May 17, 2008 by David A. Brown
OAKLEY, Calif. - In final-round weigh-ins, anglers typically build drama by weighing their catch from smallest to largest. So, when Kyle Porter started his show-stealing performance with a 4-pounder, he red-lined the drama meter and raced to the finish line at the Stren Series event on the California Delta.
In the final Western Division event of 2008, the Acampo, Calif., pro capped a highly competitive campaign with his heaviest stringer of the contest. After placing second on day one with 28-7, Porter dropped to sixth on day two, moved back into third on day three and then rocked the final-round weigh-in crowd with a whopping 31-pound, 7-ounce stringer - the event's second largest (behind Mike Andrews' 36-3 on day one) - that pushed his aggregate weight to 100 pounds, 8 ounces. The victory earned Porter $25,000.
"It's been an unbelievable tournament," Porter said. "I came into this tournament not really feeling that I could win, but I knew I could get a limit each day. I just got lucky, and that's how fishing goes."
Targeting mostly tule points and flooded timber, Porter's primary weapon was a 5/8-ounce red-black jig with a June bug-colored Zoom Chunk pork trailer, but he also caught a keeper on a frog bait when that bite turned on for an hour in the afternoon. Recalling the frenetic action, Porter said: "I fish the Delta a lot, and you have bad days and you have super, crazy days - this was one of those days."
The tournament opened with clouds, wind and moderate temperatures, but that picture quickly morphed into one of clear skies and brutal heat as high as 102 degrees. The final round saw wind returning late in the day, but the heat wave combined with predictable tournament-level fishing pressure pushed the fish around and required a lot of looking.
"It does help to know a lot of areas on the Delta," Porter said. "I spent $75 a day in gas the last two days, running spot to spot, but it paid off."
Porter said that belief in his plan was the key to his success. Although a frog yielded one of his biggest fish, he stayed true to the jig that has delivered several years of productivity. "It was the confidence to keep that bait in my hands and not change."
Zipton's consistency leads to second
Discovery Bay, Calif., pro Jeremy Zipton turned in the Pro Division's most consistent performance, but Porter's huge day put the top spot out of reach. Nevertheless, his final-round score of 22 pounds, 4 ounces gave him a 96-pound total.
For the majority of the tournament, Zipton pitched wacky-rigged green-pumpkin Senkos into tules, but he also caught two of his final-round fish on a crankbait. His largest fish, an estimated 7-pounder, ate a crankbait 25 minutes before he had to return.
An accomplished local club angler, Zipton was competing in his first Stren Series tournament. Consistency, he said, hinges on persistence. "It's just plugging away and sticking with what I know. I just went out today and stuck to my milk run. It worked so far, so why change if it's not broken?"
Looking back, Zipton said his only regret was something beyond his control. "In the whole tournament, I never had a big bite. Out here, 6-, 7- and 8-pounders are big bites, but they're not big enough."
Raza raises his position to third
Delta veteran Chris Raza of Roseville, Calif., flipped a blue jig with a Double Wide Beaver all day and gathered 22 pounds, 2 ounces for a total of 86-0. His final round work moved him up from seventh.
Integral to Raza's presentation was proximity. He'd sit right over his flipping spot and practically drop his jig right on the fish's head. Not only does this maximize the reaction effect, it keeps the game at a manageable range.
"When I'm flipping, I like to be close," he said. "If I get a big one, either he's going to work me or I'm going to work him. The closer the better for me."
Wacky chatter keeps Venkus in fourth
Timothy Venkus of Wilton, Calif., fished a wacky-rigged green-purple-flake Senko and the original ChatterBait - modified with a colored blade and a trailer - around tules and reeled in 18 pounds, 11 ounces for a fourth-place total of 85-9.
Although two small fish drug down his weight, Venkus' final-round catch included a kicker weighing 10-plus pounds - his second double-digit bass in as many days. He credits divine intervention: "The key was that God was on my shoulders. I've never fished this well before."
Teen tackles tops pros, takes fifth
Eighteen-year-old pro Hunter Schlander of Modesto, Calif., has idolized many of the pros he fished against, but he showed no mercy in sacking up a nice limit weighing 19-3. His total of 85 pounds, 8 ounces earned him fifth place. Notably, Schlander finished just an ounce behind fourth and two ahead of sixth.
Schlander fished a brown-and-purple jig around rocks with sparse tules in 3 to 4 feet. After placing seventh on day one, the high school senior move up two spots on day two and remained in fifth for the remainder of the tournament.
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top 10 pro leaders at the Stren Series California Delta event:
6th: Zack Thompson, Orinda, Calif., 85-6
7th: Beau Joudrey, Oakley, Calif., 79-10
8th: Sean Stafford, Fairfield, Calif. 78-1
9th: Jeff Michels, Lakehead, Calif., 77-10
10th: Mike Andrews, Oakley, Calif., 75-4
Western Division AOY
Robert Lee of Angels Camp, Calif., parlayed a strong performance on the Cal Delta this week into an Angler of the Year award in the Pro Division of the Stren Series Western Division. His season total of 717 points edged out runner-up Cody Meyer, who ended the year with 715.
Lee started out the season with amazing third-place finishes in back-to-back events on lakes Shasta and Havasu; he placed 61st at Clear Lake; and his 20th-place Cal Delta finish sealed the deal.
In the last three years of fishing full seasons of the Stren Western schedule, Lee has won AOY, ranked third and 10th in the points.