By David A. Brown
STOCKTON, Calif. — Ken Mah of Elk Grove, Calif. stuck with one bait for the majority
of the week, but he took that bait for a tour of the California Delta en route to sacking up
a Day-3 bag of 17.56 pounds and winning the Wild West Bass Trail Pro/Am
Championship presented by Bass Cat Boats & Mercury Marine with a 3-day total of
Mah, who won the APEX Cup on Thermalito Afterbay presented by Garmin Fish & Hunt
and DUO International in late August, caught 16.75 on Day 1 and added a second-
round limit of 18.30 to reach Championship Sunday in fourth place. For his efforts, Mah
won a Bass Cat Cougar FTD with a 250 Mercury engine valued at $75,000.
A longtime Delta rat and perennial threat on these tidal waters, Mah said it was
particularly rewarding to finally win a major local event.
“Everybody wants to fish their home waters because of familiarity, but I honestly think
it’s the hardest to win, because there’s so much going through your head,” he said. “I’ve
had so many high finishes, to close one out at this level — I won’t say it defines my
career, but it checks a lot of boxes.”
Mah has recorded five top-10 cuts this year in Wild West Bass Trail competition,
including his two wins. Such consistency, he said, is something he’s thrilled to
“I’ve seen pros like Joe Uribe, Bryant smith, Nick Salvucci and others go on runs like
this and, as a fan, I was like ‘Will that ever happen for me?’” Mah said. “I look up today
and I’m on one of those runs. To have that type of success being a shallow water, big
line fishermen, it really gives me internal validation.”
Mah caught one of his Day-2 keepers on a on a 1/2-ounce custom vibrating jig with a
green pumpkin Big Bite Baits Swimon trailer near deep grass near tule berms. Relying
on his strength, Mah did most of his damage with a punch rig comprising a Big Bite
Baits Yo Mama on a 4/0 Gamakatsu Super Heavy Flipping Hook with a purple/red G-
Money punch skirt and a 1 1/2-ounce Woo Tungsten weight.
Fishing this rig on a 7-11 GLoomis GLX 954C rod with a Shimano Chronarch MGL
and 80-pound Sunline FX braid, Mah started each day in the north Delta and ended
up running spots in the west, central and east regions. Hitting about 15-20 spots a day,
he caught 14 of his 15 total limit fish punching specific scenarios in 7-9 1/2 feet of water.
“Wherever I fished, there had to be current; not rushing current, but a (dependable)
current,” Mah said. “I burned more gas in this tournament than I ever have before. I was
just running to different areas that have that scenario.
“November on the Delta is like February on the Delta; the fish are not just biting in the
entire system. I’d run 30 miles to catch one fish, the run 30 miles in another direction to
Following an encouraging practice that saw low barometric pressure sparking a good
bite, Mah said changing weather conditions brought a more challenging scenario for
tournament days. Also, he found the low tide was higher each day, so he didn’t have a
true low water scenario.
Mah described a key decision that allowed him to catch his winning limit: “On Day 2, I
got into an area at the end of the day and ended up catching four or five after the low
tide switch. Today, I went there before the low switch and that was the key to me
“As the tide was still dropping — and not having a very low (outgoing) tide, it allowed me
to see the grass and then present my bait properly. The fish weren’t active so I was just
doing light lifts with that big weight. I was lifting the bait; I wasn’t popping the bait. You
would just feel heaviness on your line.”
Another key move: May started with a peanut butter and jelly Yo Mama, then moved to
the Confusion color — a black/blue with red flake on one side and green pumpkin on
“After getting a short strike, I made a bait change around 11:30 and then I caught six
fish after making that color change,” Mah said. “The water is starting to get darker
because it’s starting to turn over. Also, the deeper grass adds to the darkness and the
black/blue color stands out better when it’s sitting on the bottom.”
Obedie Williams of Discovery Bay, Calif., finished second with 51.65. He got off to a
solid start with 15.44 on Day 1, then stepped on the gas to catch a second-round limit of
19.74. Williams added 14.03 on Day 3.
Days 1 and 2 saw Williams catch his fish by punching a green pumpkin Big Bite Baits
Yo Mama on a 4/0 hook with a 1 1/2-ounce weight and 65-pound Daiwa Samaurai
braid. In the final round, he also caught fish punching, but changing things up improved
“I brought out the bone colored Whopper Plopper when the sun came out and threw
that around docks,” Williams said. “At the end of the day, with 2 minutes to go, I caught
one on an Alabama rig with Keitech 3.3 Swing Impact swimbaits in Tennessee Shad.
“I was just trying to find something different that would get me one more bite. It’s
something I’ve thrown for years and It’s dangerous this time of year.”
Day-1 leader and APEX Cup pro Phillip Dutra of Concord, Calif. finished third with
51.63. Weighing the event’s biggest bag — 20.77 — on Day 1, Dutra added 16.83 on
Day 2 and concluded with a final limit of 14.03.
Sticking with the same general strategy for three days, Dutra ran up and down the San
Joaquin River and fished a mix of tules, grass, wood and rock, where he targeted
specific tide windows for each scenario. While a mix of reaction baits played the first two
days, he caught his Day-3 fish by punching a Missile Baits D-Bomb in a craw color
with 1-, 1 1/4- and to 1 1/2-ounce weights.
“I did basically the same thing I did the fist two days, but the weather and the high
pressure made me make some adjustments,” Dutra said. “I fished a little deeper water,
a little dirtier water and water with a little more current.”
Christian Ostrander of Turlock, Calif. won the Yamamoto Toad of the Tournament award
with his 8.52.
Gary Baldwin of Orangeville, Calif. won the co-angler division with a total weight of
32.88. With daily scores of 8.95, 8.71 and 15.22, Baldwin won a Bass Cat Pantera
Classic and 200 Mercury valued at $55,000.
In the final round, Baldwin started out throwing a 1/2-ounce underspin with a 4-inch
Keitech Easy Shiner around docks in cleaner water. That bait produced several bites,
but making a key change later in the day secured the win.
“My main bait was a Luhr Jensen Speed Trap in the dark craw color,” Baldwin said. “I
threw this around docks where the water was dirty. That produced most of my keepers,
including my biggest fish — a 5.90.”
Placing 11th on Day 1 and 5th on Day 2, Baldwin noted that a 1/2-ounce black/blue
Bass Union Jigs Arkie jig with a plum colored Yamamoto Cowboy produced his biggest
Day-2 fish. That 3 1/2-pounder earned his final-round berth.
Day-2 leader Kirk Marshall of Discovery Bay, Calif. won the Yamamoto Toad of the
Tournament award among co-anglers with his 7.11.