By David A. Brown
STOCKTON, Calif. — Meticulously picking his way through very specific scenarios, APEX
Cup pro Phillip Dutra caught a 5-bass limit of 20.77 pounds that leads Day 1 of the Wild
West Bass Trail Pro/Am Championship presented by Bass Cat Boats & Mercury Marine.
“The fishery is typical November fishing; it comes down to knowing all the pieces,” Dutra
said. “It’s all about timing. You have little windows of opportunity and it’s all tide-related.”
Logging a 135-mile round trip, Dutra fished approximately 25 spots and caught fish
throughout his range. All but three of his spots produced.
“I was battling my instincts today,” Dutra said. “They were telling me to stay on very
specific tidal scenarios and not just stay in my comfort zone. I’m not chasing a specific
tide; I’m looking for a specific part of the tide for each of the spots I’m fishing.”
Stressing the Delta’s seasonally fickle nature, Dutra said he’s worked hard over the
years to build a body of knowledge that helps him quickly identify key areas, along with
their ideal tide stage.
“This time of year, it’s tricky, but when you understand (the determining factors) it opens
up to you,” Dutra said. “Where I’m stopping, I’m stopping for a specific reason.”
Anchoring his bag with a 6.28, Dutra fished tules, grass, wood and rock. Fishing a mix
of topwater baits and flipping presentations, his bites were spread across the range of
habitats. Many required long casts and he found the T-wing system on his Daiwa Tatula
Elite reels essential.
“I caught just as many fish on the rising tide as the falling tide,” Dutra said. “I was most
concerned with the way current affected the cover.
“Presentation is key, especially with tidal bass. Angles are very important because Delta
bass don’t move like lake bass do. Their range of motion, their feeding zone is smaller
because of tide and current.”
Looking ahead to Day 2, Dutra said he believes his first-round effort will help him fish
with greater focus.
“I think it will be the same approach, but I feel like I eliminated some stuff today,” he
said. “I got it out of my system today, so I can start laser focusing on what I need to
Jason Austin of Ione, Calif is in second place with 20.28. Covering a lot of water today,
he started fishing the Stockton area, ran north, then ended up in the western region.
One area ended up being more productive, but Austin said he caught fish throughout
his range. Vegetation was the key, and while he couldn’t divulge specific details, he said
he was very particular in what he fished.
“Grass and mats — there’s plenty of it on the Delta, but there’s some chemistry in the
way the two (habitat features) interacted that was most productive,” Austin said. “The
fish could be anywhere between 5 and 9 feet, but I think it was the ingredients of the
mat that made the difference.
Noting that he caught his fish on a mix of reaction and slow baits, Austin said he had to
fish everything slowly. He attributes this to seasonal moodiness.
“It was just slow presentations, even with my reaction baits,” Austin said. “I think they’re
in between stages. The weather’s been so warm, they’re not even fully in their fall stage
APEX Cup pro Nick Cloutier of Oakley, Calif. is in third place with 17.80. Focusing on
familiar waters, he spent his day in the Central Delta and recovered from missing a
couple of big morning bites by patiently waiting for the optimal tidal scenario.
“All my weight came on a dead low tide right as the rising tide started,” Cloutier said.
“The water drops far enough to where the grass mats out. If you go in there on high tide,
it’s all submerged, but when the tide is low, it lays over. This makes it more predictable;
it gives me more of a target.”
Cloutier caught his fish by punching a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver in the
Texas hook color and a green pumpkin Missile Baits D-Bomb. He accented both with a
Cloutier Custom Baits punch skirt in summer craw and used 1- and 1 1/4-ounce
“It was just being at the right place at the right time,” Cloutier said of his success. “It had
to have current; that positions them. On a slack tide, they don’t move, but once the
water starts pushing through the grass, they start to feed.”
Austin is in the lead for Big Bass honors with his 8.18.
Kirk Marshall of Discovery Bay, Calif. leads the co-angler division with 15.49. Lamenting
a tough day that found him with no fish at 12:30, Marshall said the key to turning his day
around was taking an open-minded approach.
“I fish the Delta a lot, so I have my specific colors and I was sticking to them and
sticking to them,” he said. “I wasn’t catching anything, but I noticed my pro was picking
them up on a different color.
“I was using a red craw color to flip milfoil and hyacinth. When I switched to green
pumpkin, I started catching them.”
Marshall caught three of his keepers — including a 7.11 — between 12:30 and 2:00. He
caught last two in the final hour of fishing time.
Marshall holds the Big Bass lead among co-anglers with his 7.11.
Saturday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6:30 a.m. Pacific at Buckley Cove Marina Resort.
The weigh-in will be held at the Marina at 3:00 p.m.