This was our second AC/WRL Delta/ Wine Region tournament at Lake Berryessa launching out of Pleasure Cove on Saturday April 16, 2011. My partner Jim Eaton & I were only able to spend the two days, Thurs & Fri prior to the event for practice/pre-fish so we needed to make those days as productive as possible.
Day 1 Pre-Fish: Jim had won a tournament here a couple weeks prior in an area I guess you could call the south end of the vineyards. We checked out that area first spending about an hour fishing with Senkos & Jackall Flick Shake for nothing. With the lake having risen about 8-10′ in the last couple weeks since Jim’s winning tournament, we weren’t totally surprised. At least for Jim & I that fact also eliminated the possibility of seeing any spawning bed fish. Although we did suspect that spawning could’ve been going on in deeper water and we did occasionally fish out deeper, we had no success and weren’t really interested in fishing that way.
We moved up north a couple miles and decided to fish some of flooded trees/bushes on the very large flats common in the vineyards and give topwater a try. Jim was fishing a Paycheck Baits Repo man in Sweaty Betty color on Berkley Trilene 14lb. MAXX and I was throwing the NEW D&M Custom Baits Slow Roller in black & Red on Berkley Trilene 17lb. MAXX. The D&M Slow Roller Buzzbait is designed to give off a softer tone underwater and no other Buzzbait can come close to getting that slow retrieve on the surface. (Click here to read more about the Slow Roller) In only a couple of casts Jim had our first fish, nice 3lbr! At first I had no action on the buzzbait, so I switched to a senko and did get a couple fish but not the size we were looking for.
I switched back to the buzzbait and to Jim’s surprise; I got a couple blow-ups and finally got one to commit. We both caught a couple more fish in the few hours as we fished around a large area of the vineyards. Most of our fish came out of the 8-10′ of water in the middle row of submerged trees. We agreed we had a good piece of the puzzle and it was time to leave that area to see if we could duplicate the pattern elsewhere. We did just that and found a few more areas similar and caught a few more fish with the same pattern. So, at this time we made the decision to leave it alone and go check some completely different areas of the lake and headed up to Putah Creek.
We spent a few hours up different parts of Putah Creek catching a few small fish (2lbs or less) on senkos, Jackall Flick Shake, one small Largemouth on a spinnerbait and one Smallmouth on topwater, We’re outta here! Sometimes practice or pre-fishing is not always about finding fish, but sometimes about eliminating water. We knew some guys will fish Putah Creek on tournament day and probably catch fish, but nothing we saw made us want to spend anymore time looking for the bigger fish that we had already found on the vineyards.
We left Putah Creek and headed over to the north end of the lake and found very clear, clean water, something neither one of us are fond of. But, we were there and gave it about an hour fishing a few coves, cuts, flooded trees and only caught a couple rats and one decent Small mouth Bass. We headed back down south to see if Jim’s spot was any better in the afternoon. Nothing except a nice 2.5lb Smallie. It was late in the afternoon; hours past what would be weigh in on tournament day so we decided to call it a day.
Day Two Pre-fish: Since the pattern we had discovered later in the day, 10am – 12pm, in the vineyards area, we decided to head there first thing early while the sun had not completely broken through the light clouds and see if our topwater pattern was still viable early in the morning. With it being the day before our tournament, we either removed the hooks on our baits or bent them over so that we would not actually catch the fish. We found our top water pattern still successful and only fished for a little while. We then checked out the north vineyards one more time then headed all the way to the south end of the lake. We fished several known spawning areas down south for several hours resulting in only one decent 2.5lb fish. We also wanted to fish some areas back towards the launch at Pleasure Cove then get back a little early to prepare our tackle for the next day, so we left. Fished a bit on the way up the arm leading to Pleasure Cove for nothing but a couple small spotted bass.
Tournament Day: We had determined we had a good solid pattern and area to fish all day. We both planned on fishing different top water baits, Jim on the Paycheck Baits Repo man and me on the buzzbait. Within the first hour we had couple blow ups. The mood of the fish was encouraging but we HAVE to get those fish in the boat! Jim hooked what felt like a real nice one that just bulldogged him right down into the weeds and got off. WOW! When tournament days start like this, you just have to settle down and focus. For the remainder of the day that is exactly what we did. We were top water fishing machines! Even when the sun was high in the sky, little or no wind, we were chucking & winding. I’m sure guys that saw us doing that with those conditions in the middle of the day, must’ve thought we were crazy. I even saw some guys at weigh shaking their heads and mouthing “ya right!”
The day before I had bent over the hook on the Slow Roller buzzbait so I had to use the only other buzzbait I had with me, a NEW D&M Custom Baits 1/2 oz Double Hammer white shad. Yes that’s right, a double bladed buzzbait on Berryessa! I was fishing it on my Abu Garcia Veritas Rod & REVO reel, spooled with Berkley FireLine 65lb. Braid. My first fish came about an hour into our day and this fish just inhaled the bait about 15′ from the boat! What a way to start the day with a nice 5lbr! Jim was next with another nice 4.5lbr on the Repo man! Then I got another 2.5lber, then Jim, etc. We were obviously off to great start with a fish coming about every 30min and we had a limit by 9:30. As the morning progressed the fish only came every couple of hours, we were able to cull twice and made for a VERY LONG grind all afternoon. Although most of our fish did come out of 8-10′ of water in the middle row of submerged trees just like in practice, we did get a couple nice fish shallower. Around 2:30 we were sitting on almost 17lbs and had not had a bite in hours, We decided to go look for a couple bigger fish to cull our smaller 2.5lbrs and headed down to the entrance to the narrows to fish a known big spotted bass spot. Nothing, then again back into the Pleasure Cove arm for a couple of rats.
We ended up finishing in 4th place over all out of 70 boats and 5th biggest fish. Missed third place by .5oz and big fish money by .25. Over all this was a great tournament for us. We discovered a pattern apparently know body else was doing, came up with a plan for tournament day and stuck to it regardless how few and far between the bites were. We worked as a team to successful top 4 finish.
See you on the Delta in a couple of weeks where we’ll be looking for a WIN!
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