By David A. Brown

REDDING, Calif. — When the big guns failed to deliver, APEX Cup angler Jeff Michels shifted gears and sacked up a Day-2 limit of 11.91 pounds and won the Wild West Bass Trail Superclean Showdown Pro/Am on Lake Shasta. with a two-day total of 23.45. For his effort, Michels earned a $25,000 first-place award.

The event was originally scheduled for three days, but an unforeseen complication involving local regulations postponed the start to Friday.

Hailing from Lakehead, Calif., Michels placed second on Day 1 with 11.54. Spending his tournament in the McCloud and Sacramento River arms, he fished a two-pronged game plan in which he looked for big bites early on a 10-inch Hog Hunter Magnum Trout swimbait and then finessed his spots with 5-inch Senkos in natural shad, baby bass and green pumpkin black flake colors on a 3/32-ounce finesse head.

Same as Day 1, Michels fished hard spots on muddy banks from 5 to 30 feet. After missing a few big swimbait opportunities, he caught all of his weight fish on the Senko.

Michels noted that his best action came far up the Sacramento arm where a lack of shad made crawfish and trout imitations the right call. He caught good numbers both days, but a late-day kicker on Day 2 pushed him over the finish line.

“I caught a key fish today — a 4.15 — around 3:30,” Michels said. “I was sweating it. I had a little bit of time left and I had a ton of confidence in that area. I just stuck in that one area and ground it out.

“I just got a couple key bites both days. Coming into this event, I was only catching 8 to 8 1/2 pounds a day. I found one school of fish and I just stuck with them. I had a 1/4-mile stretch of the Sacramento and I was working both sides of the channel, so it was a 1/2-mile loop.”

Michels said the warming trend that arrived right before the tournament made the fish more active. Also, recent rains helped Shasta regain some of its water level deficit (approximately 105 feet below full pool) and Michels believes this further benefitted his cause.

“When this lake starts coming up, fish start coming to the bank,” he said. “It positions them so you can catch them. That was a big key to my victory.”

Michels also lauded the impact of his recently installed Garmin Panoptix.

“That technology is amazing,” he said. “It will show you fish, so you look down at your trolling motor arrow and you know exactly where to cast and how deep the fish are. It’s a game changer.”

Bryant Smith of Roseville, Calif. finished second with 21.95. Mounting a significant comeback, Smith rose from 55th place by adding 13.83 to the 8.12 he caught on Day 1.

“I think the biggest thing was the sun came out today and positioned the fish where I could catch them and they weren’t so scattered,” Smith said. “It seems like yesterday with the clouds and the rain those fish weren’t really setting up; they were cruising around.”

Fishing the main lake, the McCloud arm and the Sacramento arm, Smith bounced around to fish points and drains. His strategy involved playing the numbers game and trying to hit as many big fish spots as he could.

“I had a 6.06 and a 3-pounder on the same point,” Smith said. “They were almost on back-to-back casts. That was a great way for it to go down.”

Smith caught his fish on a 3/16-ounce brown shaky head with a green pumpkin Strike King Fat Baby Finesse worm and Neko-rigged green pumpkin stick bait with a 3/32-ounce Dobyns nail weight and No. 1 Gamakatsu Split shot/dropshot hook

Cliff King of Ione, Calif. placed third with 20.85. Fishing main lake cuts in about 30 feet, he posted daily weights of 10.09 and 10.76.

King caught all of his fish on a Z-Man FattyZ (The Deal color) on a Ned head. He started out with a 5/32-ounce, but went to a 3/32-ounce when fishing action decreased. Dead sticking the bait proved most productive.

“I started out running and gunning, but when the bite got tougher, I started going back to my best spots,” King said. “I started making a milk run of six different areas.”

Thaddeus Vinson of Medford, Or. won the amateur division with 19.27. After catching 8.3 on Day 1, he added 10.97 today and earned a $10,000 top prize.

Spending time in the main lake, as well as the McCloud, Sacramento and Pit River arms, he caught his fish on a Steelhead Slammer spinner with the single hook replaced by a feathered treble and a Neko-rigged green pumpkin black flake Senko with a 1/16-ounce nail weight.

“Today’s wind made the spinner productive,” Vinson said. “I had all my weight by 10 a.m. When it slicked off, I threw the Senko and got bit, but everything I weighted came on that spinner.”