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Top 10 Patterns from the California Delta

Top 10 Patterns from the California Delta

A run-and-gun pattern with just a couple of go-to baits was what lifted Wade Curtiss to the title – all the way from 10th place after two days – at the Rayovac FLW Series Western Division event presented by Ranger Boats at the California Delta.

The rest of the pros in the top 10 were primarily combining two to three patterns based on the tides or camping out in areas that they knew held quality keeper bass.

Here’s how the rest of the top 10 got it done on the Delta.

 

Ken Mah

2. Ken Mah – Elk Grove, Calif. – 59 pounds, 9 ounces

A two-part program worked for Ken Mah. In the mornings, he threw a custom vibrating jig with a Missile Baits D-Bomb trailer along riprap-lined levees with grass at the base of the rock. On the first morning, the vibrating jig produced 15 pounds in the first three hours. On the second day, hyacinth blew into his areas and made it difficult to present the bait. That was his toughest morning of the week.

The vibrating jig fish were mostly postspawn bass that had spawned early and were already feeding up again and putting on some weight. The key areas were inside turns where the current was slower.

Most of the fish that Mah caught in the afternoon were even heavier prespawn bass holed up in stands of grass.

“After high tide I went and picked up a punching rod and went and punched, and as the water dropped out more I threw topwater – a [River2Sea] Whopper Plopper the first day and a buzzbait,” Mah says.

Mah says two of his keepers this week came on the buzzbait, which is made by D&M Custom Baits, while about 10 were caught by punching. The rest were caught on the vibrating jig.

The key to his punching presentation was to fish very, very slowly and to thoroughly pick apart beds of hyacinths, primrose and peppergrass – and a little bit of hydrilla one day – in four areas.

Mah punched with a 1 1/4-ounce weight early in the week but had to slow down later in the week with a 1-ounce weight. He fished a Missile Baits Missile Craw with a punch skirt and a 3/0 Gamakatsu Super Heavy Cover flipping hook.

 

David Valdivia

3. David Valdivia – Norwalk, Calif. – 55 pounds, 13 ounces

David Valdivia made a lot of noise at the day-two weigh-in when he weighed a 26-pound, 3-ounce stringer that included a 10-pounder. On Saturday, he tried to duplicate his catch by limiting himself to big-fish tactics. The “swing for the fences,” unfortunately, didn’t make it out of the park.

“I had a limit by 6:50,” Valdivia says. “Then I went and hunted for big ones. All I did all day was throw a buzzbait. Halfway in I hooked a giant. I leaned into her and knew she was big. The fish jumped five times and went around the backside of a piece of wood and broke my 50-pound-test braid. It was heartbreaking.”

Valdivia’s buzzbait was a tandem-bladed model with a white skirt. He also mixed in a ChatterBait for his morning limit. He rigged it with a Lake Fork Magic Shad swimbait trailer.

The key to the Norwalk, Calif., pro’s performance was locating a dead-end slough on the last day of practice that was crawling with big fish that were cruising the banks – he saw them during the low tide. Valdivia committed to the area, and it paid off, save for a minor slip-up on day one when he caught just 14-12.

“The first day I think I missed the tide,” he says. “I went there an hour late, on the end of the outgoing switch. Yesterday [Friday], I hit it at the beginning of the outgoing. Today, I hit it at the beginning, lost that giant and caught a 4 and a 3.”

 

Chris Parks

4. Chris Parks – Eugene, Ore. – 55 pounds, 13 ounces

Two lost fish might have been all that prevented Oregon’s Chris Parks from taking home the first-place trophy. Still, that’s about the cleanest performance of anyone in the top 10.

“Today [Saturday], started slow,” Parks says. “They weren’t eating the crankbait, so I had to go to the drop-shot. I caught a 5-pounder on the drop-shot at 7:30.”

Parks’ crankbait was a Lucky Craft Fat CB B.D.S. 4 in the spring craw color. He drop-shotted with a Roboworm Fat Worm in the Martens magic color.

“I concentrated on rock [riprap] with stained water,” he says. “If there was clear water, I peeled out of there.”

