By David A. Brown
LEBECs, Calif. — Despite a lengthy distraction, Thomas Kanemoto of Elk Grove, Calif. reconnected with an early clue and completed a limit of 10.15 pounds to win the APEX Cup Pro Tour event on Pyramid Lake presented by Golden Entertainment.
After two days of competition on Arizona’s Lake Mohave, the season-opening event was originally scheduled to conclude Jan. 9. However, the National Park Service raised a two-flag high wind warning, so tournament management determined that postponing the final day of competition was in the best interest of angler safety.
“It was incredible; this is my first pro level win,” Kenemoto said. “The key was figuring out a pattern. The fishery was tough, but I figured out what the fish would react to.”
The only competitor to break 10 pounds, Kanemoto caught most of his fish on Zoom Super Fluke rigged with a screw lock in the nose and a No. dropshot hook set through the eye.
“I was fishing this bait really fast, so it was power finesse fishing,” Kanemoto said. “It’s kinda cool because that’s what I did at Mohave — I fished a dropshot like a reaction bait. I would throw it out, let it hit the bottom and just reel it back in.”
Kanemoto fished his Super Fluke on spinning tackle with 8-pound P-Line SpinX braid and a 7-pound P-Line SpinX fluorocarbon leader. He found his fish on classic postspawn positioning.
“The fish were way in the back of pockets, but not all the way in the back; they were done spawning and on their way out, so they were set up on the first deep rock,” Kanemoto said. “I was throwing the bait really shallow and working it really quickly and killing it and they would come out of the shade of some boulders.
“A lot of them wouldn’t eat it, but I got the right ones to eat it over the course of the day.”
Kanemoto said he figured out this pattern early in the morning when he saw a fish following his bait. Pausing the retrieve, he got an early keeper to bite. He’d add two more but the pattern had not yet crystalized in his head.
“After I caught those fish on the Super Fluke, I caught one on a frog,” Kanemoto said. “That kind of spun me and I went and fished a frog for several hours, but I couldn’t get bit again.”
Around midday, Kanemoto moved into a different pocket and found some shade behind a boulder and recognized the similarity to his early morning success. Picking up the fluke again, the response was immediate.
“I got a follower, lost one fish at the boat and caught a 2 3/4-pounder on one bank,” Kanemoto said. “I knew that’s what I needed to do the rest of the day.”
Nick Cloutier of Oakley, Calif. finished second with 9.94. Working the lake’s northeastern corner, he focused on a grassy bay where he caught his fish in 2-10 feet of water.
With his day defined by diversity, Cloutier caught five fish on five different baits. He used a Berkley Choppo, a 3/8-ounce Coolbaits The Down underspin with a 3.8-inch Keitech, a 1/2-ounce Cloutier Custom Baits vibrating jig with a Strike King Blade Minnow and Pro-Z Frog.
“I was hoping to key in on topwater in the morning and then use swimbaits the rest of the day, but it was just so hard to get bit, I had to keep changing it up,” Cloutier said. “You’d see them all over the place, but I think it was just a postspawn deal and they were very lethargic.
“The wind was a big factor and there was so much stingy grass it was hard to get a bait through. But if you could get a clean pull thought it, you’d get bit.”
Austin Bonjour of Atascadero, Calif. took third with 9.29. Committing to the Piru Creek section, he focused his attention on bluff walls where he caught his fish in 1-10 feet of water.
“I was losing my shade as the day went on,” Bonjour said. “My bite was early and I couldn’t get bit after about 8 a.m. I only caught four; it was really tough.”
Bonjour caught his fish on a 1/4-ounce Dirty Jigs Matt Stefan Guppy Head jig with a 2.8-inch Keitech. Most of his bites came in the 7- to 8-foot range.
After two days of full-field competition, the top-10 anglers advanced to the Championship round. The final field comprised the top-5 anglers with the Most Scorable Bass and the top-5 anglers with the highest Total Weight. Total days weight and Scorable Bass count from days 1 and 2 were accumulated. In the final round, weights and Scorable Bass count were zeroed.