By David A. Brown
LAKEPORT, Calif. — Christopher Dabbs of Ukiah, Calif. overcame early frustration and a painfully long dry spell to catch a 5-bass limit of 24.17 pounds that leads Day 1 of the Wild West Bass Trail on Clear Lake presented by Bridgford Foods.

Boat number 35 in the morning take off, Dabbs ran south to the Redbud arm, but found himself unable to fish several of his planned spots. Denied four times, he finally settled on a stretch of shallow rocks in about 8 feet of water. Fortunately, his patience was rewarded.

“My big fish — 8.17 — was within the first 15 mins this morning,” Dabbs said. “That was my fifth choice, because the first four areas where I tried to start had boats on them.

“I’m kinda glad those other spots had boats on them. At first, I was (upset), but it worked out. After my big fish, I got a 4, then I was panicking because I went almost five hours without any other bites.”

Dabbs attributes his lengthy lull to feeding windows. As he explained, the areas he had identified in practice found fish periodically moving up to eat and then dropping into deeper water where he couldn’t get bit.

“They’re either there or they aren’t,” Dabbs said. “I knew what I had, so I didn’t want to leave it. I stuck it out in a couple of areas just knowing that eventually, they would move up. But it was scary.”

When the waiting became too stressful, Dabbs decided to relocate to similar habitat in the Rattlesnake arm. This area eventually allowed him to fill his limit, but it didn’t happen quickly.

“About 1:30, I had the same fish in the livewell that I had early in the morning,” Dabbs said. “I wasn’t upgrading, I wasn’t catching anything, so I made a move and it paid off. I got my second-biggest fish, a 6 1/2, about 20 minutes before I had to go in.”

Dabbs caught his fish on a mix of baits including crankbaits, spinnerbaits, shaky heads and Texas rigs. Essential to his performance was a Minn Kota Ultrex trolling motor with a 52-inch shaft.

“In the morning, there was a lot of wind and that made it hard to fish,” Dabbs said. “I’m glad I have a deep shaft on my trolling motor. If I didn’t have that, I wouldn’t have been able to fish my spots.”

Kasey Rhyme of Reno, Nev. is in second place with 22.38. Devoting his day to Clear Lake’s north end, he targeted shallow grass and focused on what he termed a spot within a spot. Catching two good fish during practice was enough to convince him to return during competition.

“This is mostly a postspawn area with a lot of grass, but there are little bare spots,” Rhyme said. “Someone could roll right by and not see them.

“All around the lake, there’s a lot of 2 1/2-pounders and there’s this one certain spot where the bigger ones seem to be set in. I didn’t catch a lot of fish, but the bigger ones want to be in there.”

As Rhyme explained, these bare spots proved strategic because they allowed him to effectively present his bait of choice.

“I fished a homemade bladed jig with a Z-Man Razor ShadZ or a Strike King KVD Caffeine Shad and in areas with a lot of weeds, you have to fish really fast to keep it out of the weeds,” he said. “But in the bare areas, I could fish it slower and really dig it on the bottom.”

APEX Pro Joe Uribe Jr. of Surprise, Ariz. is in third place with 21.98. Spending his day in the lake’s south end, Uribe targeted shallow grass in about 5 feet of water. He dialed in one particular reaction bait that fooled all of his fish.

“It was just multiple casts in the area,” Uribe said. “I was being very thorough; creating a strike and making them bite.”

Rhyme is in the lead for Big Bass honors with his 9.26.

Adrian Frazier of Santa Cruz, Calif. leads the co-angler division with 20.78. The last angler to weigh on Day 1, Frazier fished both arms of the lake’s south end and caught his fish around a mix of rocks and shallow tules.

Frazier caught all of his fish on a Texas-rigged Yamamoto bait. A slow, methodical presentation proved most productive.

“I’d do a little tip action on the shake,” Frazier said. “Sometimes on my Texas rigs, I’ll use a little rattle, so I used that today.”

Dan Powers holds the Big Bass lead among co-anglers with a 5.13.

Saturday’s takeoff is scheduled for 5:30 a.m. Pacific Time at Library Park. The weigh-in will be held at the park at 3:00 p.m.


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