuts, as you know I recently fished the WON Bass Western Classic, August 16-19, 1998 as a AAA. I am finally back in the world of the living so here is my report. What I guess I will do is talk about some of my various prefishes and then get onto the tourney itself. Hope you all enjoy.

When it became apparent that I would qualify for the classic I made the commitment to spend all available time prefishing for it just so I would have an idea of what would be going on with the fish and in the event that I drew one of the 25 pros from the south, many of who had never been on the Delta. June was a tough month out there for me. One day I would get on them with blades then the next weekend I couldn’t find them at all then the weekend after that I would find them on jigs. Finally in early July things started shaping up. On July 11 I found a good number of quality fish under scum mats in Sandmound and Taylor sloughs on Frogs. I had a good day with a couple of fish in the 4 lb range and one big fish that I lost. I figured I was starting to figure something out.

I returned the following Saturday, July 18, and launched out of Korth’s. Pat Dilling also launched the same time and we all headed up to towards Sevenmile Slough. We stopped just short of Sevenmile and I pulled up on one bank while Pat pulled up on a berm. In approximately * hour I had about 10 fish on a buzz bait (mostly small) and Pat and his partner had 3 or 4 up to 2 * lbs. We headed into Sevenmile but it was dead. Somehow I lost Pat back in there and never saw him again for the rest of the day. My partner and I headed up into Fisherman’s Cut and stumbled around in there for a couple of hours. We found some small fish on Frogs by fishing between the rocks and moss but it was pretty apparent that this was not really a hot pattern. We headed down into Frank’s and found some really good looking cheese on the south and east sides of the tract and hit pay dirt. I was casting a Snag Proof Tourney Frog back into the moss and tulles and began catching fish, big fish. The fish were relating to the holes in the moss, not the tulles. I would scoot the frog up to a hole, pause for a few seconds then pop it into the hole then just let it sit. The bites were generally coming 30 to 60 seconds into the pause. The bank was just loaded with big fish, the small ones were 3 lbs and my best two were a 6lb 5oz and an 8lb 9oz (my biggest bass yet). It was just a tremendous day.

I went back out there the following weekend to check the fish in Taylor and look for some new ones but the powers that be had sprayed a lot of areas and the weeds were either dead or gone and I had a very tough day with only one fish in the boat. The following weeks were again hit and miss but I started developing a good buzz bait bite in the mornings and a decent jig pattern during the days. Contrary to a lot of people I was catching my jig fish up shallow, anywhere there was overhead cover for the fish such as tulle mats or hycenthies. I caught a lot of fish doing this and some nice ones but it was hard to find an adequate supply of spots like this. So that pretty much sums up my months of prefish. Onto the official prefish.

Day 1 prefish finds me launching out of the Hook in the dark and hanging out around the mouth until safe light. I brought my own boat because I wanted to find fish I could use in the tourney and if I had rode with a pro I wouldn’t be able to use anything we found. Safe light and I head across the Break into Dutch to look at the mouth of Emerson. I pulled in there and tossed a buzz bait around for about * hour with only one boil. I head back down Dutch towards the bridge and stop on the south bank just west of the bridge. There is a really hard out going tide. I toss a buzz bait along the rocks with scattered tulles and moss clumps. I nail four 2lbrs in about 10 minutes and bail off the bank. I head under the bridge and pull up on the north bank and repeat the same action but also get one about 3.5 so I bail out of Dutch and head into Taylor. I check a few docks and catch a 2.5 and miss a big fish so I leave and head farther east in Taylor without finding much. I go into Sandmound and flip some berms out in the current and stick one on brown jig that went about 3 lbs and some little ones. From there I head down to Holland Cut and then to Quimby to flip deep berms and weed edges but can’t get anything going. I make the rounds back to Frank’s and toss some Frogs on some newly developing mats. Have some 3 to 4 lb fish blow up and accidentally stick one that goes 3. This fish took the frog so well that he blew it out his gill and it was hanging down the side of his body. From there I head back to the Hook for the BBQ, good food!