Parks says most of his fish were postspawn, and on day one he figured out that they were positioned in troughs located between the riprap along levees and the inside grass lines. During the qualifying days, he caught them on reaction baits and the drop-shot at high tide and a Senko and a Booyah Poppin’ Pad Crasher in a shad pattern at low tide.

 

Bub Tosh

5. Stephen “Bub” Tosh Jr. – Turlock, Calif. – 55 pounds, 5 ounces

Stephen “Bub” Tosh Jr. mixed a few patterns for his top-10 finish. He was targeting areas with shallow grass near current, where postspawn fish were already feeding and recovering from the spawn. He caught some bedding fish, but most of Tosh’s keepers were fry-guarders.

In areas deeper than 2 to 3 feet, Tosh fished a ChatterBait with a Lake Fork Magic Shad trailer and a Yamamoto California Roll worm on a wacky rig. In shallower areas, he threw a Paycheck Baits The Transporter frog. Tosh worked bedding fish with the California Roll on a drop-shot.

“When I would go down a bank and find a bend in the tules, I’d throw the frog,” he says. “They weren’t under dead tule mats where I could punch. They were out guarding fry.”

Tosh did punch a few thicker areas and worked some riprap with isolated tules too. However, the parts of this tournament that will stick out to him most were, unfortunately, two giants that he hooked off beds but lost while fighting them to the boat. Those lost fish cost him at least a few places in the standings.

 

Joe Uribe Jr.

6. Joe Uribe Jr. – Surprise, Ariz. – 54 pounds, 6 ounces

Joe Uribe Jr. went into the final day of competition with a 1-oune lead over Valdivia, but he only led Curtiss, who was in 10th, by 1-06. His slim margin wasn’t enough to hold out for back-to-back Western Division wins (he won the opener on Lake Havasu in February). Uribe brought in a 13-6 day-three limit and slipped to sixth place.

Uribe was definitely around the fish needed to win. They just wouldn’t cooperate.

“In the morning I started with a popper and caught a few, but I missed a few too, including a 4-pounder,” Uribe says. “Then I went south and started flipping [when the tide started out]. After the tide fell some more, I went back to topwater and lost 5-pounder after 5-pounder. They were just smashing it but wouldn’t get the hooks. It’s heartbreaking. I could’ve had a big bag.”

Uribe pitched the popper into little nooks and corners in the edges of shallow hyacinth beds and worked the bait very slowly. The afternoon topwater bite was better on a moving bait, so Uribe changed to a white River2Sea Whopper Plopper 130, which is a hard-plastic buzzing bait.

“My [Whopper Plopper] pattern was fishing the low tide,” Uribe says. “The bottom of the tide was key. These fish, with less water above them, were more aggressive. I was fishing 1 to 3 feet deep.”

In between, Uribe says he didn’t really want to flip, but he needed to try to get a few bites until the low-tide window opened, so he hit a few shallow duck ponds. Unfortunately, that window got smaller as the weekend progressed and the low-tide time got later and later – plus pros had to check in at 2 p.m. on Saturday.

For flipping, Uribe rigged a hematoma Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver 4.20 with a black-and-blue punch skirt and a 1-ounce weight.

 

Phillip Dutra

7. Phillip Dutra – Antioch, Calif. – 50 pounds, 4 ounces

Phillip Dutra put together a strong, consistent tournament right up until Saturday, when he says nothing seemed to go his way.

“I felt like I fished smart,” says Dutra, who weighed in 10 pounds, 12 ounces on Saturday. “I adjusted all day long, and they just didn’t bite.”

Dutra flipped black-and-blue jigs, flipped a drop-shot and cranked.

“My practice was really good, but on day one we had crazy weather [cold, rain and wind], so I changed it up,” he says. “I caught fish flipping and cranking. On day two it was sunny and calm, which is what I wanted. I did really good flipping a drop-shot.”

For a drop-shot worm, Dutra chose a margarita mutilator Roboworm, which he fished on 12-pound-test fluorocarbon on a baitcaster. He was catching postspawn and spawning fish by keying in on two shallow spawning areas, but within that pattern, he says that every move he made was directly tied to the tides.

On the final day, a subtle bait change helped him nab the four keepers he hauled to weigh-in.

