STOCKTON, Calif. — The red-craw crankbaits tied to two of Florida pro Matt Greenblatt's rods this morning gave an early indication of how he expected to fish much of Day Two at the TroKar Duel in the Delta today on the California Delta in Stockton, Calif.
As a matter of fact, those cranks — shallow-medium ¼-ounce Speed Traps that run 5 to 8 feet — represented the outer edge of the depth range that most of the 93 pros fishing the first stop in the 2010 Elite Series have focused on throughout the week.
"The fish I've caught so far haven't been more than 7 feet deep, but with a high today of 55 and some rain, they may move out and stay out," Greenblatt said. "I wouldn't be surprised if they did."
That precise thought — that the Delta's largemouth have been pushed into deeper water because of the unsettled weather and 53-degree morning water temperatures — has been echoed throughout the week by a handful of local guides who had been catching pre-tournament fish as deep as 13 feet on slow-sinking swimbaits, shakey-head worms and jigs.
Most of the Elite anglers, though, have stuck stubbornly to the banks, fishing inside weedlines and shallow banks in search of bigger fish that move out of deeper water on the rising tide.
"I'm fishing 1 foot out to maybe 8 feet," said Guy Eaker, who pulled a 14-plus-pound behemoth out of the shallows on the first day of practice on Monday. "I'm looking for them on the back side of the grass, fishing as close to the bank as I can."
Eaker's focus on shallow water might be warranted, thanks to Mother Nature.
Day One's weather was a steady 8 degrees warmer from blast off to weigh-in than the last day of practice, and with no wind to increase the chill. Nightime lows last night dropped to 41, which is 7 degrees warmer than the near-freezing low that layered the dock with a light skim of frost the day before.
With a full day's warmup to boost the water temperatures, today's bite could be dramatically bigger in certain shallow spots where the water has warmed up.
"I think they're in there, staging, and I think yesterday's weather might have moved them up even more," Eaker said. "The water changed almost 3 degrees yesterday where I was fishing. It went from 56 to almost 60. I was fishing in an area with not a lot of wind, so it was getting a lot of heat on those pockets and warmed right up."
Even so, the morning bite on the outgoing tide will still probably be slightly deeper, according to Alabama pro Derick Remitz, who currently sits in fourth place with 15-13, and who finished second in the 2007 Duel in the Delta.
"I'm fishing 5 to 6 feet: wintertime range," Remitz said of his plan for the morning. "It'll still be an outgoing tide when I get to my spot, so hopefully I can catch some deeper on the outgoing tide before I move out of there for the incoming tide."
A handful of the anglers in the top 20 have stationed themselves right on the transition from deeper water to shallow holding cover. Mike Iaconelli, who plans to run roughly 40 miles in opposite directions to fish two primary spots today, is convinced that nearby escape water is critical, even if fish are holding in 2 feet of water.
"Having deep water behind me is a key," said Iaconelli, who sits in 18th with 14-11. "I like to have deep water right on my back when I'm flippin'. It's shallow water that I'm flippin' to, but it might be 15 or 20 feet right behind me. I'm not catching them that deep, but that's the kind of depth I want behind me."
Fans at home watching yesterday's BassCast of Aaron Martens hopping around the boat on his left leg undoubtedly noticed that the Leeds, Ala., pro was severely hampered by a calf injury suffered at the Bassmaster Classic.
Martens, who said before Day One that he was "fishing on one leg," was in such severe discomfort that he went straight to the doctor after weigh-in yesterday.
"I just couldn't stand it," Martens said. "I took some Ibuprofen yesterday and it didn't do anything for me, so I had to get it checked out."
The diagnosis: a possible tear in his right calf. Martens was given a stronger painkiller, and planned to ice and rest his injury as much as possible last night.
Air temperatures at takeoff dipped noticeably around 7 a.m. as a slight southerly breeze kicked up at Weber Point Park. That's the leading edge of a storm system that will bring showers later this morning, with steadily developing cloud cover and a 70 percent chance of steady rain from noon to weigh-in. That system will arrive on the Delta in the two- to three-hour window in the tide change where many of the top 10 caught most of their fish on Day One.