May 30, 2009 by David A. Brown
OAKLEY, Calif. - Ish Monroe wanted vindication and he got it in grand form with his wire-to-wire victory at the Stren Series Western Division season-ender on the California Delta.
Two weeks earlier, the Hughson, Calif. pro finished second by a margin of 4 ounces at the Western Division event in Oroville, Calif. after one of his bass spit up a 6-inch gopher in the livewell. Going into the final round of delta action, Monroe held an 11-pound lead over Rob Wenning, but he refused to assume he had the tournament locked up. On the delta, he noted, fortunes can rise and fall quickly so his final round had to be a strong one.
File that one under "Mission accomplished." When Monroe brought his bag to the scale, Tournament Director Chris Hoover announced that he needed 5 pounds, 4 ounces to overtake then-leader Stephen Tosh Jr. Monroe's first fish nearly filled that bill and adding a second big bass had the crowd cheering for what was clearly a runaway victory. The next three were gravy.
"This is great!" Monroe said. "I told myself that if I win, I want to win big, so there's no losing by 4 ounces."
By the numbers, Monroe caught a day one limit weighing 21 pounds and topped the field by a pound and one ounce. He added 27-9 on day two and blew open the double-digit margin. Day three saw his only limit under 20 pounds - this one a 17-7 effort that brought his 3-day total to 66 pounds. The victory earned Monroe a new Ranger boat, motor and trailer package.
Fishing the central delta region, Monroe targeted shallow edges with rocks and matted weeds. He flipped a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver Texas-rigged with a 1 1/2-ounce Tru-Tungsten weight and cast his new signature series Phat Frog, made by Snag Proof. He also caught fish on a Revenge buzzbait.
Tosh punches his way into second
Second place pro Stephen Tosh Jr. of Modesto, Calif. was so impressed with the mat punching tactics he learned while visiting Florida lakes that he invented an accessory to facilitate the technique in his Golden State home waters. Through his Paycheck Baits company, Tosh makes the Punch Skirt - a hand-tied skirt rigged to a durable beach, which slides onto the line between the hook and weight. The accessory shields a Texas-rigged bait as it enters and exits dense, often slimy vegetation.
"Jigs don't fish well around a lot of the aquatic vegetation that we have in the delta, so invented the Punch Skirt so I could pitch a bulkier bait in that slimy grass and be able to pull it out clean every time so I didn't have to stop and pull the grass off my line."
Spending the entire tournament in a 200-yard area of White Slough, Tosh used the Punch Skirt in conjunction with a 1 1/2-ounce flipping weight and a Sweet Beaver in the sprayed grass color. Tosh said targeting mats of a specific makeup was essential. His ideal scenario found mats with grassy perimeters. This setup allowed bass to stage on the outer vegetation during low tide and then move under mats of hydrilla and/or pennywort on high tide.
"I tried to keep my trolling motor in the water as much as possible and make as many flips to the same mat," Tosh said. "That was hard because I was fishing the same pieces of cover over and over for three days. I had to manipulate them with when I showed up, what tide stage I fished and how many presentations I made to each specific piece of cover."
Tosh added 16-7 to the 18-13 and 18-8 he caught the first two days for a total of 53-12.
Rossetti rises to third
Finishing just seven ounces behind Tosh, Lorenzo Rossetti of Stockton, Calif. added a limit of 16 pounds, 5 ounces to his first two scores of 18-13 and 18-3 for a total of 53-5. He caught all of his fish on Snag Proof frogs in the cicada color and a black Revenge buzzbait.
Fishing the east delta, Rossetti targeted shady pockets within sparse tules in 4-5 feet of water. He stuck with a 75-yard stretch of shoreline for three days.
"I was catching a lot of fish, a lot of smaller ones, but I caught a 6-plus pounder each day," Rossetti said. "I think with the wind and the incoming tide, more fish just kept moving in and the spot kept replenishing itself and they just kept biting."
Wenning slips to fourth
After holding the second place spot on days one and two, Rob Wenning of Sparks, Nev. dropped two notches to fourth. He caught limits weighing 19-15 on day one and 17-10 on day two. He missed his limit by one in the final round and posted 13 pounds, 5 ounces.
Wenning started his day by running north, instead of fishing south as he had the previous two days. The day's windy conditions nullified that attempt, so he returned to his southern waters, having lost valuable fishing time. Once he got back on his fish, Wenning threw watermelon Senkos and black Snag Proof frogs.
Minderman moves up to fifth
Sean Minderman of Spokane, Wa. entered the final round in seventh place. He added 13-15 and improved his position by two spots with a total of 49-7. Fishing tight to cover, he flipped Sweet Beavers and threw Texas-rigged Senkos. His limit catch included a kicker of approximately seven pounds.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 pro leaders at the Stren Series California Delta event:
6th: John Billheimer Jr., Discovery Bay, Calif., 47-10
7th: Tommy Cardoza of Lakeport, Calif., 46-3
8th: Jason Borofka of Salina, Calif., 44-12
9th: Isaac Budesilich of Oakley, Calif., 41-0
9th: Brandon Burruss of Discovery Bay, Calif., 35-15