May 15, 2014 by David A. Brown
BETHEL ISLAND, Calif. - When your limit includes a 10-pounder, you can expect a good weigh-in performance. Add another kicker nearly as big and you can replace "good" with "dominant." Such was the case for Roy Hawk - day-one leader at the Rayovac FLW Series Western Division event on the California Delta.
Fishing a mix of bedding bass and post-spawners, Hawk sacked up a whopping 29 pounds, 11 ounces and took the lead by a 4-4 margin. Thank goodness for the quality, he said, because the Delta was pretty stingy with the quantity.
"Overall, the fishing was pretty slow," he said. "The weight wouldn't show that, but my two big ones were ¾ of my weight. The other three weren't that big; they were just standard fish. I caught maybe a dozen to 15 fish, including a lot of little ones, which is not a lot.
"Usually in May, you can find a good reaction bite with a cranking or topwater but it's a struggle right now. You can catch some nice ones, but you don't catch 10 in one spot. Usually, they start ganging up and you can catch them like bam-bam-bam when you get on `em. But with this deal, it's just one here, one there."
Like many of his competitors, Hawk noted that the week's full moon, the recent heavy winds and hot, still conditions made for a tough day on the Delta. Also challenging was the day's tide schedule - a big high around daybreak and then a hard outgoing cycle later in the day.
Hawk caught his two biggest fish on beds, where flipping a Gary Yamamoto Custom Baits Flappin' Hog did the trick. His bed fish were about two miles apart and both bit within about 5 minutes of Hawk's arrival.
The rest of his fish came on crankbaits and topwaters. Hawk said he had to hit about a dozen spots on day one.
"I only practiced for a couple of days, so I kind of rolled the dice and tried to figure out a general area as best I could," Hawk said. "I've done well in the past in this general region."
Hawk said that with Delta conditions a lot tougher than normal, jumping out to an early lead is gives him a greater sense of comfort going into the second round. Nevertheless, he's making no assumptions.
"You know, glory be to God, for sure," Hawk said of his day-one performance. "You get an opportunity and everything goes right and you land them. It doesn't go like that every day so I'm very, very grateful and I look forward to using that momentum to try and get into day three."
Hawk said that he will not stake his tournament on bed fishing. With high tide moving progressively later in the day, he knows that he'll face longer periods of high water, so traditional sight-fishing tactics will be more difficult.
"It's going to be a grind tomorrow," Hawk said. "I don't if I can duplicate this. It just depends on what the conditions do tomorrow. I have a couple of good bed fish that I couldn't catch today, so maybe I can catch them tomorrow."
Dobyns does second
California pro Richard Dobyns said he would have liked to have caught his fish earlier in the day - at least for his nerves - but he's not arguing about the limit of 25-7 that put him in second place.
"Coming into the tournament, I was really scared of low water because (that stage) was really tough in practice," Dobyns said. "I struggled all morning and didn't start catching fish until about 10 o'clock and I didn't catch any of the fish I weighed until 11."
Dobyns said he caught his fish on a variety of baits.
"I think there were nine rods on my deck - it was complete junk fishing," he said. "It was mostly reaction baits, a couple of Senko fish, but everything else was topwaters, spinnerbaits and chatterbaits."
He decided to forgo the bed-fishing routine, as he didn't think he could find enough consistency to merit the investment.
"I was targeting all post-spawners," Dobyns said. "I was fishing current areas, main rivers - the depths were the fish that have spawned would move back out to.
"A lot of the fish have already spawned and there's a very good number of post-spawners. They're not as big and fat as the spawners, obviously, but they're more aggressive. Rather than chasing bed fish, I was going for feeding fish."
Au(some) at third
Trailing Dobyns by just 4 ounces, Vu Au, of Tucson, Ariz., caught a limit that weighed 25-3 and placed third in the opening round.
"I caught a limit by 10 o'clock and throughout the day, I had to go try new things," he said. "I had two big bites toward the end of the low tide. I wasn't on anything good; I just got lucky and stumbled across two good fish and that can happen here in the Delta.
