WON Clear Lake Pro/Am
Wednesday afternoon I headed up to Clear Lake for the WON Bass Pro/Am. Mark (SWMB8R) very graciously lent me his Basscat to fish the event. As exciting as it might have been to fish in my 15' jon boat, WON rules don't permit it ... and Clear Lake is kind of big :)
So off I went, and 50 miles later I had a flat tire by King City. Kind of had to laugh at that one. 3 hours and a new tire later I was back in action, arriving at State Park by 11:30pm. Crashed out. Woke up before sunrise Thursday and went to Konocti Harbor to launch. Turned out I couldn't get a quagga mussel inspection until 9am so I went to Tackle It in Lakeport and finally got on the water back at Konocti by 8:30am.
The first day of practice went well. There was a cold north wind in the morning which laid down to calm conditions by afternoon. I put an 8lber in the boat first thing and shook off two fish that were 6-7lbs on swimbaits. I was doing some testing with the new 7'11" telescoping Okuma swimbait rod. It felt good - watch for this one. Went looking in the afternoon and caught a couple cruising fish, seeing just a handful of males on beds.
Friday I explored new places (to me) on Clear Lake. It was hot and calm. Fishing was really tough for me. I tried a variety of techniques for no bites. I did scope out a dozen or so males that were up on beds and looking more catchable, but no females. Most people seemed to think fishing was going to be tough.
Tournament day came Saturday. My AAA was Patrick Mateo. This was his first tournament. I figured we made a good team since this was my first Pro/Am. Patrick had a good positive attitude. I told him we would swimbait and sight fish as needed.
I was surprised to get on my first spot in the morning, and we got some good casts on it. Then a boat pulled up and the guy moved right on top of what I was casting to. That's tournament fishing. He caught two small ones. We moved around to the outside and Patrick put a keeper in the boat. Good feeling to get that first fish.
We changed areas and I had a hit on a swimbait but it seemed small. I pointed and told Patrick to cast right on the spot. The fish ate instantly and we had another 2lber in the boat. Cool. I had some nice follows, and one 10lber that came up and half-way nipped the tail of my bait but didn't eat. The sun came up and it got HOT.
So off we went to sight fishing land. More bass had moved up overnight and I proceeded catching them on finesse junk with 10lb test. This was the program for the rest of the day, catching males that were spawning and cruising. I did around a dozen fish like this, culling up to a bag of fish that were all around 3lbs. I did jump off one 4lber but it was on the light line over the top of a tully berm so there was not much that could have been done. We weighed in 15.23lbs and sat in 44th place.
I was surprised at the low weights, but pleased to see that I was at least in striking distance of a check. I had no real plan for day 2 other than to stick with my strengths in swimbait and sight fishing and see what the conditions held.
My draw for day 2 was Robert (Jerry) Graff. Jerry has done this for a while and told me to just go and do my thing and not worry about him. We started with swimbait stuff, and again I had the followers up to 10lbs but I sensed it was not right and that I was not going to be putting any of these bass in the livewell.
We went to my sight fish water and immediately started getting fish, putting 5 in the boat by around 8:30am. I was stunned to see some of the 3lb males that I had seen on Thursday were still there and had not been caught despite boats being all around. I guess people were not fishing for them. Around 11am I decided it was time to gamble and ran to all new water.
Fortunately I found good clarity up to 12 feet, and right away started to see some females on beds (finally). Located 3 fish that were 6-9lbs but none were catchable. We moved often and continued to cull. I put a 5lb male in the boat, along with some mid 3lb type fish. In the afternoon I went back to one of the 6's that looked good. A boat was right on it, but amazingly they moved off and left. I pulled in, worked the fish, and caught it on a 5" Big Hammer. It was a bit over 6lbs. That was a nice cull.
We had some sketchy moments at the end of the day because I had accidentally kicked on the freshwater in pump with my foot and ran down the cranking battery. Jerry knew boats (thank goodness) and re-wired it so we could get it going. We thought it was cool but had a little more trouble right before heading in. We were 15 miles from the ramp and I was getting nervous with a nice limit in the boat!
I hailed a guy who was fishing nearby. He and Jerry talked it over and got it working. Stoked. Thanks Sean Minderman wherever you are. I put the hammer down and we made it back in time, weighing in 19.70lbs. I finished in 23rd place and took a small check. My day one AAA Patrick drew Wayne Breazeale on day two and they had 30lbs. He wound up winning on the AAA side :) Very cool.
There was a lot of learning going on for me during these 4 days. I learned how to handle the boat, change a tire on a tandem axle trailer, re-wire a cranking battery, and about 20 other things that will be invaluable later on. Being used to my little boat, it was exhilarating to be able to move around the lake at high speeds and really change gears during the day.
I was also fortunate to have great AAA draws both days who put up with all of my sight fishing and really encouraged and supported me. Jerry held the boat for me while I caught the 6lber on day 2, and he put a nice 3lber in the boat by blind casting a nearby bed while I worked a different fish. I'm also fortunate to have a friend like Mark who was willing to lend his boat to a guy who has only driven a bass boat a handful of times before. I owe you one bud.
It'll be a while still before I get a bass boat, but I'll be back on the Pro/Am scene when the time comes. It was fun, challenging, and exciting.