By David A. Brown
REDDING, Calif. — Saving the best until last often makes for a stressful day, but the wait ended triumphantly for APEX Cup angler Nick Wood of Little Shasta, Calif. whose three-day total of 36.06 pounds topped the Wild West Bass Trail Superclean Showdown on Shasta Lake presented by Bridge Bay at Shasta Lake and Phil’s Propellers.

After placing third on Day 1 with 12.13, Wood added 11.99 and took over the Day-2 lead. The Championship round found him posting the day’s heaviest bag — a limit of 11.94 that gave him a winning margin of 2.4 over Cody Meyer. Wood anchored his final bag with a 4.41-pound spotted bass that sealed the deal.

“I caught that big one at 2:30 and thought to myself, that might have done it,” Wood said.

All three days, Wood fished the Sacramento River Arm, where he focused on a bait-laden spot. With chilly snow melt running into the area and creating a thermocline, he targeted a steep rock bluff wall in 40 feet.

“There’s a gut next to that wall that holds bait,” Wood said. “That was the key area — the spot on the spot.”

Same as the first two days, Wood caught his fish on a 4-inch Keitech Swing Impact in Tennessee shad on a custom dart head. In the earlier hours, he caught suspended fish on a cast-and-retrieve presentation, but once the sun rose high in the sky, the bait sunk lower in the clear water and the fish followed.

“Once the fish sunk to the bottom, I had to slow roll the bait,” Wood said. “Whether I was reeling the bait or slow rolling it, there was one particular cast that was key. I’d cast past the gut then slowly bring it through that area.”

As Wood explained, his success hinged on sticking with the spot where he knew his greatest opportunity existed.

“The key was just staying in the area because there was a huge concentration of fish,” Wood said. “I almost left at 1 o’clock. I ran about 1/4 mile and fished some steeper rock.

“I fished 5 minutes but then I told myself to go back to what I know. I only got one more bite but it was that 4.41.”

Wood had his limit by 10:30 and locked up his winning total with his big fish at 2:30. After multiple second-place finishes, he said he’s thrilled to finally put together a winning effort.

“It’s awesome, I’m speechless,” Wood said. “I’ve wanted to win one of these for a long, long time. It was a lot of hours and being gone, but getting the W feels good.”

Hailing from Eagle, Idaho, Meyer finished second with 33.66. The seasoned pro, originally from California, placed fifth on Day 1 with 10.33, then added 12.66 to gain one spot. Meyer finished with a Day-3 total of 10.67.

Meyer also spent his entire tournament in the Sac Arm, where he took an aggressive approach. He relied on the bulky profile of a Yamamoto Hula Grub (smoke and smoke purple colors) on 1/2- and 3/4-ounce Owner football heads to trigger bites.

“Today was brutally tough; I only caught 8 fish today,” Meyer said. “There was only half the bait in my area that there was yesterday.

“The key for me was covering lot of area and focusing on an area with a large concentration of fish that were heavier because they had been gorging on shad.”

APEX Cup angler Jeff Michels of Lakehead, Calif. took third with 29.67. His total comprised daily weights of 12.27, 9.67 and 7.73.

Michels started in the same area of the Sac Arm where he had fished the first two days, but after a slow morning, he relocated to the McCloud River Arm.

“I was going for a couple big fish spots (In the McCloud) but it didn’t pan out,” Michels said. “I ended up weighing two out of the Sac and three out of the McCloud.

Michels caught his fish on 4-inch Keitech Easy Shiner swimbaits in rainbow shad on a custom head and 5-inch Shasta Bass Bait swimbaits in a custom color rigging on a 3/4-ounce swimbait head.

Keegan Graves of Meridian, Idaho won the $1,000 Big Bass award for his 6.23.

Rodney Brown of Sacramento, Calif. won the co-angler division with a total of 30.09. His daily weights were 8.26, 13.62 — the event’s biggest bag — and 8.21.

Similar to Day 2, Brown fished close to the Shasta Dam area and caught his fish in 15 feet of water. His best bait was a Ned rig with a 3/16-ounce head and a Z-Man Big TRD in green pumpkin goby.

“It was the first 3 hours then after that, it was over,” Brown said. “It was pretty quick first thing in the morning and I had a limit about 9:30. It seemed like if I dragged the bait it wouldn’t get bit, but when I shook it, they’d eat it.

“I want to thank P-Line for providing a fluorocarbon with the strength I needed — especially with my big fish on Day 2. When it saw the boat, the fight was on.”

Brown won the $500 Big Fish award for his 4.91.