April 28, 2007 by Jeff Schroeder
KELSEYVILLE, Calif. - Stren Series Western Division anglers caught more than 8 1/2 tons of bass at Clear Lake this week, but when all was said and done, the exhilarating outcome was decided by a measly 4 ounces.
Western Division pro points leader Michael Tuck wowed fishing fans Saturday by catching his second 30-pound-plus limit of the week in the final round, but Jared Stone upended his first victory bid by snagging just enough weight to hold on to first place.
The final tally? Stone: 99 pounds, 14 ounces, Tuck: 99-10.
While all 20 pros and co-anglers caught five-bass limits Saturday at this phenomenal fishery, it was Tuck who owned the final round. His limit weighed in at exactly 30 pounds, 15 ounces - the 22nd-heaviest limit in FLW Outdoors history and his second top-25 record weight of the week - and was anchored by a massive, 10-12 kicker largemouth that ranked as the second-heaviest fish caught at this monster tournament.
Only three pros failed to catch more than 20 pounds Saturday, and one of those, compellingly, was day-three leader Stone. He laid up on day four with 18-15 - the second-lightest pro weight in the finals - but it was ultimately just barely enough.
Even Stone had a hard time soaking it all in.
"I feel bad for him. He's an outstanding angler and deserves all the success he's had," Stone said of Tuck, in disbelief. "But man, to come in with 30 pounds and not win - that's unbelievable."
Unbelievable? Yes, but that was just par for the course at the freak show otherwise known as the 2007 Clear Lake Stren Series.
Rookie - but local - Stone capitalizes on prime opportunity
Stone, who hails from Lakeport, Calif., on the north end of Clear Lake, has never fished an FLW Outdoors event before this week.
In fact, he said, "I signed up for this tournament Monday morning. I'd been on some good fish for about three weeks, and the FLW's the biggest thing to come to Clear Lake, so I figured I'd better get in on it."
Wise decision. Not only did he clear $25,000 and a new Ranger boat for winning the third Western Division event of the year, he etched his name into the record books. His 99-pound, 14-ounce total is now the fourth-heaviest total tournament weight in FLW Outdoors history, and the 31-15 limit he caught Friday ranks 15th of all time.
And really, it was that 15th-ranked weight that won this thing for Stone. By catching that 31-15 Friday - the heaviest limit of the tournament - he knocked Tuck's first big weight of the week, 31-11 on Thursday, down a peg to 16th place of all time.
Notice the difference between those two epic stringers: 4 ounces.
This was a week about numbers, and by his own admission, Stone's were bad on Saturday.
"I had a horrible day today," he said. "My fish were changing, and I didn't make the proper adjustments. I probably lost five fish today, including two really good ones. Probably three of them would have helped me out even more."
The first three days, Stone said he caught all of his fish on a 7-inch Osprey swimbait, targeting deeper water around docks where bass were relating to spawning areas. He didn't focus on a single area, saying that he "moved all around the lake."
However, as the weather warmed up each day and turned downright summery by the end of the week - it was 87 degrees and sunny Saturday afternoon - the big mothers moved up shallow, and things got tougher for Stone.
"Like I said yesterday, it's been getting tougher and tougher on me every day," he said. "Today I started with the swimbait and fished it for about four hours. I didn't have a limit until about 11 o'clock, and my co-angler (Kyle Clement) was drop-shotting and catching all kinds of fish behind me. So I had to go sight-fishing, and they just didn't bite as well. I just didn't have a big bite today, but if I would have kept throwing the swimbait, I wouldn't even have had 18 pounds."
Stone sight-fished using a drop-shot with a 6-inch warmouth-colored Roboworm on 8-pound-test to squeak out his (small!) 18-pound, 15-ounce limit, but said dirty water hampered his bed-fishing. His biggest keeper Saturday weighed about 4 ¾ pounds, but he took it any way he could.
"They say, `When it's meant to happen, it's meant to happen,'" he said. "I gave it everything I had, and I guess it paid off. It is incredible. I can't believe it."
Tuck zinged again
This is the second time in as many years that Tuck has played the bridesmaid at the Clear Lake Stren Series. Last year he was upstaged by some last-minute heroics from eventual winner Jimmy Reese. This year, Stone had his number.
"It burns," he said, obviously disappointed. "Man, what do I have to do?"
