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Beast or famine

Beast or famine
EverStart anglers head into day one with calm conditions and high hopes for big Delta sacks.

OAKLEY, Calif. - In the symphony of piscatorial potential that is the California Delta, one wrong note can doom an otherwise tour de force performance. Needless to say, EverStart Series Western Division anglers are hoping to avoid the miscues and create beautiful music in this land of giant bass.

The rainy, windy conditions that only recently subsided left much of the Delta region in various stages of turbidity. Moreover, the ever-present shape shifting of a tidal environment can turn a weak game plan into a lesson in futility as anglers vainly chase their desired depth scenario all over this vast drainage system.

On the upside, today's calm conditions and a slight warming trend that began around noon on Wednesday give anglers cause for optimism. Prior to the warm-up, spawners were hard to find, but West Hills, Calif. pro Charlie Weyer said that picture changed dramatically yesterday afternoon.California pro Charlie Weyer will start his day looking for reaction bites and then look for bed fish in the midday hours.

"They're up big time in certain places; in other places they're staging," he said. "We had warm weather since about 11 a.m. yesterday and tons of fish moved up yesterday. Usually, you're fishing south this time of year, but even the north went off; the west went off - they're coming up everywhere. I pulled into Frank's Tract (adjacent to the take-off site) yesterday and saw two 7-pounders.

"They way the weather warmed up, this tournament can be won anywhere in the Delta right now. A lot of areas are dirtied up from the previous weather so you can't see them, but they're spawning."

Weyer said he'll start his day with reaction baits and then transition to flipping tactics by late morning. "I caught a lot of fish where I know there's bedding areas (in practice). I'm going to fish for them in the morning and go look at them in the afternoon."

Delta frogging expert Bobby Barrack foresees tremendous potential for big weights on day on.Delta pro Bobby Barrack said he's hoping that the warmer weather may flip the switch on his trademark tactic - frogging. Giving his namesake Snagproof Frog a good workout during practice, he had only one bite, but it was a 7 1/2-pounder. Today, Barrack thinks the fish will respond well to his frog - and many other tactics.

"I am going to pick that thing up even though I only got one bite in practice because it's definitely a game-changer if you get them to eat it," he said. "There's so many different ways to catch them right now. You can catch them on a Senko, you can catch them on a dropshot, you can catch them on a crankbait, you can catch them on a Rat-L-trap, you can catch flip them.

"The topwater thing is the most volatile, but it's my favorite. It's a high risk-high reward kind of a deal. There's really no (tactic) that won't catch them right now."

Essential to success, Barrack notes, is an angler's ability to manage the mix of weather and tides and then capitalize on those "right" moments. "You have windows of opportunity in different zones of water. The key fish have been in that 6- to 9-foot zone. If some of these guys can drag their Senkos and their jigs through that outside weed line, those guys are going to be very dangerous."

Twenty-four hours earlier, Ken Mah, of Elk Grove, Calif. was launching into cloudy, rainy conditions forVeteran Delta pro Ken Mah expects to find a few big bites with his swimbaits. his final practice day. As he notes, the favorable weather on tap for today's first round of EverStart action will limit some things and enable others.

"There's going to be a lot more sunshine than we've had all week, it's really stable and there's hardly any wind today," Mah said. "That's going to hurt the reaction bite that we were enjoying in the practice period. I'm still going to throw reaction baits and hopefully catch two to four fish and hopefully they're the right size. When the sun gets really high, I'm going to pull out a flipping stick and fish some old-school, out-of-the-way things."

Mah said he'll throw a variety of lipped crankbaits that run between three and nine feet. He'll sling a swimbait throughout the day and when he's flipping, he'll go with a black and blue craw bait with a punch skirt, a 5/0 wide gap hook and a 1 1/2-ounce weight or a custom Choo Choo Lures Titan Jig.

Weyer predicts an exciting weigh-in with several big bags and a few head-turners in the mix. "There'll be some 30-pound bags weighed in today."

Logistics

A variety of crankbait colors and styles will be a key part of the Delta anglerAnglers will take off from the Russo's Marina, located at 3995 Willow Road in Bethel Island, Calif. at 7:00 each morning. Weigh-ins will be held each day at the take off site beginning at 3:00 p.m. Takeoffs and weigh-ins are free and open to the public.

Pros will fish for a top award of $35,000 plus a Ranger Z518 boat with a 200-horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard if Ranger Cup guidelines are met. Co-anglers will cast for a top award consisting of a Ranger 177TR with 90-horsepower Evinrude or Mercury outboard and $5,000 if Ranger Cup guidelines are met.

The EverStart Series consists of five divisions - Central, Northern, Southeast, Texas and Western. Each division consists of four tournaments and competitors will be vying for valuable points in each division that could earn them the Strike King Angler of the Year title along with $5,000 for the pro and $2,000 for the co-angler. The top 40 pros and co-anglers from each respective division will qualify for the EverStart Series Championship that will be held on the Ouachita River in Monroe, La., Nov. 1-4.

The EverStart Series tournament on the California Delta is being hosted by the City of Oakley.Anglers pause for the national anthem prior to the day-one take off.

Thursday's conditions:

Sunrise: 6:56 a.m.
Temperature at takeoff: 55 degrees
Expected high temperature: 66 degrees
Water Temperature: 56-58 degrees
Wind: W 3-7 mph
Humidity: 55 percent
Day's outlook: Partly cloudy

Tags: david-a-brown  morning-story  2012-03-29-california-delta 

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