By David A. Brown
FOLSOM, Calif. — Austin Wilson figured a mobile strategy would serve him well and sticking with that game plan enabled the pro from Citrus Heights, Calif. to amass a 5-bass limit of 16.23 pounds and lead Day 1 of the APEX Pro Tour Championship on Folsom Lake presented by Bridgford Foods and Visit Folsom.
Wilson, who won the inaugural APEX Cup event on Lake Almanor in 2021, described a day that required a lot of running and a lot of persistence. With a significant amount of local knowledge, Wilson based his day more on searching than settling.
“I was all over the lake,” Wilson said. “I was in the North Fork, then I fished the main body, I went up the South Fork, then I went back out to the main body. I fished everything that I thought a fish would hold on — I fish this place all the time, so I fished history.
“Fishing was super tough. I was trying to find areas where a handful of fish had pulled up and were feeding. I know there are little bite windows, so I was hoping to pull up when there was a school of fish on whatever I was fishing.”
Wilson said he caught fish throughout the day and ended up boating nine keepers. He had his limit by noon, but he needed most of the day to tally his total weight. A key cull at 2:30 is what pushed him into the top spot.
Knowing that the fish would likely be in different stages of movement, Wilson targeted main lake points leading into spawning bays, secondary points and the backs of pockets. With his bites coming in 1 to 20 feet, he believes he caught a mix of prespawners and some that were still clinging to winter patterns.
“I prefer the prespawners because they’re bigger,” Wilson said. “There are some bigger fish in the winter patterns, but the prespawners are bulking up for the spawn.”
Wilson caught his fish on 3.8 Keitech Swing Impact Fat swimbaits on 1/4-ounce ball head jigs. A glacial pace and solid execution were essential to his success.
“I was creeping the bait along the bottom,” Wilson said. “I was slow winding it and every now and then, I’d pop the bait to make a directional change.
“I bounced around a lot and I never lost a fish, so I have to say thank you to P-Line. I fished clean today and that line was a big part of it.”
Looking ahead to Day 2, Wilson said he’s excited about the potential of adding to his APEX accolades, but he knows he still has a lot of work to do on a lake known for challenging conditions.
“I won the first ever APEX event and Angler of the Year, so winning an APEX championship would seal the deal,” Wilson said. “Championships are super hard to win. I’m happy with what I did today, but Folsom can be a tricky place and anything could happen.”
Nick Salvucci of Paso Robles, Calif. is in second place in the Total Weight standings with 15.83 pounds. Arriving with minimal Folsom know-how, Salvucci focused on four main areas and caught his fish out of two.
“The first time I saw the lake was this morning,” Salvucci said. “On the last spot I went to there was a bunch of bait and fish around, so I just stayed put and went back and forth. I noticed (TourneyX) wasn’t lighting up and there was no point in running around, so I just grinded it out there.”
Relying on his Garmin LiveScope to monitor the fish and bait, Savucci threw 3.8 Keitech Swing Impact Fat swimbaits in Tennessee Shad on 1/4-ounce ball head jigs. Creeping his bait across chunk rock in 15-25 feet proved most productive.
“They wanted it very slow rolling,” Salvucci said. “The water temperature was really cold. It was 43-44 in the morning and got up to 46-47.”
Rounding out the top-5 were Marty Lawrence of Mesa, Ariz. with 15.75, Thomas Kanemoto of Elk Grove, Calif. with 15.32 and Jason Austin of Ione, Calif. with 14.69.
Lawrence leads the Most Scorable Bass standings with 10. Making his first visit to Folsom, he started out by targeting familiar habitat and looking for clues that would help him dial in the fish behavior. Rock piles on points in 25 feet ended up being his top targets.
Lawrence caught his fish on 2.8 Keitech Swing Impact Fat swimbaits in Tennessee Shad on 1/4-ounce tungsten ball head jigs and a 3/8-ounce Keitech finesse football jig with a Yamamoto Fat Baby Craw trailer. Working six different spots, Lawrence caught 12 fish and upgraded throughout the day.
“I caught my biggest fish on the jig, but I caught the most (Scorable Bass) on the swimbait,” Lawrence said.
Lawrence fished his swimbait on a Dobyns 703 Champion Extreme rod with a Johnny Morris Platinum spinning reel carrying 15-pound Sunline braid and 10-pound BPS XPS fluorocarbon leader. He threw the football jig on a Dobyns 746 rod with a 6.8:1 Johnny Morris Platinum baitcasting reel carrying 12-pound BPS XPS fluorocarbon
Wilson is in second place in the Most Scorable Bass standings with nine, followed by Salvucci with eight.
Rounding out the top-5 were Kanemoto and Nick Cloutier of Oakley, Calif, each with eight.
After two days of full-field competition, the top-10 anglers advance to Sunday’s Championship round. The final field will comprise 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 are accumulated. In the final round, weights and keeper count are zeroed.
Saturday’s takeoff is scheduled for 7 a.m. Pacific at Brown’s Ravine Recreation Area. The weigh-in will be held at the same location at 3 p.m.