By David A. Brown
REDDING, Calif. — Jeff Michels had plenty of shots at good fish, but despite what he described as a day of lacking execution, the APEX pro from Lake Head, Calif. managed to retain his lead on Day 2 of the Wild West Bass Trail Pro-Am Championship on Lake Shasta presented by BassCat and Mercury Marine with a total weight of 22.24 pounds.
After taking the first-round lead with 12.33, Michels added a Day-2 limit of 9.91 and leads Mathew Saavedra by just over half a pound. The biggest difference between his first and second day’s efforts was the lack of a hefty kicker like Friday’s largest.
“A 5.66 on Shasta’s not going to hurt you,” Michels said of his Day-1 catch, “but you can’t count on that every day. I fished horribly today and I broke off five. One of them felt like a really big one.”
After the Day-1 weigh-ins, Michels said he was hoping for more wind to ignite the reaction bite. Unfortunately, that was not the case today and after finding no love for the Strike King 6XD that produced his 5.66, he switched to wacky rigged 5-inch Yamamoto Senkos.
Michels said the finesse rig worked well — nearly too well.
“The problem is that they were getting it so deep you could feel it rubbing against their teeth,” he said. “That’s why I kept breaking off fish. I was trying to set the hook as quickly as possible, but I had to use pliers to dehook several of my fish.
“I went through four bags of Senkos today. I used natural shad like I did yesterday and mixed in some of the baby bass color because I ran out of the other color.”
Michels said he targeted steep banks on the main lake and noted that Shasta’s extreme low water has rendered most of his preferred habitat unfishable.
“I love fishing long, tapering points, but with the lake being so low, those points are just big balls of mud,” Michels said. “The fish are looking for some hard cover so they can (corral) the shad.
“It’s a timing thing. If you can find them when they’ve pushed a ball of shad against one of those steep banks, you can mash on them. But then they’ll shut off and you’ll have to relocate them. You give it 45 minutes to an hour and then you can cycle back and start catching them again.”
Noting that he followed this plan multiple times today, Michels said he had his limit by 8 a.m. and culled up until he had his final weight around 2. As for his Championship Sunday outlook, Michels said his past success on Shasta has helped him manage the expectations.
“I’ve won five pro level events here, so tomorrow is just another day at the office for me,” he said. “The biggest decision is: Do just go do what you’ve been doing, or do you gamble and throw some big stuff to try and make something happen.
“I think I’m gonna take the gamble.”
Hailing from Redding, Calif., Mathew Saavedra added 11.47 to the 10.16 he caught on Day 1 and tallied 21.63. Success, he said, hinged on making good decisions and adjusting as needed.
“I’ve been targeting reaction bites and following up with soft plastics,” Saavedra said. “Today I noticed that they would come up to my 7-inch swimbait, but they wouldn’t bite it. So I started throwing a 1/4-ounce Frenzy Baits Nail with a finesse worm.
“I abandoned my reaction bite and it paid off. I was very methodical with my (shaky head) technique and I caught 40-50 fish.”
With many years of experience on his home lake, Saavedra said recent rounds of shifting weather have the lake unsettled. Persistence and flexibility were his greatest allies.
“I had to adjust on the fly and it’s worked so far,” Saavedra said. “I burned 18 gallons of gas today and fished all arms of the lake.”
APEX pro Alex Klein of Oroville, Calif. trails Saavedra by 1/100th of pound at 21.62. After taking second on Day 1 with 12.20, Klein caught 9.42 today.
Klein, who won the Wild West Bass Trail Pro-Am on the California Delta in Sept., said he basically repeated his Day-1 pattern, but couldn’t find the big bites like the ones that helped him yesterday.
Klein fished the Sacramento River Arm, where he targeted isolated boulders with proximity to deep water drop-offs. He used the same two down baits and, while one of those baits produced four of the five he weighed, they both produced equal quantity.
“You had to slow down and be patient today,” Klein said. “I think downsizing to 6-pound Sunline FC Sniper fluorocarbon and the sensitivity of the 7-foot St. Croix spinning rods I used were the keys to getting bites.”
Michels is in the lead for Toad of the Tournament honors with his 5.66.
Colby Huntze of Discovery Bay, Calif. leads the co-angler division with 16.99. Adding 9.47 to the 7.52 he weighed on Day 1, Huntze leads Roy Desmangles by a fifth of a pound.
Huntze, who won the co-angler trophy at the Wild West Bass Trail Pro-Am win on the California Delta in Sept., said his two days were a contrast of quantity and quality.
“I caught more fish yesterday, but I just didn’t have any big bites,” Huntze said. “Today I caught fewer fish but they were better quality.”
Fishing the main lake all day, Huntze did most of his work in 20-30 feet. He caught his fish on a 3/16-ounce shaky head with a watermelon black fleck finesse worm.
“I was fishing it very slowly,” Huntze said. “Most of the time, I was just letting the boat drag it.”
David Haun holds the Toad of the Tournament lead among co-anglers with a 3.19.
Sunday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6:30 a.m. Pacific Time at Bridge Bay Resort Marina. The weigh-in will be held at the resort at 3:30 p.m.