Presented by The City Of Oakley
By David A. Brown
OAKLEY, Calif. — You don’t look a gift horse in the mouth, but it’s nice to know what makes him run fast. That’s kinda how Gregg Leonard of Wilton, Calif. contemplated the areas that produced a 5-bass limit of 20.46 pounds that leads Day 1 of the Wild West Bass Trail Duel on the Delta presented by City of Oakley.
Summarily, Leonard fished the North Delta, where he targeted grass and focused on the fry guarder pattern. With the morning’s high tide concealing his area’s features, Leonard had his limit in the first hour. He went on to catch fish all day and culled up a couple of times until early afternoon.
Initially, he simply worked an area where he had found fish during the final day of practice. As Leonard explained, it was not until the tide fell out that he realized just how many bass had recently spawned in his area.
“In the morning, when the tide was high, I could feel vegetation down there, but the water was turbulent so I couldn’t see,” Leonard said. “I went back on low tide and saw the vegetation and lots of fry. There were millions of bass fry — more than I’d ever seen.”
Anchoring his bag with a 6.05, Leonard caught his fish on a 1/2-ounce Z-Man ChatterBait with a Yamamoto Zako trailer. Ripping the bait through the grass was essential for triggering strikes.
“I fished five spots and I tried some new spots that I hadn’t fished in practice,” Leonard said. “I caught 15 keepers today and I threw back another 15-pound limit.”
Looking ahead to Day 2, Leonard said he’ll try to replicate his Day-1 success, but he’s aware of this fishery’s fickle nature.
“It’s the Delta; I don’t know what’s going to happen,” Leonard said. “I hope my fish will bite (on Day 2). I would like to have the limit I threw back (on Day 1).”
APEX pro Jason Austin of Ione, Calif. is in second place with 19.46. Sitting just half a pound off the lead, Austin anchored his bag with a 8.35-pound Delta chunk that made a huge difference in his day.
“I caught 15 keepers and I made my last cull with that big fish at 1:30,” Austin said. “I’m sure I culled a 2 1/4 with it.”
Fishing north, Austin fished everything from grass to overhangs. Arming himself with a 7-11 heavy G. Loomis GLX 954 C rod with a Shimano Chronarch 150 XG reel and 80-pound Tuff-Line, Austin punched a creature bait with a 1-ounce and a 1 1/4-ounce weight.
“I can’t say it was a pattern thing, other than the fish were there,” Austin said. “I think what I’m fishing is a postspawn area, and I think the fish are there to feed. There were a lot of crawdads in that area.
“There are so many areas of the Delta that are dead because of the (extremely) cold winter, but this area had a lot of fish.”
Recalling a frustrating moment in his day, Austin said his second stop of the day was an area where he had planned to throw reaction baits. After idling into the spot, he found a big sea lion swimming around the area, clearly looking for a bass breakfast.
“Between the sea lions and Mother Nature, the Delta is fishing funky,” Austin said. “When you find an area with fish, you gotta stay there and fish it.”
APEX pro Joe Uribe Jr. of Surprise, Ariz. is in third place with 18.9. Fishing south, he targeting one key area and fished a mix of tules and grass where he looked for spawners and postspawners.
Favoring the outgoing tide, Uribe caught most of his fish between 9 and 10. He had his limit by 10 and made his last cull around 2:45. Uribe caught his fish by power shotting with a 6-inch Fat Roboworm in margarita mutilator on a 4/0 Roboworm Rebarb hook with a 5/16-ounce Voss tungsten weight.
“For me, when fishing is tough, that’s my confidence bait,” Uribe said. “As much as I wanted to power fish like (many other competitors), I knew I had to keep that power shot in my hand.”
Using a 7-2 Performance Tackle Powershot rod with a Daiwa Tatula 100 SV reel carrying 30-pound Sunline high-vis braid and a 12-pound Sunline FC Sniper fluorocarbon leader, Uribe focused on fishing a deliberate and diligent plan.
“I was fishing very slow,” Uribe said. “I was just keeping it simple and making a lot of precise casts. I literally ran to an area and fished that area the entire day.
“I fished 500-yard stretch and really picked it apart. I was just going back and forth. I fished the levee side and the islands down the middle of it.”
Uribe said he saw only one other boat in the area, so he had nearly optimal flexibility.
“That’s what made me settle in a take my time, because I knew that it’s a good area and the fish weren’t getting pressured,” Uribe said. “I have a shorter day on Saturday (based on take-off order), so I’m going to stay closer and maximize my time.”
Austin is in the lead for Big Bass honors with his 8.35.
Johnny Coates of Campbell, Calif. leads the co-angler division with 13.65. Fishing the North Delta, he targeted sparse tules and grass and had what he described as an enjoyably busy day.
“It was very active, we were whacking them,” Coates said. “I caught over 25 fish. I had my limit around noon and got my weight by 1:30.”
Fishing a variety of reaction baits on Seaguar Red Label fluorocarbon, Coates said he found that slower presentations were most productive.
“I wanted the bait just touch the top of the grass and the fish would come up and eat it,” Coates said. “Also, I was casting close to the bank. Shade pockets, rocks — that’s where they wanted to be.”
Frank Harris of Sacramento, Calif. holds the Big Bass lead among co-anglers with a 5.38.
Saturday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6:30 a.m. Pacific Time at Big Break Marina. The weigh-in will be held at the marina at 3 p.m.