Day 2 and I decide to try and find some more good early buzzbait action. I head down the channel towards False River. I stopped a few times along the channel and in False River to throw the buzzbait along rocks and moss, only a couple of small bumps. I start flipping deep berms around the top of Franks but nothing is happening. It is getting towards 9AM and low tide and I am getting frustrated so I decided to just start running and gunning with reaction baits. I ran out Washington Cut toward the channel and stop on a couple berms and riprap banks. I catch some small fish on the buzzbait and have one about 2.5 pull the skirt off my spinnerbait but never get the bait. The tide is really low so I start pitching a Frog to holes in the berms and tulle clumps that are in a little bit deeper weeds and this works. The fish are not big but they are fairly regular so I just keep plugging along toss the frog anytime I find berms that had pockets way back inside. I headed down the channel with the idea that I would check Sevenmile one more time. I made a tour all the way through it and fished a few places in there but nothing happened so I bailed out. I went into Fisherman’s Cut and hit some of the scum mats on the west bank. I had a big blowup but I saw the fish coming so I jerked the frog away before he got to it. It is about 2PM so I head back to the Hook and trailed up. I am pretty happy with prefish. I figure I have enough to get by if my draws are clueless and I also have confidence that tossing the frog will still get fish.

I take the boat to my cousin’s house to leave it there and make it back to the Ramada for checkin by 3:30. I go back to my room and nap for a few hours. About 6 I leave the room to head to the restaurant for the kick-off dinner and drawings. On the way out of my room I run into Leroy Bertolero and he asks if he can ride with me, what am I going to say?!! So we headed over there and laughed and talked all the way, he is a hell of a nice guy. We finally got through the dinner and the obligatory back patting and have the draw. I draw Leroy Bertolero the first day (we are 8th out in the first flight) and Dave Gliebe for day 2. I am pumped!!! I go talk to Dave since Leroy and I are riding back to the hotel together. Dave tells me to bring a flipping stick, a frog stick, a buzzbait rod and a crank rod. On the ride back to the hotel Leroy is telling me that he has a good buzzbait and topwater bite going all day, now I am really pumped. Even after two days of practice I have a hard time falling asleep.

Tourney Day 1. I meet Leroy in the parking lot and we load up. He has his boat on the water in a slip at Big Break but he likes to get there early and rig up and relax a little. He gives me a buzzbait, a frog and a propbait to tie on. I have a jig on my flipping stick. We go and get the livewells checked, listen to the rules, stand for the national anthem and then we are out of there heading towards one stretch where Leroy had caught some big fish two weeks previous. We are tossing black and red buzzbaits and the propbaits. Leroy gets a couple of small keepers on the buzzbait and I get two dinks. We leave Little Franks and head into Dutch to check two spots in there, again with the buzzbaits. After about * hour we hadn’t caught anything so we headed into Washington Cut out to the channel and towards Stockton. We stop on a bank Leroy had found some good fish on in practice. By now it is a little after 7AM and the sun is bright so we change to white and chart. buzzbaits. The tide is out going so we work the buzzbaits along the outer weed edges and I finally score a keeper, it’s a little over 4 lbs. About 10 minutes later Leroy gets a 3.5. We work the area back and forth a few times from different angles but no more fish. Leroy wants to be at Big Break for the low tide so off we go.

We stop on a stretch of the channel just east of the Break for about 5 minutes just to see if anything is there but we don’t get bite so we go into the Break. The tide is low so we fish weed edges and weed points with the buzzbaits. We both catch fish and fill out our limit. We just kept working around the Break and every so often we would catch something we could cull with. When the tide made the swing and started in we started catching fish fast and furious and started culling fish more often. Leroy hooked into a fish that was about 4 and got it about half way to the boat before it pulled off. About five minutes later he had a tremendous blowup but the fish never even had the buzzbait. After about * hour of incoming tide the bite died off so we left to head back and hit the spot by Stockton again.

