Tales from the Delta

Though BASS has only been there seven times, the California Delta has a rich BASS history and an even richer one in the annals of the sport.

Though BASS has only been there seven times, the California Delta has a rich BASS history and an even richer one in the annals of the sport.

This is where Dee Thomas invented flippin'. It's where most of the great California pros cut their teeth on bass fishing and it's where one of BASS' greatest records was set a little more than a decade ago.

Thomas helped to put the Delta on the bass fishing map by inventing flippin' there in the late 1960s and early 1970s. It was a technique born as much from necessity as anything else. Thomas was winning lots of local competitions with a method known as "tule dipping," and local tournament officials were growing weary of complaints from the other anglers.

Tule dipping utilizes a long cane pole (usually 14 or 16 feet), a short length of heavy monofilament or braided line and a jig or worm — no reel. Dippers would push the tip of the pole back into inaccessible areas of the tules and dabble the jig or worm just under the surface until a bass grabbed it. Then they would pull the pole back toward the boat, hand over hand, and unceremoniously hoist the bass aboard. Though inelegant, it was — and is — extremely effective.

But tournament officials were getting an earful. "Tule dipping isn't sporting." "They don't even use a reel." "There aren't even any guides on the pole." "The long poles are unfair."

To level the playing field, many events in the Delta area started limiting rod length to 8 feet, requiring the use of a reel and even demanding that the rod have guides on it.

Most tule dippers were defeated. They had no idea how to fight back or adapt their method to the new rules. But not Dee Thomas. He dropped back to a 7 1/2-foot rod (well within the new rules), put a reel in the mix and found a new way to present the bait.

It was the start of a revolution. Flippin' not only supplanted tule dipping on the Delta, it took over the sport as a whole and made Thomas a famous man. His reputation and legend were guaranteed in 1975 when he won the Arkansas Invitational on Bull Shoals Reservoir. A few months later, Bassmaster Magazine told the story.

BASS first came to the Delta in October 1997 with the California Western Invitational. Robert Lee won that event ... and the next three BASS tournaments held on the Delta. Lee was the undisputed King of the Delta through 2003. No other angler in BASS history has ever so dominated a single body of water.

But the biggest Delta splash in BASS tournament history came in 1999 when Mark Tyler caught a 14-pound, 9-ounce largemouth on the first day of the California Western Invitational. Robert Lee went on to win the event, but Tyler's lunker remains the biggest bass ever caught in BASS competition.

Some of the Elite Series pros believe Tyler's record is in serious jeopardy this week. Last month at the WON BASS Nitro/Mercury Delta Invitational, Guyle Sternat caught a 14.6-pound largemouth on an Osprey Talon swimbait. That fish was almost exactly the same size as Tyler's. Bigger ones are out there!

The TroKar Duel in the Delta begins Thursday, March 11. For the best coverage and latest news, keep coming back to Bassmaster.com.