The California Delta, one of the finest bass venues in the nation, was stingy this past week. Weights were below predictions and a number of the anglers headed toward Clear Lake with their hat in their hands.
Nevertheless, some of the guys managed to put together winning patterns. For the most part they flipped and pitched — painfully slowly — in backwater areas. Here, in their own words, is how they did it.
(1st place — 72 pounds, 6 ounces)
I found a long, dead-end slough that was 12-15 feet deep in the middle. It had hydrilla growing along the sides pushing into 6-10 feet of water, and it was sheltered from strong tidal influences.
My first keeper came on a Spro Little John but after that it was mostly flipping and pitching. I fished the first two days with a black and blue Sweet Beaver. On Saturday and Sunday, I threw a Gambler BB Cricket.
I weighted them with a 1- or 3/4-ounce tungsten weight and used a Gamakatsu 3/0 Straight Shank Flipping Hook. A bobber stopper kept my weight from running up the line.
My rod was a custom-made, 7-foot, 6-inch heavy flipping stick. I mounted a Daiwa Zillion reel (7.1:1 gear ratio) on it spooled with Vicious Line. The first two days I used 65-pound-test braid. In an attempt to get more bites, I switched to 25-pound-test fluorocarbon on the last two days. The fluorocarbon worked very well.
The key to my win was a combination of concentration and fate. I wasn't getting very many bites, so I had to concentrate every minute of the day. That was especially difficult on the mornings when my bite was slow. Still, it was something that had to be done.
Along with patience, I used Carolina Lunker Sauce on my plastics. It'll give you a couple of extra bites per day when things are tough. That matters.
The other thing that made a difference was fate. I firmly believe that if you put yourself in a position to win, you will when it's your time. You'll get the bites. This was my time.
(2nd place — 72 pounds, 5 ounces)
Unavailable for comment.
(3rd place — 70 pounds, 4 ounces)
In practice I found a couple of areas with tules and grass near deep water. At half-tide, I flipped and pitched the tules. They had about 1 1/2 foot of water in them. When it was a dead low, I flipped and pitched the grass. It was in 5-7 feet of water.
All but two of my bass came on a Double Header colored, Strike King Rodent weighted with a Tru-Tungsten slip sinker — pegged — and a high-quality hook. My rod was my Quantum Signature Series Flipping Stick. I used two models of Quantum reels (both 7:1 gear ratios) and various weights of Cajun Line, depending upon the conditions.
The big thing for me was to fish every cast like there was a giant bass there waiting for my bait. Except for Friday, I didn't get many bites. I had to make the best of every one of them.
(Greg Vinson and Greg Hackney (tie); 8 pounds, 10 ounces)
Vinson: I caught my big bass at the mouth of a dead-end slough with a hard bottom area way in the back. It was a typical spawning area. She was obviously waiting to move to the bed. I ripped my lure — a red crayfish, 5/8-ounce Yo-Zuri Rattlin' Vibe — off the edges of the thickest clumps of grass I could find.
My tackle consisted of a 7-foot, Power Tackle Cranking Rod, a Shimano Chronarch reel (6.2: 1 gear ratio) and 12-pound-test Bass Pro Shops XPS Fluorocarbon Line.
Hackney: My big one came from a sharp, outside channel bend alongside an island. The drop was especially sharp, even by Delta standards, and the grass was especially thick. I'm guessing she was at least two weeks away from her spawn.
She grabbed a Double Header colored, Strike King Rodent, weighted with a 3/8-ounce Tru-Tungsten slip sinker and a high-quality hook. I used the same rod and reel combo I had been using the whole tournament and 20-pound-test Cajun Fluorocarbon Line.