The tide is really low at this spot and we work the farthest outside edges with the buzzbaits then work our way into the weed flat but nothing is happening. There were some moss mats in the back of this spot so we head in there to toss the frogs. Leroy scores one about 3lbs on the frog then misses one. All the way in the back he has a fish in the 4-5lb range run out from under the mat, see the boat and head back into the weeds, damn we could have used that fish! Time runs out so we head back for the 12:30 weighin at the Hook.

We weigh 15.98 lbs and wind up 10th for the day. Juts under 21 lbs is leading it. Cooch introduces himself to me as I walk off the stage but he was gone by the time I got done helping Leroy put the boat away. Later that night I talk with Dave Gliebe, he had a bad day and only weighed 10 lbs. He told me that he had miss calculated the tides for the locations he wanted to fish and it blew his whole day. He told me that he has different plans for the second day. I prep my rods for day 2.

Tourney Day 2. I meet Dave in the parking lot and then go check out of the hotel. Dave is very laid back and we hang out in the lounge drinking coffee and eating donuts. We finally leave and head over to Lauritzen’s to launch the boat. We pull into to Big Break Marina about 10 minutes before blast off and get the livewells checked then we wait for the last flight.

When it’s our turn we head out of the Break and into the channel. We pull up on the north wall and start fishing tulles. Dave is flipping a black jig and I am toss a buzzbait. Nothing is happening and we make several moves along the bank. Dave finally catches a fish, it keeps. We work the channel bank and berms up to almost False River. As the tide starts getting low we finally start catching fish regularly off the edges of berms flipping jigs. We have a limit by 9AM but it doesn’t weigh anything. He asks me what I ant to do and I told him, "Lets go for broke, for either of us to make any money we need to have a big day".

We fire up and head under the Antoich bridge and are heading for Rio Vista. We get out to the east side of Sherman Lake and the waves are 3-4 feet. We decide to bail on that idea as it would take too long to make the run and then get back for a 1 PM weighin. We go into Sherman Lake and start flipping berms. The bite is on! Twice we both had fish on at the same time. On one tulle point Dave caught four fish. It seemed like we could just go down the berms and tell where the fish were going to be. We were still flipping jigs along the outside of the tulle berms. We culled up a few ounces here and a pound there. All we needed was a big bite. We worked at it until 10 minutes till weighin and just never got the bite. We caught so many fish however that my thumb looked like I had been up at the lakes fishing for spots.

We make it to weighin with about 1 minute to spare and weigh approximately 14.25 lbs which gives me just over 30 lbs for the weekend. This was about 1 lb out of the money and about 5 lbs out of the boat. I finished around 12th place (they only posted the results down to 10th). But I learned more in the two days of fishing then I have in probably the last two years. I normally have a very difficult time at low tide and this tourney was almost entirely a low tide event. In two days I fished two entirely different patterns, buzzbaits and flipping. Along the way both Leroy and Dave gave me tons and tons of tips and hints which I am still in the process of digesting. These two guys are pros in every sense of the word. One trait I noticed with both of these guys is that they fish very fast and very aggressively. They don’t miss much but they fish a lot faster then most of us do.

Gary Doybns won the pro side with right at 40 lbs. The story he gave us was that he was throwing frogs. The guy in second was also throwing frogs in the same area. Neither told us where. Leroy came in with another 16 lbs and finished about 9th and collected a check. He also had bigfish for day two, a 7 lbr that ate a frog. Overall most of the top finishers were throwing topwater, either the frog or a buzzbait.

I hope you enjoyed reading this half as much as I enjoyed fishing it. Some of it is a little jumpy in places but one of the problems with trying to sit down and write about a event like this is what do you include and what do you leave out? There was just some much that happened. Also I apologize for not be specific on locations that we fished, but none of the spots were mine so I don’t feel comfortable giving away other peoples’ water. Good luck, tight lines and go out and fish a Pro/Am event yourself. They are well worth the time and money.

Mike Niemi