It’s all about the tides

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — John Murray estimates that he’s competed in “25 or so” major bass fishing tournaments on the California Delta waters since the early 1990s. He’s won a few bass boats with his success here over the years. And there’s been once common factor in those wins: high tide.

“It’s all about the tides here,” said Murray at Wednesday’s anglers meeting, prior to the Thursday 6:15 a.m. (Pacific Time) start of the Sacramento Bassmaster Elite at the Sacramento River. “Every tournament I’ve ever won here has been on a high tide. That’s the biggest thing here, getting a really good high tide.”

There should be one of those about mid-morning Thursday, which will give these 112 anglers the opportunity to make the 90-minute run down the Sacramento River to the place where it meets the San Joaquin River and the California Delta begins.

However, not everyone will make that long run. Some will choose to stay closer to the launch site and opt for a longer day of fishing, rather than boat riding. It’s a safe choice – one with fewer chances for mechanical failures, but practically no chance to win. For those uncomfortable in the vast waters of The Delta who are trying to stay alive in the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race, it might be an easy choice.

“I doubt you could make the Top 12 staying close, unless everyone else goes to The Delta,” Murray said.

California resident Jared Lintner, who has been fishing The Delta for “15 or 16 years,” agrees, saying, “There are bass up here in the Sacramento and American rivers. There are a lot of smallmouth bass and spots, and some largemouth in areas too. But you put two or three guys in there over two or three days and they’re gone. Those fish don’t replenish.”

So if you want to win, you take the chance on doing yeoman work in a short window of opportunity – when the tide is right in The Delta. You can get right in a hurry there, in as little as 15 to 30 minutes.

“The biggest thing here is what the tide is doing during your fishing time,” Lintner said. “If the tide’s not right, even though there’s an awesome area two hours away, I’m not going there.

“I know they live there, but if the tide isn’t right they won’t bite. However, if the tide is going to be right during that same time frame, I’m going to make that extra half-hour run to be there.”
There are just so many variables once you get to the vast waters of The Delta. The anglers who do well in Elite Series tournaments – no matter where they’re held – always mention “making good decisions.” There are simply more decision points here than in the course of a typical tournament, if you go to The Delta.

“You can make a three-hour boat ride one way, if you want,” said Lintner.

The tidal affects of the bass bite here are the one point that’s seemingly not debatable.

“You can be the best fisherman in the world,” said Murray, “and if you aren’t on the right tide, you just won’t catch ‘em. They just don’t bite.”