2010 Elite Series - Golden State Shootout Clear Lake - Lakeport, CA, Mar 18 - 21, 2010

Comfortable in Ca., Velvick takes lead

Byron Velvick
Byron Velvick

LAKEPORT, Calif. — Feeling right at home, Byron Velvick toted 29 pounds of Clear Lake bass to the scales Thursday and took the opening-round lead at the Golden State Shootout, the second event of the 2010 Bassmaster Elite Series season.

Nearing the 10-year anniversary of when Velvick established the three-day BASS' record for tournament weight here, Velvick, once a West Coast resident, raided Clear Lake in a similar manner, boating the first double-digit bass of the Elite season, a 10-11 beauty.

Now settled in Del Rio, Texas — on the periphery of another bass-factory Lake Amistad — Velvick is in a different place now.

"Ten years ago, I actually missed some of my bigger bites," said Velvick, 45. "But not today. I have more knowledge now and the equipment is miles ahead of where it was. I absolutely love this fishery. Maybe I should move to Clear Lake."

Although prevailing Clear Lake wisdom would assume that Velvick tied on a big swimbait and fired it around the whole day, the two-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier said not so. Instead, he is mixing up his lure choice — a swimbait is still a big part of it — and is mining shallow water spots that have consistently produced over the years.

"You have to mix it up," Velvick said. "It's just not a good idea to stick with one lure. Variety is the name of the game this week. And I think that was a key to my success today (Thursday). I'm doing something a little bit different, but it's smart."

With Clear Lake in a funky way — cold nights and mornings give way to bluebird, warm conditions later in the day — a deep bite has been productive for a bevy of anglers. But Velvick says it is "disintegrating" and will stick with his milk run throughout the rest of the week.

The record, 83 pounds, 5 ounces, would certainly be in jeopardy if the Elites were three-day affairs. But Velvick will have to sustain his performance for four days this week and for that to happen, the two-time BASS winner said he needed boat traffic, from locals and competitors, to be limited.

More than 5 pounds behind Velvick was Jared Lintner of Arroyo Grande, Calif. Although he faces a sizable deficit, Lintner, who landed 23-4, has a sparkling resume here — he won a 2005 Bassmaster Open on the fishery — and could make up ground quickly with the right bite.

Lintner has had a whirlwind week. On Saturday, driving from the Delta event, Lintner was involved in a car accident not of his fault. The story is chronicled here, and Lintner was actually fishing out of a back-up boat Thursday, one that he had never used prior to the event.

"Everyone really came through for me this week," said Lintner, 36. "Monday I barely got any practice time. But I'm in a good place now and I feel comfortable."

Like Velvick, Lintner was hitting areas that have produced for him in tournament's past. He threw big baits for the majority of the day but was unsure if that pattern would hold up. He wasn't committed to any pattern for Friday and instead would formulate it late Thursday.

"I don't want to fish chicken but it's a weird deal," Lintner said. "I see stretches of areas where 30-pound limits could be had but they just aren't biting."

The general consensus is that the lake could really turn on over the weekend. Still, a minority thinks that the Elite pros will miss it due to the moon phase and instead the lake will show its true colors next week. Regardless, Clear Lake is a fishery capable of yielding impressive weights.

In third was Randy Howell of Springville, Ala., with 23-3. In fourth was Bill Lowen of North Bend, Ohio, with 22-14 and rRounding out the top five was 70-year-old Guy Eaker of Cherryville, N.C., with 21-14.

Lurking in striking distance was Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., in 10th. Reese, who missed out on victory at the Delta last week by an ounce, is looking for redemption at a fishery he has dominated on.


Reese finished second in 2007 here while Steve Kennedy won that event. Kennedy failed to land a limit Thursday, limping to 71st.

In surprising fashion, five-time Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam again had a relative struggle. He was 51st. John Crews of Salem, Va., who won last week's Elite season opener, was 76th.

Clear Lake is the largest natural lake to lie entirely within California. In sharp contrast to the sprawling, shallow Delta system, Clear Lake is 19 miles long, measures eight miles wide at its widest point, and has an average depth of 27 feet.

The full Elite field will compete Friday, with the top 47 advancing to Saturday's competition. Only the top 12 will still be in the game the final day, Sunday, for the $100,000 top prize.