"I caught those big ones at 12 and 1 o'clock. It was just back-to-back."
Au said he, too, avoided sight fishing and instead just targeted spawning areas with reaction baits.
"I was fishing wind-blown points and current areas," he said. "A spot had to have current and if it didn't have current, it had to have wind. If it didn't have any of that, good luck catching them."
Persistent Raftery takes fourth
Fourth-place pro Joe Raftery just wasn't going to take no for an answer. A key bed fish gave him fits, but staying after this day-making opportunity rewarded him with this big catch and a limit of 23-5.
"I had this big fish on a bed and I went in with 17-pound fluorocarbon, she bit, I set the hook and the line broke," he recalled. "I retied with braid and flipped back in there. It took her a little bit, but she ate it again. I set the hook and the line broke - 65-braid broke.
"I sat down, relaxed and retied again with braid and I got her."
The bed fishing came later in the day when the lower water stage was more conducive to this pursuit. Prior to that, he focused on outside weed lines.
Raftery caught his fish on swimbaits, jigs and Roboworms.
Lunker puts Martin in fifth
The day's combination of high morning water levels and afternoon wind kept fifth-place pro Chad Martin off his sight-fishing game plan, but he adjusted and caught a 22-pound, 7-ounce limit anchored by a 10-pound, 10-ounce fish.
"With the high tide, I couldn't see the fish in the morning and by the time you could see them, the wind started blowing," he said. "Some of the females I was seeing in practice weren't up in the holes, so I had to just go fishing today."
Frogs, Senko and a big swimbait produced Martin's weight fish. His big bass bit around 2:15.
"I ran all over the Delta today, just chasing the tide," he said. "About halfway into the low was when I started catching them."
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 pro leaders at the Rayovac FLW Series Cal Delta event:
6th: Nick Nourot, of Benecia, Calif., 21-14
7th: Greg Gutierrez, of Red Bluff, Calif., 19-11
8th: Tai Au, of Glendale, Ariz., 19-9
9th: Jiggs Benn, of Myrtle Creek, Or., 19-8
10th: Wade Curtiss, of Meadow Vista, Calif., 19-7.
Marco Valdez took Big Bass honors with his 11 -pound, 7-ounce largemouth.
Stokes leads co-angler division
He had to endure a slow start, but co-angler leader Troy Stokes found the latter end of the outgoing tide more to his liking. Catching a limit of 17-8 gave him the lead by a slim margin of 5 ounces over second-place Matthew Bynum (17-3).
"My boater was catching them when the tide was up, but I caught them when the tide was low," Stokes said. "I caught the majority of my fish on Senkos, jigs and swimbaits. When the tide was low, it was making some of the weeds visible that were a little deeper. I started throw the swimbait in there because I figured the fish were going to pull out and sit out in those weeds."
"I caught them all throughout the day. I struggled at the beginning of the day, but once the low tide came, I just slowed down and started fishing. I just started covering water."
In third place, Andrew Janke, of Warren, Or., had 16-12. Chris Shrader, of Mountain Home AFB, ID placed fourth with 16-0 and Doug Delgado, of Westlake Village, Calif. was fifth with 15-3.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 co-angler leaders at the Rayovac FLW Series Cal Delta event:
6th: Ryan Diatte, of Gilroy, Calif., 14-12
7th: Stuart Hein II, of Orange, Calif., 14-4
7th: Rob Larrabee, of Livermore, Calif., 14-4
9th: Darren Vieira, of Martinez, Calif., 14-3
10th: Sunny Hawk, of Salt Lake City, Utah, 14-0
Vieira earned Big Bass honors with his 7-pound largemouth.
Day two of Rayovac FLW Series Western Division action on the Cal Delta continues at Friday's takeoff, scheduled to take place at 6:00 a.m. (Pacific) at Russo's Marina located at 3995 Willow Road in Bethel Island, Calif.