UPCOMING EVENT: PHOENIX BASS FISHING LEAGUE - 2020 - James River

Great even when just good

Great even when just good
Sean Stafford of Fairfield, Calif., led the Pro Division after day one of Stren Series Western Division competition at Clear Lake. He caught a limit weighing 31 pounds, 8 ounces - the 15th-heaviest catch of all time in FLW Outdoors history.

KELSEYVILLE, Calif. - Sean Stafford caught 31 1/2 pounds of bass Wednesday - the 15th-heaviest limit ever produced in FLW Outdoors competition - and believe it or not, it wasn't even that great a day of fishing at Clear Lake.

Confounding almost everyone's expectations for the opening day of Stren Series Western Division competition at the vaunted Northern California fishery, the sun mostly disappeared and the wind picked up - really picked up - not long after the morning takeoff. That blew a lot of pros off their water and put a damper on the truly massive stringers anglers expected to pluck off the beds the first day.

Still, all things are relative when it comes to bass fishing in NoCal, especially at Clear Lake. Not only did Stafford, a pro out of nearby Fairfield, Calif., lead the day with the second 30-pound-plus limit of his FLW Outdoors career (his first, weighing 33 pounds, 9 ounces, came at the California Delta in 2006 and ranks sixth of all time in FLW Outdoors history), it took nearly 24 pounds just to make the top 10 in the Pro Division. A weight of 20 pounds - a huge bounty almost everywhere else - would have garnered you only 28th place on day one of the 2007 Clear Lake Stren event.

The reason, of course, was the size of the fish, which were obviously hungry with or without the wind. Ninth-place pro Zack Thompson led the monster mash by catching a 10-pound, 6-ounce largemouth to win the day's Snickers Big Bass award. A couple of 9 1/2-pounders, including those caught by third-place Ken Sauret and 12th-place Scott Douglas, and countless 7- and 8-pounders also crossed the scale. Co-angler leader Daniel Montes hauled in a 9-13 kicker of his own.

In sum, the entire field weighed in 5,217 pounds, 4 ounces of bass Wednesday, which sets the record for the heaviest day of all time in FLW Outdoors bass-fishing competition. Today's weight at Clear Lake topped day two of the 2006 Lake Amistad Stren Series hogfest, 5,071-8, by almost 150 pounds.

All this on a day when the sun didn't shine.

Sean Stafford needs an extra hand to show off his 31-8 catch at Clear Lake.Stafford's stealth

"I started out awesomely," the pro leader said. "In the first 10 minutes, I caught my three biggest fish in about eight or 10 casts."

Despite his hefty 31-8 leading weight, Stafford, like many, said the wind hurt him today. In the same breath, he said it was probably the best thing for him.

"Maybe it was a blessing in disguise," he said. "Instead of running around like a chicken with its head cut off, I stayed in maybe three or four main areas. There were 3- to 4-foot (waves) in the first spot I wanted to go to today."

Most anglers had to seek shelter from the wind Wednesday, tucking into whatever nooks and crannies they could find on Clear Lake. Stafford's first nook proved to be his best - and only productive - one. Fishing a rocky bottom with finesse plastics, he landed those first three 6- to 8-pounders and then didn't get another good bite until the end of the day. He didn't cull out of his fifth fish until about 2:30, he said.

"It's a pattern that tends to work here this time of year, especially before they come in to spawn," he said. "They're sitting out there just waiting to move in right now."

With the windy, cooler air and lack of sun, the spawners in many places just didn't move up to the bank Wednesday. But they wanted to, and that's what Stafford capitalized on, fishing a little deeper, away from the bank. The wind, too, held him in check when the bite cooled off for a long period, keeping him from running around. Ultimately, that proved to be the right decision when his last two keepers also came off the same spot late in the afternoon.

"I probably should have left," he said, "but it's tough to leave an area where you've already caught three giants."

Interestingly, Stafford has a theory about why his bite shut down for such a long period today. After catching his first three fish, he lost the fourth one. That was when the fishing cooled off.

"When I lost that fourth one, it totally shut off," he said. "It happens every time. Even in practice, every time I catch one and let it go, they stop biting. I think they sense the stress. That's why I use stealth: I shut off all my electronics and don't slam locker lids and stuff like that."

Pro Gino Campiotti of Manteca, Calif., popped a 28-pound, 9-ounce limit to land in second place.Campiotti second with 28-9

Also capitalizing on the prespawners-just-itching-to-spawn pattern was pro Gino Campiotti of Manteca, Calif., who popped a 28-pound, 9-ounce limit to land in second place.

"All these fish were definitely on a prespawn pattern, no question about it," he said. "We were fishing between docks in about 9 feet of water, and the deal was that these docks were just a perfect point for staging fish."

Fishing finesse worms and jigs, Campiotti's catch was anchored by an 8-pound, 1-ounce kicker largemouth, which he said was the biggest fish he's ever caught in competition. He also caught a 7-pounder.

