September 21, 2009 by David A. Brown
STOCKTON, Calif. - Talk about sandbagging. San Jose State's Eric Andersen executed a highlight-reel "gotcha" at weigh-in en route to sealing the wire-to-wire victory along with partner Glen Wyatt in the National Guard FLW College Fishing Western Regional Championship on the California Delta.
Here's the scene: Sacramento State's Christopher Wong and Alec Brassington, who trailed the lead by about a pound going into day three, sat in the hot seat with a leading weight of 34-7. Wyatt had dropped three keepers into the tank and Andersen followed with a pair of his own. A few moments of dramatic commentary ensued, but just before San Jose State's weight was officially locked in, Andersen indicated that he had a surprise.
A 5-pound surprise with a mossy-green back and a big mouth.
With that fish, San Jose State surged ahead to seal the deal with a day-three catch of 11 pounds, 9 ounces and a tournament total of 37-10. Topping the field by a 3-pound, 3-ounce margin, Andersen of San Jose, Calif., and Wyatt of Vallejo, Calif., completed their three-day ride atop the standings. For their efforts, they earned $25,000 for their university and a 177TR Ranger boat wrapped in their school colors and powered by an Evinrude or Yamaha outboard engine.
Asked if the pressure of leading the event since day one affected his team's performance, Wyatt said: "No pressure - you just relax and go fishing. It's just another day on the job."
Here's how they got the job done. On day one, the anglers fished in partly cloudy conditions, caught plenty of fish and grabbed their early lead with a six-fish limit weighing 14 pounds, 13 ounces. The next day, clear skies and hotter conditions made for a tough bite, and they bagged five bass for 11-4. A mix of topwater plugs, finesse worms and ChatterbBait-type lures delivered on the first two days.
Wyatt described day three as "a carbon copy of day two, but a little more dramatic, I might say." After Zara Spooks and ChatterBaits failed to produce, both anglers fished wacky-rigged finesse worms under bridges and in other shady areas all day.
"When the big-fish patterns weren't working out, we just went back to the basics," Wyatt said. "We have a saying: `You dance with the girl that brought you to the dance.'"
Andersen noted: "The key was fishing it really slow. I wasn't even moving the worm (when the big fish bit). I cast out, actually set my rod down for a second, pick it back up and shake it and boom - fish on."
Andersen's show-stopper came around 1:30 on the last spot they fished. "We decided that we were going to live or die there. We had a small limit; actually I had two that just made the (12-inch minimum). Glen had one nice fish, and I had one decent one, but looking back, we wouldn't have won without that fish.
"I had a feeling we were in a good spot (with that fish), but I didn't know for sure. I know the other guys fish well, and I figured everyone else would have a limit. It would just come down to who got that kicker."
Brassington and Wong hold on to second
It's been said that time and tides wait for no one. Well, both forces seemed bent on ruining the day for Brassington and Wong, who ended up maintaining the second-place spot that they established on day two. In a nutshell, the anglers had found dependable patterns for high-incoming and low-incoming water. This morning's high topped off around 9 a.m., with a falling tide lasting most of the fishing day. The next incoming cycle would start moving less than an hour before Brassington and Wong had to leave for the afternoon check-in.
"First thing this morning, we tried (flipping) Senkos, and just like I predicted, the bite was on," Wong said. "The first five minutes, we got three fish. They were so aggressive they were hitting it on the surface. But after five minutes, it was dead. We needed another hour in the morning. If we were there an hour earlier, we would have killed them."
When the Senko bite died, the Sac State anglers fished Zara Spooks and lipless crankbaits. The latter met with great response - just not the fish they wanted. "We caught tons of fish all day cranking - all 8- to 10-inchers."
Brassington and Wong spent the rest of their day flipping Texas-rigged Zoom Brush Hogs and Reaction Innovations Sweet Beavers in heavy cover.
"We got our last three fish in the last half-hour," Wong said. "If we had had another hour and a half, I think we could have loaded the boat and maybe even culled some."
Fortunately, the anglers managed four good fish that went 9 pounds, 7 ounces. Combined with their 12-6 and 12-10 from days one and two, their final-round score gave them a tournament total of 34-7 and earned a $25,000 prize, split evenly between their school and their bass club.
Fresno State improves to third
After making a big move from 12th place to fourth on day two, Kong Moua and Sark Davidian of Fresno State gained another spot in the final round to finish in third with 32 pounds, 6 ounces. Apparently, Davidian hadn't had enough of the late-day stress, because he once again pulled out a big one right at the buzzer.
Yesterday, Davidian nailed a 5-pounder with about 15 minutes left to fish. Today, he repeated the drama with one that went about 3 1/2. Notably, he caught his kicker on the same type of bait and in the same scenario as his big fish from day two. Both days, he caught his last-minute kicker under floating hyacinth near a bridge, and both days he used a drop-shots with Roboworms. On day two, he used a Baby Bass worm and he went with a "Margarita Mutilator" color on day three.
"We were cutting it close today," Davidian noted. "We had five fish in the boat with about 15 minutes until we had to head back. The tension on that boat couldn't have been any higher. With the pressure I was putting on myself, I didn't want to let my teammate down, and I didn't want to let Fresno State down.
Fate nearly rained on the team's parade when a tackle tray with all of Davidian's worms flew out of the boat during the ride home yesterday. Fortunately, Moua had enough baits to supply his partner.
The Fresno State team caught 8 pounds, 8 ounces on day one and had the event's second-heaviest bag - 13-15 - on day two. Their final-round limit weighed 9-15.
Richards and Frazier move the Big O into fourth
Ross Richards and Reed Frazier of the University of Oregon fished boat docks in Discovery Bay and caught their six-fish limit. With a day-three weight of 10 pounds, 3 ounces added to their 11-14 from day one and 9-3 from day two, the Big O teammates moved up one notch to fourth with 31-4.
Fishing drop-shots with Roboworms, the anglers targeted the shade pockets at the backs of docks and secured their limits by 9 a.m. Twelve-pound fluorocarbon line helped them handle fish around the abrasive dock environment.
"We lost some yesterday, but not today - we got them all in," Richards said.
As Frazier explained, the day's tide schedule benefited his team's performance. "The tide was high around 9 a.m., and then it started going out. Those fish were way back in behind the docks in 3 to 5 feet of water when the tide is high, so we knew exactly where they were all morning. When the tide went out, they moved out to about 10 feet of water."
Arizona State's Jarrell and Walker stumble, take fifth
Having made the top-five cut in third place, Arizona State's Mark Walker and Joseph Jarrell dropped to fifth in the final round. Walker got a limit that weighed 6-15, but Jarrell couldn't find a keeper. With 13-11 on day one and 9 pounds on day two, they tallied 29-10 for the event.
Targeting bridges, Walker caught his fish on drop-shots with Roboworms in the "Margarita Mutilator" color. The anglers fished bridges in 7 to 10 feet of water and found water temperatures ranging from 76 to 80 degrees.
"The bigger fish were in the warmer water," Walker said. "I wish we would have known that earlier."