By catching two sacks over 30 pounds in four days, including his 10-12 kicker in the finals - his second-heaviest career tournament fish - he did just about everything he could do. If not for his slow start, a 16-7 limit Wednesday, Tuck would have won in a romp.
Tuck took more away from this event, however, than just learning how to swallow a bitter pill - again.
First, he discovered the Huddleston swimbait, which, he said, fellow pro Jason Borofka tipped him off to prior to the tournament. He waited until Saturday's sunshine rolled around to put down the swimbait and light up the sight beds with a 6-inch Roboworm on a drop-shot. That's how he caught his big fish.
"The first three days, I was throwing a Huddleston swimbait, and I've never caught a fish on it until three days ago," Tuck said. "Man, that thing is awesome."
Second, with an all-time record of 17,234 pounds, 11 ounces of fish weighed in this tournament by the entire field - which broke the Lake Amistad Stren mark by more than 4,000 pounds - not to mention his own two big limits, Tuck recognized the significance of this week and this bass fishery.
"I love this lake. It's the best lake in the world, bar none," he said. "I hear that Amistad's good, but you guys can have it."
Third, and perhaps most importantly, the pro from Antelope, Calif., took one step closer to clinching his first points title. Tuck has been dominant three tournaments into the Western Division season - two top-five finishes and a 12th - and now leads Gene Gray 586 points to 571.
"What a beautiful day and a wonderful setting," he said. "I'm just honored to be here."
Tuck earned $9,481 for second place.
Davis no slouch himself, takes third in tournament, points
Perhaps the most consistent pro this week was Jim Davis of San Jose, Calif., who caught limits between 21 and 26 pounds all four days. His 26-5 limit Saturday was his heaviest of the week, and he earned $8,534 for third place with a four-day weight of 94-14.
"This fishery's just on fire right now," he said. "I threw a lot of swimbaits, a lot of reaction baits. If they didn't bite on the swimbait, I'd back off and go back to get them with finesse baits."
Davis moved into a tie with Reese for third place in the Western Division pro standings with 555 points.
Breazeale pounds 27-2, takes fourth
Wayne Breazeale of Kelseyville, Calif., amassed his second heavy stringer in a row - 27 pounds, 2 ounces - and finished fourth with a four-day total of 94-0. He earned $7,585.
"I love this lake," said the local pro. "I ripped my fish most of the week, and I caught that 9(-pounder) yesterday at about 2 o'clock. That's what got me here. Today, I threw this (chartreuse) Roboworm crawdad thing. I don't know what it's called, but it works."
Borofka slides to fifth
In second place heading into the day, Salinas, California's Borofka caught 20 pounds, 12 ounces Saturday and finished fifth with a four-day weight of 93-4. He took home $6,637.
"I was throwing a 9-inch Osprey swimbait," he said. "I only caught three big fish on it in the tournament, but it was awesome. You could go up to some docks and have 30 fish over 5 pounds come up to it."
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 Pro Division finishers at Clear Lake, based on four-day combined weight:
6th: Brian Nollar of Homer, Alaska, 92-12, $5,688
7th: Cody Meyer of Grass Valley, Calif., 91-11, $5,215
8th: Jeff Billings of Clearlake, Calif., 90-15, $4,741
9th: Gino Campiotti of Manteca, Calif., 89-4, $4,266 (day-two leader)
10th: Roy Hawk of Salt Lake City, 84-9, $3,793
Meyer also caught a big kicker Saturday. His 10-pound, 10-ounce largemouth was his personal best tournament fish and tied for third-heaviest of this tournament.
For the record
In addition to all the one-day and total tournament weight records set this week at Clear Lake, four of the top five pro finishers caught four-day weights that rank in the FLW Outdoors top 10 of all time: Stone (99-14, fourth), Tuck (99-10, fifth), Davis (94-14, sixth) and Breazeale (94-0, eighth). Three more Clear Lake finalists made the top 15: Borofka (93-4, 11th), Nollar (92-12, 12th) and Meyer (91-11, 13th).
The next Stren Series event is a Central Division contest at Kentucky Lake near Benton, Ky., May 2-5.
The next Western Division tournament is the fourth and final event of the season. It will be held at the California Delta near Oakley, Calif., May 16-19.