UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Lake Norman

Spotted bass galore

Spotted bass galore
Ishama Monroe of Hughson, Calif. is in first place in the pro division with 11 pounds, 10 ounces. Monroe is no stranger to the winner's circle, having topped the field at the final FLW Series western division tornament of the season in 2008 at the California Delta.

OROVILLE, Calif. - Seldom in tournament bass fishing has an ounce meant more than on the first day of the Stren Series Western Division tournament on Lake Oroville.

Just two of 108 pros failed to bring a five-fish limit to the scales. But the fish, almost all spotted bass, are nearly all the same size. The top five pros are within a pound of each other, and the top 30 are within 2 pounds. Eighty anglers are tied. The difference between first place and 108th place is 6 pounds, 3 ounces.

With that kind of parity, this tournament will get very interesting Friday, when the field is cut to 10 for Saturday's final. The winner will not be he who gets the most bites, but he who gets the most big bites.
Leading the Pro Division is Ishama Monroe of Hughson, Calif., with 11 pounds, 10 ounces. The co-angler leader is John McClellan of Oroville, Calif., with 10 pounds, 3 ounces.Dusty Kahler of Atascadero, Calif. is in second place with 11 pounds.

Yes, the fish are biting, and the 216 pros and co-anglers are sorting through huge numbers in search of bigger bass. It was a badge of honor today to display a beat-up thumb, the result of much catch-and-release.

It doesn't matter what you're throwing; the bass are hitting everything, including Senkos, small plastics, Zoom Brush Hogs and drop-shot rigs.

Unlike their largemouth brethren, spotted bass tend to school by weight. Seldom are big fish and small fish mixed in the same school. The key Friday will be to find the spotted schools with bigger fish or largemouths that have yet to spawn. It's generally believed that the spotted bass are done spawning, but that the largemouths have a ways to go. Tomorrow's leaders either will get lucky and find a school with big fish that they can pluck away at, or they'll run and gun all day and put together a decent five-fish limit that way.

Michael Tuck of Antelope, Calif. is in third place with 10 pounds, 15 ounces.The latter method is how Monroe caught his leading weight.

"Today I fished new water and old water and caught fish everywhere," said Monroe, who scored his last win in a Walmart FLW Series event in 2008 on the California Delta. "I fished every arm of this lake. I started in Bidwell, went to South Fork, Middle Fork, both arms of North Fork. I was just running around fishing."

Monroe wouldn't say how he fished, only that sight-fishing isn't a viable option now.

"The water came up on fish that are trying to spawn," he said. "They just bailed on spawning 'cause Brody Bramlett of Kelseyville, Calif. is tied for fourth place with 10 pounds, 10 ounces.sunlight doesn't get down (to their beds). The guys who are sitting there, working the same fish over and over again, they're just not going to bite. You gotta keep moving."

Kahler in second

Not everyone shares that opinion. Ten ounces behind Monroe in second place is Dusty Kahler of Atascadero, Calif., who said he pulled his 11-pound sack by fishing very slowly and staying within a 500-yard area all day.

"There are no reaction fish," said Kahler, who's in his rookie season in the Stren Series. "It's light line and worms and very slow."

Third belongs to Tucker

OK, so what does third-place pro Michael Tucker of Antelope, Calif., have to say on the subject? Not Jason Bubier of Oroville, Calif. is tied for fourth place with 10 pounds, 10 ounces. much as far as his specific tactics went, but he would say he was thrilled to be among the leaders.

"Just for now is all it is," said Tuck, who weighed in before Monroe and briefly held the lead. "There are 13- and 14-pound sacks coming in for sure."

Well, no. But Tuck took his current third-place standing and amended his statement to say he wouldn't be surprised to see a big spike in the weights Friday.

"You could see 20 pounds," Tuck said. "There are 7-, 8-pounders swimming around out there."

Tied up at fourth

Tied for fourth place with 10 pounds, 10 ounces are Brody Bramlett of Kelseyville, Calif., and Jason Bubier of Oroville, Calif. Bramlett, another first-year pro, weighed the Folgers Big Bass of the day at 4 pounds, 1 ounce.

"I caught him in the morning on a topwater bait," said Bramlett. "Nobody else wasChris Ricci of Bend, Oregon is in second place in the co-angler division with 9 pounds, 1 ounce. doing it. I like to do my own thing."

Best of the rest

6th: Jeff Michels, Lakehead, Calif., 10 pounds, 7 ounces
7th: David Rush, Palermo, Calif., 9 pounds, 12 ounces
8th: Richard Forhan, Oroville, Calif., 9 pounds, 11 ounces
8th: Dugan McIntosh, Palermon, Calif., 9 pounds, 11 ounces
10th: Charlie Weyer, West Hills, Calif., 9 pounds, 9 ounces

Co-anglers pulled smaller weights

McClellan was the only co-angler to break the 10-pound mark. Just two made 9 pounds, including second-place Chris Ricci of Bend, Ore., and third-place Oneal Martin of Citrus Heights, Calif.

"I thought I had 8 pounds and small change," said Ricci, a series favorite because of his ever-present smile and good cheer. "I'm not good at judging weights."

Martin said he was very satisfied with how his day went. He brings his own boat for prefishing and knows what to do once the tournament starts.

"I was drop-shotting all day," he said. "I caught 'em close to the bank and in 30 feet. I'll do the exact Osame thing tomorrow and hopefully get another good weight."

Best of the rest

4th: Ken Whalen, Lompoc, Calif., 8 pounds, 11 ounces
5th: Gary Souza, Oroville, Calif., 8 pounds, 10 ounces
5th: Jake Stephens, Reno, Nev., 8 pounds, 10 ounces
7th: Kyle Baker, Lancaster, Calif., 8 pounds, 8 ounces
8th: Daniel Hagood, Wilton, Calif., 8 pounds, 7 ounces
8th: Mario Marroquin, San Leandro, Calif., 8 pounds, 7 ounces
8th: J.R. Wright, Truckee, Calif., 8 pounds, 7 ounces
11th: Aaron Reitz, Soda Springs, Calif., 8 pounds, 5 ounces

Friday's takeoff is scheduled for 6:30 a.m. at the Spillway Launch on the north end of the lake. Weigh-in is at the base of the ramp beginning at 3 p.m. Saturday's weigh-in moves to the Walmart in Oroville at 4 p.m.

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