HBC - The Report
My day started at 2:48am Friday morning. My alarm was set for 2:50 but for some reason I had a dream where I heard a doorbell and woke up out of a dead sleep. I guess my brain knew it was just about time to get up and go fish! The drive to the lake kept me on my toes with heavy rain squalls and two rock slides to dodge on 33.
I got checked in and found CV. Took some time to chat it up with old friends and acquaintances. My observer for the day was John Wheat, a local fisherman. CV ate 4 eggs with toast while we bs'd and waited for the rules meeting :)
The sound of the rain on the metal roof of the bait shop during the meeting was like an ominous drum roll. I think it was Lake Casitas' way of saying - if you want these big bass, you're going to have to earn them. Ken Huddleston gave a heart felt speech about his dream for the event, which was met with a warm round of applause.
I was boat 8 out. I told Urban we should have a race, but I think he had me beat with his 25hp motor. If there was a prize for smallest boat in the field, I'm sure I would have won. I had a spot that I was very much hoping to get on in the morning, and felt I had decent odds being boat 8. I knew the first 10 minutes of the tournament would be critical (as they later turned out to be).
When I pulled up, someone was on it - pretty sure it was Butch. I expected that the good spots would all be covered up immediately in this tournament, and frankly I was not disappointed. The talent in the field was so great that people were all over the good areas all day. I hung on a nearby spot and waited. The spot cleared out and before I could move over to it, another boat pulled up and hit it perfectly again.
About this time the wind kicked up. For the rest of the day we would have 10-30mph winds, with rain squalls tearing across the lake. It's really something when you can hear a squall coming before it hits :) I battled it out, fishing deep with the stocker trout and 10" mattlures and up shallow with slammer and triple trout. My key spots were all covered up by other guys, but I got my shots in when the spots opened up. I also spent a lot of time in the brush looking for the random 5-8lb bite.
John was great, encouraging and professional. I know it as killing him to be on the water and not able to fish, or help me out. My boat is very wet in the chop, and we got thrashed pretty good coming across the open fetches of the lake. He never complained.
My battery is going on 2+ years and needs replacement but it wasn't the in the budget. Nonetheless, the Trojan SCS-225 held out until noon before dying. I went to my backup 12v graph battery to keep me going until the last cast. I couldn't hold on the open lake, but I was able to fish a lot of good water during the day.
In the end I never got bit, bumped, or followed. I did spend about 20 minutes with a 7" senko, but it as 95% swimbait for me. I won't be able to fish the July 11 Clear Lake event, so there was no point in trying to catch a small one for qualifying purposes.
Looking back at the day, I have no regrets. I cycled through the key areas as often as I could, fishing percentage baits on the key casts. I didn't cave and go hide out of the wind, or panic and start jumping random points. A new battery might have helped some, but overall my gear held up and the boat did the best it could for a 15 footer in tough condition.
At the end of the day I hung out and talked it up with more old friends and acquaintances. I kept trying to leave, and then kept running in to more people I wanted to talk to lol. Getting to see everyone really took the edge off a tough day of fishing. On the drive home I talked to Lake, Mark Rogers, Nico, and Matt Peters. It took 3 hours and 45 minutes to get to Atascadero, with horrible traffic by Gaviota, but Matt kept me awake and driving between the lines. Thanks bro.
I would rate the event as a big success. For trophy guys, for the organizers, and for the sport in general. The observers in particular deserve a huge thanks for adding legitimacy to the event and ensuring fairness. This tournament felt a lot more like an FLW Pro-Am than a team tournament as far as the overall quality of the competition and feel of excitement in the air. I, for one, will be be back.
All photos by John Wheat
Ron Cervenka addressing the anglers
Checking the boat, Don Moorman left and Leroy right
Last Day of HBC Practice
I took the boat down at the last minute Sunday to Casitas. I've been sick and wasn't sure if I would make it. The lot was crowded, I stopped counting at 60 trailers in the main lot and there were at least 20 more over at the Coyote ramp. ABA tournament and just a lot of people fishing.
Water was dingier than a few weeks ago. 3-6 foot visibility with a lot of "stuff" in the water. Green color. Temps were 57-58 degrees, occasionally 58.5 in the afternoon. I made my first cast at 10am, the conditions were flat calm with clear skies. Breeze came up around 10:45am and it was around 5mph winds for the rest of the day.
10 minutes in to the day I got cracked by a 5lber on on the 9" MS Slammer. I wasn't watching the lure but turned in time to watch the fish twist and come off. That was a decent start. I mixed it up moving shallow to deep and trying to locate any kind of pattern or concentration.
During the rest of the day I had two follows and saw one other fish. One follow on the Slammer was about 12lbs. The other one was on Triple Trout and would have gone 7 or so. The only fish I actually eyeballed up shallow was about 10, it was just cruising.
No shad are up now. There's birds around the lake but they don't look like they are really on anything. I could see the shad coming up or down any time but with rain now and more rain forecast it will not be obvious where the bait is visually.
My prediction for the tournament is that a 9lber will take it. 6lber will get you top 5. Half the field will blank give or take. It will depend how many guys bring spinning rods to just get bit and catch a fish. My gear is already rigged for Friday. 6 swimbait rods that go like this:
Okuma 7'11"XH - CTE400 - 25 Triple Fish - 10" Stocker Trout
Rainshadow SW967 - CTE400 - 25 Triple Fish - 10" Triple Trout
Okuma 7'11"H - CTE 300 - 25 Triple Fish - 9" MS Slammer
Calstar 900L - Calcutta 400 - 25 Triple Fish - 10" Mattlures Trout (proto)
Whitmer Downwrap XXXH - Curado 300 - 50 Bully Braid - Lunker Punker
Rainshadow SW967 - CTE400 - 25 Triple Fish - Rago Live Trout Softbait
That's the deal. My expectation is for 1-3 bites on the day. If one of them sticks and goes in the net, I'll be happy. Winning will all come down to whether it's the right bite or not.
Casitas - lake lockjaw
The plan was to go to Silverwood. The forecast was for 25 degrees and 40mph winds. We said funk all that, woke up at 4am and went to Casitas.
Casitas was post front but nice weather. Only 37 in the morning, and not much wind at all. They planted 2900lbs of trout a few days earlier. The quagga mussel inspection was much more relaxed here. The guy at the gate pretty much told us that the other gate guys were jerks and he was going to let us through even though the boat was wet - which I hinted was because of the RAIN. But hey...
Water temps were 60 degrees. Water was the clearest I have seen at Casitas overall. It was a good 10-12 feet on most of the lake. Fishing was the worst of the entire trip. We did a lot of regular fishing even. We never saw a bass up shallow and never had a single follower. We cast and trolled and c-rigged and drop shotted. It was laughably bad.
In the marina there were shad under the docks. The water there was green, which explained the shad. Guys on the docks were netting shad and catching bass. Saw 3 fish caught including a 7lber.
I caught a ROF12 hudd and a 9" stocker trout while trolling. Nico caught a sweet push button reel combo casting. We got skunked as far as catching actual live bass went, so we packed up and drove to Atascadero.