“I noticed I wasn’t getting as many bites on the drop-shot,” he says. “I was throwing a 7-inch worm, so I bit off about an inch and started catching them. Then I went to a smaller worm the rest of the day.”

 

Gary Dobyns

8. Gary Dobyns – Live Oak, Calif. – 49 pounds, 15 ounces

A big day-two bag of 26 pounds, 10 ounces helped West Coast legend Gary Dobyns recover from a poor outing on Thursday, when he brought just 12-13 to the scale.

On day three, Dobyns’ fish just didn’t bite, leaving him to bring in only 10 1/2 pounds

“My partner caught a 5-pounder on his second cast, so I thought it was on,” Dobyns says. “I sat on them for four hours. Then I got to running, which was the worst thing I could do. I didn’t realize how tough it was for everyone or I would’ve done something different. I left before the tide change, which is a cardinal sin.”

Dobyns was tossing a frog and a homemade tandem buzzbait on Saturday and had several fish come up and slap at his topwaters but not get the hooks.

“In lower water I was fishing breaks in levees with current running through and a lot of spawning flats,” Dobyns says. “There were a lot of spawning fish, but I couldn’t see them. The place I caught most of my big ones yesterday [Friday] just didn’t have them today [Saturday].”

Dobyns’ other baits this week included 6- and 7-inch Senkos rigged weightless with 6/0 Gamakatsu EWG hooks and drop-shots. He had a good bite in practice by fishing slow, but the wind on day one hurt that bite and sent him scrambling, which is why he thinks he struggled that day as well.

 

Austin Bonjour

9. Austin Bonjour – Atascadero, Calif. – 47 pounds, 9 ounces

Austin Bonjour spent most of his tournament in Hog Slough. That’s where he caught his fish in the mornings and midday the first two days, and he went back there on Saturday after running some new water with reaction baits and Senkos that he hoped would turn up a big fish or two. It just didn’t work for the Atascadero, Calif., pro.

“I was sitting in Hog Slough until about noon each day,” he says. “I didn’t today because I just went fishing. I found a lot of spawners coming in and out. It’s a dead-end slough, so there’s not much current, which is why they’re spawning there. There’s also a lot of bluegills. I was blind-casting to the spawners, intercepting big ones.”

After leaving the slough, Bonjour changed up to punch baits and a ChatterBait and followed the outgoing tide across the Delta.

Bonjour’s baits this week included a drop-shot 6-inch Roboworm Fat Worm in the bold bluegill color and a 6-inch wacky-rigged Senko. He punched using either a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver or Missile Baits D-Bomb. Either bait was rigged with a 1 1/2-ounce weight and a punch skirt.

For his reaction program on Saturday, Bonjour primarily threw a Strike King 2.5 square-bill crankbait and the ChatterBait.

“I had one good one hooked up, and it got off [on Saturday],” he adds. “That probably cost me a few grand right there. I think if I had hunkered down in Hog, I’d have caught a bigger bag.”

 

Nick Nourot

10. Nick Nourot – Benicia, Calif. – 43 pounds, 12 ounces

Nick Nourot described his day-three performance as “terrible.” He caught only three fish for 4 pounds, 5 ounces. However, quality bags of more than 17 pounds each of the first two days helped him make it into the top 10.

“[On Saturday] I went with what my biggest ones came on earlier in the week all day, which is a topwater frog,” says Nourot, who caught an 8-pounder on the frog on Friday.

He was targeting spawning areas in dead-end sloughs but wasn’t sight-fishing and had two keys spots for high tide and two key spots for low tide. During high tide, his fish slid up very shallow to feed. On low tide, he threw the frog over beds.

What hurt Nourot was that he didn’t have much time to fish his best low-tide pattern in the afternoons because he was in a middle flight each of the first two days and had to be in at 2:45. Then on Saturday, the entire top 10 was due in at 2.

His frog was a Snag Proof Ish’s Phoppin’ Phattie in the Cali color, which is black with a yellow face.

“My biggest fish came out of a cheese mat [decaying slime on the surface of matted grass],” he says. “It was pretty awesome. When they hit you through that stuff, it’s so hard that you don’t even need to set the hook.”

Tags: flw-series  california-delta  curtis-niedermier  post-tournament  2015-05-07-california-delta 

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