Eaker's Delta monster
Guy Eaker began practice for the TroKar Duel in the Delta in a magnificent way.
"Monday was the first day of practice of my last year of fishing," Eaker said. "Who could know that I would go and catch the biggest stringer of my entire life?"
Eaker estimated that stringer at between 37 and 38 pounds and it was anchored by a 14-pound, 1-ounce Delta pig.
"When it came up I thought it was 17 pounds because it had such a huge head," Eaker said. "Four or five years ago, I caught a 13-pounder here and that was my biggest fish."
The California Delta has been good to Eaker in the past and he has continued to rely on the same spot to produce each time the tour returns to Stockton.
"The same place I fished the last two times — I'm right in there and no one else is around." Eaker said. "In practice, they were up in the shallow grass and really chomping, but these cold mornings really pulled them out. I'm hoping this sun pushes them back up in there."
Bring on the rain
Timmy Horton was one angler who looks forward to rain on Day Two of competition. After boating only four keeper bass weighing 15 pounds, 2 ounces on Day One, Horton cited recent cold fronts that hurt the fishing.
"It's a shame we had these cold fronts when you are dealing with these Florida strains," Horton said. "It gets really tough with the 53 to 54 degree water we are seeing. I think you are going to see the weights jump tomorrow. Usually when you get a cloudy, rainy day after a warm day, the fish bite."
A favorite to win the TroKar Duel in the Delta, Skeet Reese got off to a solid start on Day One, with a 15-pound, 1-ounce limit that has him in 11th place. Even so, the Auburn, Calif., resident was not happy with the way the California Delta has been fishing.
"In 25 years fishing this river system, this is the toughest bite I have seen in March," Reese said. "There should be a lot more fish staged in these areas. I have had places for 20 years that I can catch fish and I can't get a bite there."
Reese wasn't the only angler that struggled. It took only 6 pounds, 6 ounces to land in the top half of the field after Day One. As a reference point, in 2007, that same weight would have landed an angler in 100th place. The halfway weight in '07 was 13 pounds, 7 ounces, more than double what it took Thursday.
There were ten 20-pound bags in 2007 versus only one this year and nine zeros here this year, versus only one in 2007.
After a string of good finishes to end 2009 and a second-place finish at the Bassmaster Classic, Jeff Kriet rode a wave of momentum into the West Coast. His Day One performance of 14 pounds, 3 ounces has him in 17th place and once more sniffing after the leaders.
"I feel like I'm finally fishing smart," Kriet said. "Usually my instincts are pretty good. Now, when my gut tells me to leave, I'll do it."
Like the rest of the field, Kriet has found the fishing tough, but he has maintained a run-and-gun approach, trying to stay in high percentage areas. The result was a 9-keeper day. Not bad, but not nearly as good as Monday's practice.
"We had these fronts come through and the wind blew really hard the last few days and I think that messed the fishing up," Kriet said. "With this warming weather today, I really think we are so close to having them go crazy."
Little big fish
After all the talk of big bass in the teens, Day One on the California Delta was a disappointment. John Crews brought in a 7-pound, 2-ounce hawg that temporarily took over the Big Bass honors.
"Catching that fish was a lot of fun, but it only lasted 10 seconds," Crews said. "I was flipping, pitched it out there, set the hook, cranked about three times and it was in the boat. That's just how I like them."
Crews' fish eventually got bumped when Russ Lane dropped a fish that weighed 8 pounds, 8 ounces onto the scales. Lane declined to comment on the speed with which he boated the big fish, but did note that his biggest fish came in a little flurry.
"I pretty much struggled today and had one little one at 10:00 a.m.," Lane said. "The sun came out, the water warmed 5 degrees and I caught three big ones in the last hour.
A face-full of hooks
Dean Rojas received a surprise on Day One after landing a 2-pound fish early in the day. After getting the fish into the boat, his lure popped out of the fish's mouth and flew right into Rojas' cheek, burying itself past the barb.
"Thank God the Marshal was there or I would have been fishing with a treble in my face all day," Rojas said. "I tried to rip it out, but that wasn't happening. I have had lures fly by me before, but this one just buried right into my cheek."
Rojas went on to catch four fish that weighed 11 pounds, 10 ounces, good enough for 29th place.
"I've seen more seals than I've ever seen before." — Skeet Reese, on all the changes since the last time the Elite Series visited the California Delta.
"I drove 3000 miles to catch that one fish." — Britt Myers
"I would rather drive a long way to some place that has them, than to fish some place close that doesn't." — Jeff Kriet on the long drive from his home in Oklahoma to the California Delta.
"I caught three fish today, that's one for every 1000 miles I drove to get here." — South Carolina's Jason Quinn
"It don't hurt me none to go out there and fish all day or all week." — 70-year old Elite Series pro Guy Eaker
"The tide is your best friend or your worst enemy, today it was my worst enemy." — Kevin VanDam
"I may end up having to use dynamite to catch these fish, so if you hear a loud explosion, don't worry too much about it ... I'm fishing a small area."
— Gerald Swindle
"My dirty water got clear and my clear water got dirty, and I just didn't catch them." — Pre-tournament favorite Ish Monroe
"I was falling asleep over there. I am wore out from all that casting." — Rick Morris on why he was slow getting up on stage to weigh his fish.
"Not from tugging, that's for sure." — Weigh-in emcee Keith Alan, responding to Morris' one-fish bag.
"I felt like I had some Quagga mussels down in my britches."
— Gerald Swindle, on why he spent all day running around.
"It's kind of scary seeing who's following me."
— 19-year-old Bradley Roy, on weighing in immediately before Kevin VanDam.
"The best excuse I could come up with was I went sight fishing and the water was just a little too cold — there were none on beds."
— Kelly Jordon