Clear Lake: Top 3 pros tell how they did it

Cold nights, warm days and finicky fish marked the 2010 Golden State Shootout. Byron Velvick jumped out to an early lead and never looked back. It wouldn't have made much difference even if he had. The only thing going on was a battle between Bill Lowen and Guy Eaker for second place.

Velvick did lose big bass honors, however. After catching a 10-pound, 11-ounce beast on Thursday, he was surpassed the next morning by Bobby Lane with an 11-1 giant.

Here's how they tell the story:

Byron Velvick
(1st place — 98 pounds, 6 ounces)

As soon as I arrived at my spot on Thursday morning I saw a bass chasing a hitch. (That's a California baitfish prevalent in Clear Lake. They look like carp.) I knew instantly it was game on!

Each morning I started in the area I fished in 2000 when I won the California Invitational and then worked my way around the lake. My target was shallow grass, nothing deeper than 5 feet. My best spot was a submerged grass point that splits a bay into two parts. It's the kind of spot you have to know is there. It'd be almost impossible to find if you weren't looking for it.

Basically, the bass stage in the grass waiting to move up to their beds. A swimbait fished slowly along the bottom will catch them when they're in that mode. I fished a local, 7-inch bait called a Rago BV 3D in hitch. It's made by Jerry Rago, one of the pioneers in freshwater swimbaits for bass... with a lot of input from me.

This was the ultimate example of matching the hatch, something I've written about in my how-to series "Master Series: The Art of the Swimbait" on The Rago BV 3D is a perfect replica of a hitch.

I worked it right along the bottom — in thick, heavy grass — trying to feel everything I could. In fact, I went so far as to depart from my longstanding tradition of throwing swimbaits on monofilament line. I switched to fluorocarbon for better feel.

The trick was to swim it slow until you couldn't stand it, and then slow down some more. The fish would strike when it came up, away from the grass. It was almost like fishing a Texas rigged plastic worm.

My rod was a Duckett Fishing Micro Magic, medium action 7-foot, 10-inch swimbait model (prototype), with a Revo Toro reel (5.4:1 gear ratio) spooled with 20-pound-test Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon Line.

Bill Lowen
(2nd place — 92 pounds, 9 ounces)

I fished the same feeder creek that ran into a spawning flat that I did when we were here the last time. I concentrated on the shallow outside areas in 2-4 feet of water, keying on the submerged grass. That's where the prespawn females were staging.

My confidence level is zero when it comes to big swimbaits, so I fished a 1/4-ounce black and blue ChatterBait as slow as possible while still making the blades move. I threw it with a 7-foot, heavy action All Pro rod, a Revo STX reel (6.4:1 gear ratio) and 15-pound-test Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon Line.

I alternated that outfit with a black and blue, 3/8-ounce D & L Bill Lowen Swim Jig with a Rage Tail Craw or Horny Toad trailer, my 7-foot, 6-inch Signature Series Swim Jig rod by All Pro and a Revo STX–HS reel (7.1:1 gear ratio) spooled with 30-pound-test Stren Super Braid Line.

One of the things that made a big difference for me was my Power-Pole. I was able to hold my boat rock still and pick my areas apart one cast at a time. I wouldn't have finished where I did without one.

Guy Eaker
(3rd place — 90 pounds, 11 ounces)

I fished the same area as Bill (Lowen) only out a little deeper. It was beyond belief. Between the two of us, we probably caught 300 pounds of bass over the four days. It was a hot staging area. As soon as we caught one, another would take its place.

My bait of choice was a red crawfish Lucky Craft LV Max500 lipless crankbait. I threw it with a heavy action, 7-foot Fenwick Elite Tech rod and a Revo STX reel (6.4:1 gear ratio) spooled with 30/8 Stren Sonic Braid Line.

( Bobby Lane); 11 pounds, 1 ounce)

I caught her in front of a creek with a big, high-quality paddletail swimbait. It was the final staging area in front of a spawning flat. All I did was keep casting and cranking as the bass moved into the area. It wasn't brain surgery; everybody was doing the same thing.

My rod was a 7-foot, 11-inch heavy flipping stick with a Revo Toro reel (6.4:1 gear ratio) spooled with 25-pound-test Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon Line.