UPCOMING EVENT: TACKLE WAREHOUSE PRO CIRCUIT - 2020 - Harris Chain of Lakes

Gaunt hog

Gaunt hog
Pro Bernie Gaunt of West Sacramento, Calif., caught a huge, five-bass limit Wednesday weighing 28 pounds, 13 ounces to lead opening day of the EverStart Series Western Division event on the California Delta near Oakley. His two biggest fish weighed 7 pounds (left) and 12-9 (right).

OAKLEY, Calif. - They say that if it will happen anywhere, it will happen here. Western Division anglers have been gunning for the EverStart Series single-bass record ever since Central Division co-angler Jeary Wheeler set the mark at 12 pounds, 11 ounces last year at Sam Rayburn Reservoir. "Just wait until we get to the delta," they said.

Bernie Gaunt nearly proved them right on opening day of the last Western tournament of the season when he caught a 12-pound, 9-ounce kicker largemouth at the California Delta Wednesday and fell just 2 ounces short of the record. The pro from West Sacramento, Calif., seized a commanding lead in the first half of the opening round with a five-bass limit weighing a total of 28 pounds, 13 ounces.

Gaunt's fish marks the second time in back-to-back Western tournaments that someone has caught a bass weighing 12 pounds or more. Pro Art Berry of Hemet, Calif., made a run at the record last month with a 12-0 kicker that he caught on day two at Clear Lake.

"When I put that fish in the livewell, I was thinking of Art Berry at Clear Lake," Gaunt said, referring to the hoopla that surrounded Berry when he came back to weigh in that day. "I thought I'd just keep it to myself. If you would have asked me (before today's weigh-in), I would have just said that I have two good ones and three rats."

The low-key Gaunt is understating it. In addition to his 12-pound, 9-ounce kicker - which earned him $500 for the day's big-bass award - he caught another hefty largemouth weighing more than 7 pounds. If you do the math, his three smaller bass had to average about 3 pounds apiece - and those are what they call "rats" on the California Delta.

Bernie Gaunt caught this 12-pound, 9-ounce kicker largemouth at the California Delta Wednesday and fell just 2 ounces short of the EverStart single-bass record."In the delta, there are tons of those kinds of (big) fish," Gaunt said. "I caught one here that weighed 14.57 in practice last year the day before a pro-am (tournament). But this is my biggest in a tournament."

The leader mainly fished a productive little grass pocket Wednesday where a number of big bass in all phases of the spawn were moving in and out. He caught the monster at 8:30 a.m. using a drop-shot in about 5 feet of water. He estimated that he landed about 20 fish, including a majority of short bass. He said that working the tide was key to finding the big bite, especially with the windier conditions.

"We mainly wanted to stay around (the spot) until the tide turned around," Gaunt said, indicating that the high outgoing tide peaked in the morning and bottomed out around noon. "The (tidal) turnaround today wasn't very good, but I think the wind put some big fish up on my spot, and that actually helped us. Here, you take what you can get with the tides."

Gary Howell of Stockton, Calif., placed second in the Pro Division nearly 6 pounds behind Gaunt with a five-bass weight of 23 pounds, 1 ounce.Howell second, Weyer third

Gary Howell of Stockton, Calif., placed second in the Pro Division nearly 6 pounds behind Gaunt with a five-bass weight of 23 pounds, 1 ounce.

In third place is pro Charlie Weyer of West Hills, Calif. He caught a limit weighing 20 pounds, 12 ounces using a drop-shot.

"I found close to a hundred pounds of fish in one day during practice," Weyer said. "There are a lot of big ones where I'm at; there are several 5- to 8-pounders there. They're like wolf packs. You can watch them come in all day. It's kind of scary."

Folkestad fourth, Lashot fifth

The rest of the pro top five also caught more than 20 pounds apiece Wednesday.

Dangerous Mike Folkestad of Yorba Linda, Calif. - currently third place in the yearly standings and a threat to win anywhere in the West - caught a limit weighing 20 pounds, 3 ounces and placed fourth.

Pro Dub Lashot of Walterville, Ore., placed fifth with a limit weighing 20 pounds, 2 ounces.Dub Lashot of Walterville, Ore., placed fifth 1 ounce behind Folkestad with a limit weighing 20 pounds, 2 ounces. He fished a "big flat" using a heavy drop-shot rig Wednesday.

"It just takes a lot of persistence here," Lashot said, estimating that he caught about 25 fish. "You've got to go through a lot of little ones to get to the big ones. And they'll only bite at certain stages of the tide."

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pros after day one at the California Delta are Bill Swearingen of Concord, Calif., with a weight of 19 pounds, 7 ounces (6th place); Bob Cagle of Yuba City, Calif., with 18-14 (7th); Bobby Lanham of Scottsdale, Ariz., with 18-13 (8th); Mike Saso of Elk Grove, Calif., with 18-2 (9th); and Nick Grebb of Roseville, Calif., with 17-3 (10th).

All 10 of the top pros caught limits.

Weaver's whales lead co-anglers

Landing two bass that most pros would envy, Bob Weaver of Lawton, Okla., led the Co-angler Division by almost 7 pounds with a limit weighing 23-4. His kicker largemouth - the $200 big-bass winner on the co-angler side - weighed a hefty 9 pounds, 8 ounces by itself and was accompanied by another fish over 7 pounds.

Weaver - who fishes the Central Division as a pro - caught the 7-pounder at about 10 o'clock using a brush hog and caught the 9 1/2-pounder at 2:30 with a crankbait.

Asked how it felt to catch the oversized kicker fish, Weaver laughed: "You probably can't write this, but, well, I soiled myself. ... It was a nice day today, I guarantee you. We were rocking and rolling on the delta. I think I'm sitting pretty with 23 pounds."

Don Shimatsu of Glen Ellen, Calif., also landed a kicker that approached 9 pounds and placed second for the co-anglers with a limit weighing 16 pounds, 6 ounces.

Co-angler Gary Wilson of Tracy, Calif., placed third with a limit weighing 14 pounds, 9 ounces.

Pat Wilson of Petaluma, Calif., who led the opening round for the co-anglers at Clear Lake and ultimately finished fifth, started this week at the delta by weighing in a limit worth 14 pounds, 3 ounces. He placed fifth.

Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers after day one at the California Delta are Reese Randall of Payson, Ariz., with 13 pounds, 15 ounces (6th place); James Gross of Kingman, Ariz., with 13-1 (7th); James Rios of Brentwood, Calif., with 13-1 (also 7th); Gary Haraguchi of Antioch, Calif., with 13-0 (9th); and Arthur Lee of Sacramento, Calif., with 12-12 (10th).

All of the top 10 co-anglers also caught limits.

Day two of Western Division competition at the California Delta begins as the full field of 145 boats takes off from Big Break Marina in Oakley at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time Thursday for the second half of the opening round. Following tomorrow's action, both fields will be cut to the top 20 anglers apiece based on two-day total weight.

Tags: jeff-schroeder  headline-story  2004-05-05-california-delta 

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