"Last year, my son and my wife fished a little tournament out here and found this spot. Yesterday in practice, I was able to catch a 4- and a 5-pounder in there," he said. "I really didn't think that I had that kind of fish in there. I culled out a 4-pounder today - and I haven't done that very often in my life. I was sick after I caught that second one (the 7-pounder). I felt like I was unconscious."

Ken Sauret of Paso Robles, Calif., grabbed the third spot for the pros with a limit weighing 27 pounds, 5 ounces.Sauret third

Ken Sauret of Paso Robles, Calif., grabbed the third spot for the pros with a limit weighing 27 pounds, 5 ounces.

Cycling through about four different areas, he caught the bulk of his fish on reaction baits.

"This will help the bite," he said about Wednesday's wind. "I think the swimbait bite will be off the hook here."

Pro Jason Borofka of Salinas, Calif., took fourth place with a limit weighing 26 pounds, 3 ounces.Borofka fourth

Battling through the waves to make his milk run, pro Jason Borofka of Salinas, Calif., took fourth place with a limit weighing 26 pounds, 3 ounces.

"Just covering water was the main thing," he said. "I couldn't do what I wanted to do today because of the wind, but plan B came through for me."

With his swimbait pattern put on hiatus by the weather, Borofka also leaned on a finesse pattern to catch his limit. But he moved around a lot to do it.

"Yeah, I was fortunate. I just focused and never stopped for a second," he said. "If the wind lets up and the sun comes out, my bite will get better."

Scott Nielsen of Salt Lake City rounded out the top five pros with a limit weighing 24 pounds, 9 ounces.Nielsen fifth

Like the leader, fifth-place Scott Nielsen of Salt Lake City also felt hindered, but helped, by the wind. He rounded out the top five pros with a limit weighing 24 pounds, 9 ounces.

"The wind gave me a big advantage today," he said. "However, I've been catching good fish when it's calm, but just in a different way."

Nielsen started the day throwing finesse baits, but ultimately switched over to throwing mainly a spinnerbait to catch his big limit.

"I felt like I could get 20 pounds on a jig," he said. "But to be able to change and get 24 pounds, I'm very happy with that."

Ninth-place pro Zack Thompson led the monster mash by catching this 10-pound, 6-ounce largemouth to win the day's Snickers Big Bass award.Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 11 pros after day one at Clear Lake:

6th: Bryan Lutz of Henderson, Nev., 24-7
7th: Richard Dobyns of Yuba City, Calif., 24-6
8th: Chris Neau of Castro Valley, Calif., 24-5
9th: Zack Thompson of Orinda, Calif., 24-3
10th: Paul Addi of Las Vegas, 23-11
10th: Dave Nollar of Redlands, Calif., 23-11

Each of the top 10 pros caught limits Wednesday.

In addition to catching a 9-pound, 13-ounce kicker largemouth and winning the Snickers Big Bass award, Daniel Montes of Turlock, Calif., took the top co-angler spot with a commanding 24-pound, 8-ounce limit.Montes commands co-anglers

In addition to catching a 9-pound, 13-ounce kicker largemouth and winning the Snickers Big Bass award, Daniel Montes of Turlock, Calif., took the top co-angler spot with a commanding 24-pound, 8-ounce limit.

He fished with pro Brian Nollar Wednesday and said he caught his big bass on a drop-shot with a 6-inch worm.

"I've got to give a lot of credit to my pro. I've only been to Clear Lake twice, and pretty much everything I threw, I was catching fish," Montes said. "This is the biggest bass I've ever caught, and I also caught one like this during the prefish. This is my new favorite lake, I can tell you that."

Former Clear Lake co-angler winner in second

Second place for the co-anglers went to Kyle Clement of Anderson, Calif., for a 21-pound, 13-ounce limit. He won this event as a co-angler in 2005.

"I couldn't wait to get down here," said Clement, who said he caught his fish on an Osprey swimbait. "I'm feeling really good, confident. I just hope my bite holds up."

Rest of the best

Quin Smith of Galt, Calif., placed third for the co-anglers with a limit weighing 19 pounds, 4 ounces.

Fourth place went to co-angler Paul Fontaine of Brentwood, Calif., for a limit weighing 19 pounds, 3 ounces.

Rounding out the top five co-anglers was Gary Evans of Basalt, Colo., with a limit weighing 18 pounds, 15 ounces.

Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers:

6th: Jake Stephens of Reno, Nev., 18-2
7th: Robert Nicholson of Grand Terrace, Calif., 18-0
8th: Geoff Peterson of Huntington Beach, Calif., 17-12
9th: Shawn Carnahan of Chandler, Ariz., 17-8
10th: Scott Singer of Sacramento, Calif., 17-7

Day two of Western Division competition at Clear Lake begins as the field of 189 boats takes off from Konocti Harbor Resort at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time Thursday.

Tags: jeff-schroeder  headline-story  2007-04-25-clear-lake 

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