CLEAR LAKE, Calif. — Clear Lake could present another slugfest for the college competitors fishing in the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Western Conference Regional, May 15-16.
On the first day of last year’s regional at Clear Lake, the Oregon State University team of Zach MacDonald and Ryan Sparks broke the one-day record for the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series with a five-fish limit weighing 29 pounds, 7 ounces, but five minutes later Robert “Bo” Harkins and Michael Braswell of Chico State topped their mark by weighing in a 32-7 limit. However, MacDonald and Sparks won the tournament the next day and set the heaviest two-day weight of a College Series event with 54-12.
“We had three teams that eclipsed 50 pounds over two days last year, so we know Clear Lake has that potential,” said Hank Weldon, college tournament manager. “I don’t expect the bags to be quite as big each day this year, but the mid-20s could be easily doable.”
Oregon State’s MacDonald noted last year’s tournament was held in April when the college contestants were catching heavyweight prespawn bass. The Willits, Calif., angler predicts bass will be either spawning or in the postspawn stage on his home lake during this year’s regional, so the weights will be lower.
“The mid-20s will be a good day,” MacDonald said. “If you can catch 22 to 25 pounds a day, most likely you are going to win. This year, the weather has been warm all year, and most likely it is going to be won on a mixture of bed fishing and just blind casting around bedding areas.”
A low lake level should make it easier for the college anglers to catch Clear Lake’s spawning bass. “The lake is a lot lower than I have ever fished it, so bed fishing should be the key deal,” MacDonald said. “The fish won’t be able to get up in the tules quite as far as in the past when the lake was higher than average.”
Finding bedding fish on Clear Lake is a simple task, according to MacDonald. “You can go to any part of the lake and find bedding fish,” he said. “They will spawn anywhere from 0 to 15 feet depending on the side of the lake and the water clarity. They like spawning around docks, rocks, tules and points that don’t really have anything on them.”
Although noted for its water clarity, Clear Lake’s visibility level could be reduced during the regional. “There might be a little bit of an algae bloom problem because the water is so clear and it has been so warm,” MacDonald said. “That might cause it to be a little harder to actually see those bed fish, and that’s why you might have to blind cast in those areas where you presume there are a lot of spawners.”
Weldon estimates a field of 40 boats for the regional, which will qualify the Top 10 finishers for the 2014 Carhartt Bassmaster College Series National Championship. He said he expects some tough competition for those 10 berths.
“You have to watch out for Jarred Walker and Nick Barr (of Eastern Washington University),” Weldon said. “They made it last year all the way to the Carhartt Bassmaster College Series Classic bracket and were very close to claiming the Bassmaster Classic berth that Jordan Lee of Auburn won. They qualified through the Clear Lake regional last year, so they know that lake."
Others to watch are the defending champions Oregon State's MacDonald and Sparks, as well as teams from Chico State and Cal State-Long Beach.
Competition begins May 15 at Konocti Vista Casino in Lakeport, Calif., when the anglers take off at 6:45 a.m. PT. The competitors will also weigh in at the same location at 3 p.m. PT both days.