By David A. Brown
OROVILLE, Calif. — Local pro Logan McDaniel followed a hunch and that intuition led him to the fireworks potential that he leveraged to win the Wild West Bass Trail Pro-Am on Lake Oroville presented by Price Family Dealership with a 3-day total of 40.36 pounds.
“I’m just giving glory to God; I was praying today,” said McDaniel, who makes his home in Oroville. “I don’t know what to say, but I am absolutely stoked.”
So, here’s how it went down. About three weeks before the tournament, McDaniel had just returned from an out of town event. Despite the exhaustion, he decided to hit the lake for some advance scouting.
“I came back from a tournament on Lake Havasu and I didn’t do very good, but when I came home, I still wanted to go fishing,” McDaniel said. “With the water coming up, I knew the big ones would be biting and I had this feeling I needed to be in this one particular spot where I lost a big one years ago.”
Long story short, McDaniel hooked a giant that he estimated at 12-13 pounds and lost the fish at boatside. Returning to this area on Day 2, McDaniel got his revenge with the tournament’s biggest fish — a massive 12.86-pound largemouth that also gave him the event’s heaviest bag, 20.98.
Adding this to the 9.12 he weighed on Day 1 and his final-round limit of 10.26, McDaniel outpaced J.R. Wright by 3 1/2 pounds.
McDaniel tempted the big fish by slow rolling an A-rig along shallow shoreline in 5 feet of water. McDaniel fitted his A-rig with 2.8 Keitech Swing Impact Fat swimbaits on 1/32-ounce heads and a 1/8-ounce head with a 3.3 Keitech Swing Impact Fat in the center.
“Everyone says the (target bait) is all the fish will bite, but ya’ll are wrong,” McDaniel chuckled. “It bit one of the itty bitty hooks and luckily I got it in the boat.”
Entering Championship Sunday with a lead of nearly 5 pounds, McDaniel launched with an open-minded game plan that ultimately served him well.
“I just went out and fished moment,” McDaniel said. “It was a tough day, but I put my head down, I pulled out (several) rods and went to work.”
McDaniel started the morning in the North Fork where he caught a keeper in the first five minutes on a Float-n-fly with a custom fly called The Minnow, tied by Ryan Williams of North Valley Guide Service. After nearly two hours of nothing, McDaniel moved to the West Fork and added three more small keepers on the A-rig.
“Around 11 o’clock, I only had about 4 pounds, so I made a move and ran up the North Fork to this point I knew,” McDaniel said. “I sat there and culled out all those four fish. I caught one that was a 2 1/2-pounder right out the gate on the Float-n-Fly.
“Then, I went over to another point and fished a dropshot until I culled out all my fish. I put about 8 1/2 pounds in the boat by 1 o’clock.”
McDaniel rigged his dropshot with a 3-inch Roboworm in baby bass with a 1/16-ounce tungsten weight. Dropping down to 5-pound Daiwa J-Fluoro helped him tempt more bites.
After a final move back to the West Fork, McDaniel finished his day by catching three more keepers on the A-rig. These late-day fish provided the culls he needed to amass his final weight.
“I’ve had it heavy on my heart to chase my bass fishing dream for couple of years,” McDaniel said. “I’m all in on this thing. I’m throwing everything I have at bass fishing and it’s just amazing to finally be able to say that I won one.”
Hailing from Truckee, Calif., Wright finished second with 36.86. The veteran angler topped the Day-1 leaderboard with 12.93, then yield one spot after posting a second day catch of 12.20. Wright with a solid third round effort of 11.73.
Since Day 1, Wright fished the main lake and the Middle Fork, where he targeted points and specifically looked for spots with irregularities, like isolated rocks. He fished new water both days and focused on windward areas during Saturday’s blustery conditions.
“The first two days, I fished in less than 5 feet of water; my boat was never in more than 18 feet of water,” Wright said. “On the last day, even though the wind blew less (than Day 2), but the waves were bigger and I couldn’t hold on anything on the main lake.
“I ran up the Middle Fork and I just grinded it out. I only caught eight fish, but I caught a few of the right ones.”
Wright caught his fish Keitech Swing Impact Fat swimbaits on 1/4-ounce Ladies Man ball heads. Alternating between the 2.8 and 3.3 size Keitechs, he used 7-pound Daiwa J-Fluoro.
APEX pro Nick Wood of Montague, Calif. took third with 35.53. Turning in a consistent performance, Wood weighed daily bags of 10.06, 12.86 and 12.61.
Focusing his efforts on the North Fork, Wood targeted fish along what he described as “big, steep bluff rock walls. He caught all of his fish on an umbrellas rig fitted with 4-inch Keitech Swing Impact Fat swimbaits in the Tennessee Shad color.
“I started in the Middle Fork, but in practice I had found an area in the North Fork that was okay; I didn’t think it was a good as it was,” Wood said. “I kinda wish I’d gone there the first day. I could’ve done some more damage if I’d fished all three days there.
“The second day, I went up there and had all my fish by 9:30. As soon as I got there, I started catching them and they were solid fish. Today, I leaned on them as hard as I could.”
Shawn Nash of San Jose, Calif. won the Co-angler Division with 30.83. Weighing 9.70, and 9.6 the first two days, he saved the best for last by turning in the final-round’s heaviest co-angler bag — 11.53 — and edging Day-2 leader Ryan Gutierrez by just under a pound.
Fishing steep bluff walls in 15-30 feet, Nash caught his fish on a dropshot with a 3.5 Keitech Swing Impact in electric shad and a Neko-rigged 4-inch Yamamoto Senko in green pumpkin watermelon laminate with a 1/16-ounce nail weight. He fished both on 7-foot-2 medium-heavy Alpha Angler Wrench spinning rods.
“My pro, Cody Murray put us on fish early,” Nash said. “We fished one area; about a 1/2-mile stretch. I got most of my fish on minor points and got my biggest — a 4-pounder — in one of the cut drains.