Looking for big bite

LAKEPORT, Calif. — His last walk across the weigh-in stage at the TroKar Duel in the Delta in Stockton last week gave California native Byron Velvick time to crack a joke about his anticipation of the Golden State Shootout on Clear Lake: "I'm going to go to Clear Lake, sit on the shore and meditate," Velvick said after weighing in just three fish for 8 pounds, 12 ounces and an 82nd-place finish on the Delta.

Turns out that whatever form of tai-chi or yoga Velvick practices works on Clear Lake. For one day anyway.

Leaving the Liberty Park dock in 33-degree temperatures this morning for Day Two of the Golden State Shootout, Velvick is the leader of "Swimbait Nation," with 29 pounds, one good-sized largemouth ahead of fellow Californian Jared Lintner (23-4), Randy Howell (23-3), Bill Lowen (22-14) and Guy Eaker (21-14).

Velvick's kicker fish, a 10-11, is exactly what the 93 Elite pros are hunting for today.

"I didn't get a big bite yesterday, and I have to figure out how to change that," said Florida pro Shaw Grigsby, who weighed in five fish that averaged a hair better 3 pounds on Thursday. "First thing I'm going to do early today is try to catch a big fish on a swimbait."

That was apparently the drill for the majority of the boats heading out into a frigid Clear Lake sunrise, almost all of whom had three to four rods with 6- to 10-inch swimbaits strapped to their front decks.

The shallow north end of this 43,000-acre lake — which sits at 1,300 feet elevation amid the rolling hills of rural Lake County — warmed significantly on Day One, thanks to an afternoon high of 81 degrees, but with nighttime lows dipping into the 30s again, almost 12 degrees colder than the forecast, much of the temperature gain will have been lost, and it'll take awhile for the lake's waters to warm again.

That said, there are definitely big fish lurking.

"I had one about 8 pounds come slide in on me yesterday," Grigsby said. "I was fishing a drop-shot down on the corner and she came in and just kinda hunkered in there. I tried to get her to react to something, but she didn't even look at me. This lake is just a couple of days away (from fish moving up), and as clear as it is, it's tough."

The Lakeport/Clear Lake area won't see a breath of wind today, so, with continued gin-clear visibility and slow-to-warm morning waters, the lake's pre-spawn largemouth will likely be slightly sluggish and spooky in the morning. They may react well to a slow-moving swimbait, but if that doesn't happen, most of the field is prepared to throttle down with finesse baits to coax a five-fish limit out of the super-clear water.

"I'm not sure this tournament is going to be won on a swimbait," said Lousiana pro Greg Hackney, who sits in 39th with 16-9.

As he said that, though, he smiled and glanced over his shoulder at the big amorphous brown blob of a bait laying on his deck: "I DO have one on today, though, so I have a swimbait rod and the whole 9 yards."

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