OAKLEY, Calif. — Slow tides and summer heat can be the recipe for a grind, but confidence borne of past experience carried Obedie Williams of Discovery Bay, Calif. to a 5-bass limit of 27.71 pounds that leads Day 1 of the Wild West Bass Trail Duel on the Delta presented by the City of Oakley California.
Spending his time on Central Delta vegetation, Williams anchored his bag with an 8.82-pound tank that leads the Big Fish standings. Not long after he boated that fish around 10 o’clock, lightning nearly struck twice.
“I was happy to have that one, but I missed another one that big,” Williams said.
Two key spots with the same complexion produced the leading bag, with bites coming in 2-5 feet of water. The incoming tide seemed to stimulate the fish, but Williams said he got his work done in the late morning period.
“Nine to 12 is when I caught ‘em,” Williams said. “I couldn’t tell if the high tide or the low tide would be better, or if it would be the time of day. But I hit a feeding window and it was boom, boom, boom.”
William surmised that the still, hot conditions positioned the fish right for his techniques during that late morning timeframe. After struggling through unproductive early hours, he settled himself by putting it all into perspective.
“I kind of just told myself to relax, I have all day,” Williams said. “I felt like I was around them. I found fish in practice, so I just had to wait for that window.”
Using a mix of reaction and punching techniques, Williams had 15 bites today. Distance was his ally for the moving baits and a quiet, stealthy approach seemed to aid his punching efforts. The latter yielded the better quality, including that 8.82.
“Maybe it’s the area I’m in,” Williams said of his success. “I’ve caught fish there in the past and I shook off a bunch of fish in practice. I’ve caught big fish there, so I had confidence.
“My first spot was where I thought I was going to catch them, but I didn’t. I caught them on my second and third spots and then I let my areas rest. I decided to play the long game so hopefully, I’ll pull up tomorrow and have some fish ready to bite.”
APEX Pro Ken Mah of Elk Grove, Calif. is in second place with 25.59. Making a big run and hopping between multiple areas within the North and Central Delta regions, Mah ended up catching all of his fish within 5 miles of one another.
“I was fishing free and it felt good,” Mah said of his relaxed approach. “I’m normally on a schedule with the Delta tides, but I’m fishing a lot lot of the right stuff in the right area.
“I caught some fish out of grass, I caught some out of mats, I caught some on topwater. I have a big stick in my hand, I have a topwater in my hand. When it looks right in front of me, I’ll pick up the right bait and I might make one cast and then I’ll pick up another rod and make five casts.
Mah amassed his weight by throwing a D&M Buzzbait and a prop bait in open water and punching mats with a Big Bite Baits Yo Mama in the confusion color and a Big Bite Baits Fighting Frog in red melon with weights of 1 to 1 3/4 ounce.
“My late weigh in helped,” Mah said of his takeoff order. “I had a pretty good bag by midday and then I made a couple good culls later in the day that pushed me up from about 21 pounds to over 25.”
Doug Hutchison of Reno, Nev. is in third place with 23.26. After a western run past the Antioch Bridge proved unproductive, he ended up spending the rest of his day in a Central Delta community hole where he fished a mix of vegetation.
“I fished through the tide,” Hutchison said. “I caught two 6-pounders 6 hours apart, so I don’t think the tide matters that much. There’s not a lot of current in this area.”
Hutchison tempted one of his fish on a white Brabec buzzbait and caught the rest by punching a Strike King Rage Bug in orange and red. Observing the natural coloration of crawfish he spotted atop matted vegetation clued him into a specific color he’ll employ on Day 2.
“I’m not confident I can catch (a similar bag) in the same area tomorrow, but I have a couple back-up areas,” Hutchison said of his second-round game plan.
Kirk Marshall of Discovery Bay, Calif. leads the co-angler division with 18.04. Fishing the Central Delta, he caught fish on multiple spots, all with similar combinations of tules, grass and some hard cover.
“There wasn’t a big today, but the incoming water seemed to be best,” Marshall said. “I had a slow morning; I didn’t start getting them until late morning. I caught seven fish and culled twice.”
Noting that diversity was his best strategy, Marshall described his day as a junk fishing clinic.
“I was throwing the kitchen sink at them just trying to get a bite,” Marshall said. “I caught my biggest one flipping. I also caught some on a dropshot with a Roboworm in margarita mutilator, a Yamamoto Senko and a Z-Man Chatterbait.”
Shawn Nash of San Jose, Calif. holds the Big Bass lead among co-anglers with a 7.33.
Saturday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6:30 a.m. Pacific Time at Big Break Marina. The weigh-in will be held at the marina at 3 p.m.