May 7, 2011 by David A. Brown
STOCKTON, Calif. -Sean Minderman learned to read between the lines - the lines separating tules from outer grass beds - en route to winning the EverStart Western Division event on the Cal Delta.
Like most, Minderman fished the Delta's abundant shoreline vegetation. However, there was a particular configuration that proved most productive for him.
"There are tules on the bank, and then you have weeds," Minderman said. "If you have a space between the two - that's what you're looking for. The males will move into those areas and make the nests, and then the females will move into those areas to feed or spawn."
The Spokane, Wash., pro entered the day in second place, just under 2 pounds off the lead.
He began his campaign with a day-one weight of 22-14 that put him in ninth place. On day two, he sacked up 24-8 and climbed to second. Today, he added 20-15 - the day's second largest catch - and tallied a three-day total of 68-5.
Minderman varied his baits throughout the event. On day one, he fished an unweighted Texas-rigged Senko, switched to flipping a Sweet Beaver on day two and threw the Senko and a drop-shot with an ox-blood Roboworm today.
In a field marked with some of the Delta's top sticks, it was Minderman's consistency that clearly made the difference. He was the event's only angler to break 20 pounds on all three days. His catches included two legitimate toads - a 9-3 on day one and a 10-15 the next day.
"I don't even know how to explain this," Minderman said. "It was just like there was a light shining on me all week. With that (10-15), I was looking up there and thinking, `There's a 6-pounder.' Then, all of a sudden I hook it and as it's swimming out of there; it looks like a beaver."
With the Delta's tidal fluctuations compounding the basics of daylight and wind dynamics, locating giant fish that are ready to go defines great fortune.
"Catching a fish like that, it's about showing up where that fish has moved up. They are not up for very long. They'll move up for maybe an hour or two, and then they'll move off. Being there at the right time when they're there, that's half the battle. It's a matter of finding those key areas and then trying to understand when they'll move up and when the tide will be low enough for you to see them.
"I had an excellent week. I didn't get the big ones today, but I got three solid fish."
Wind-weary Weyer winds up second
After leading days one and two, Charlie Weyer of West Hills, Calif., slipped a notch to second place. He started off with a bang, bagging the largest catch of the tournament - a massive 32-pound, 9-ounce limit. On that day, Weyer had located an area where a large wave of big spawners had moved up to the bank, and he went to town, grabbing all he could.
A day later, the combination of higher morning tides and windier conditions made it tough to spot the fish, so he had to blind-cast at the likely areas. Unable to find the big bites on day two, Weyer weighed 16-12. Today, he added 16-8 and finished with 65-13.
"The wind definitely pushed all the fish back, and you just had to slow down," Weyer said. "I drop-shotted all those fish and caught a couple of bed-fish. I worked several big ones, but I just couldn't get them to bite."
Weyer fished an S-20 Iovino spade-tail worm on his drop-shot. His best action occurred right before high tide began dropping, at the bottom of the low and the start of the incoming.
Pirch pushes into third
Gaining one spot to finish third with 65-10, Arizona pro Cliff Pirch compared the Delta to a theme park designed with his preference in mind. "This is like Disneyland for sight-fishermen. It's a fun place to fish - lots of big ones."
Pirch found his better action on the incoming tide, which occurred late in the fishing day. He made the most of his window of opportunity, but said he longed for more time on the water.
"I got about an hour to do what I needed to do," he said. "Fortunately, I did OK, but another couple of hours would have been fun."
Pirch said that he feels fortunate to have reached the top 10, considering a mishap that could have spoiled his chances. "God blessed me with some good fishing. Things could have gone any which way because I blew up my engine yesterday afternoon right at the check-in. If that happens way out in the middle of the Delta, you don't get to weigh those 20 pounds."
Pirch caught most of his fish by drop-shotting a Roboworm. When sight-fishing opportunities availed, he pitched Texas-rigged Senkos and creature baits. Pirch said that success in the sight-fishing game depended on his Typhoon Polarized Optics, which enabled him to spot beds and fish through the surface glare.
Pirch's daily weights were 26-8, 20-4 and 18-14.
Tosh takes home fourth
Stephen "Bub" Tosh Jr. placed fourth on day one with 27-4, dropped a spot to fifth a day later with 19-3 and regained the fourth-place spot today by catching 16-13 to finish with a three day total of 63-4.
Sticking with products from his Paycheck Baits line, he fished the Transporter Frog over grass and through tule pockets and punched mats with a punch skirt, 1 1/2-ounce weight, punch hook and a Psycho Dad bait.
"I had a great time this week," Tosh said. "I was bashing them - punching mats. I should have blown this thing out today. I lost one that was about 7 or 8 pounds. Other than that, I can't complain. I had a lot of fun."
Casey finishes fifth
Mark Casey's was the biggest comeback story of the top-10 field. The Fairfield, Calif., pro found himself in 27th place on day one after weighing a limit of 17-12. The next day, he roared back by catching 29-6 - the heaviest bag of day two. Today, he added 16-1 to finish fifth with 63-3.
Casey caught his fish on wacky-rigged 7-inch watermelon-red Senkos pitched into the tules.
"I was flipping behind the tules - between the tules and the rocks - and finding fish in tight pockets," Casey said.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top 10 pro finishers at the EverStart Series Cal Delta event:
6th: Joe Uribe Jr. of Lake Forest, Calif., 62-11
7th: Ken Mah of Elk Grove, Calif., 58-8
8th: Robert Lee of Angels Camp, Calif., 58-0
9th: Benjamin Byrd of Moab, Utah, 56-2
10th: Michael C. Tuck of Granite Bay, Calif., 51-3