By David A. Brown
LAKEPORT, Calif. — After Day 2, Christian Ostrander did not believe he would do okay in the final round of the Wild West Bass Trail Clear Lake Pro-Am presented by Ford Fairfield — he believed he would win. The APEX Cup pro from Turlock, Calif. actually stated as much; and 24 hours later, he delivered another big limit that gave him a dominant victory with a 3-day total of 73.53 pounds.
Ostrander, who also won last year’s Clear Lake Pro-Am, placed ninth on Day 1 with 21.73, then bolted into first with a second-round limit of 27-13 — the event’s heaviest bag. Today, he added 24.67 and raced across the finish line with a 6 1/2-pound margin of victory.
“I love this place,” Ostrander said of Clear Lake. “I fish this place a lot, so I know it well. I know how to pattern fish well on this lake.”
Returning to the same area of the Rattlesnake Arm where he’d fished the previous two days, Ostrander looked for fish right over grass outside spawning areas in 5-6 feet.
“I would switch up the angle often and hit the spot from different sides,” Ostrander said. “I would trolling motor around the spot to avoid spooking the fish.”
Throwing a Lucky Craft LV 500 lipless bait, a 5.75-inch Strike King Rage Swimmer on a 1/4-ounce swimbait head, and a Little Creeper Trash Fish swimbait, Ostrander said he caught fewer fish today, but they were all of the higher quality he needed. With the Championship Sunday field launching into considerably colder conditions, Ostrander adjusted accordingly.
“I had to slow my presentation down tremendously,” he said. “My fourth cast in, I got a 5-pounder.
“I milked three areas and just rotated around them. One area was better than the others. They were just rolling in and I was picking them off.”
Describing his spots as classic prespawn staging positions, Ostrander said he focused more on what the fish were doing, than where they were doing it. This strategy, he said, delivered the win.
“When you start patterning them in this place, it can be deadly,” he said. “Yeah, I’m fishing spots, but once you get the pattern dialed, it can be lights out.
“It got cold today and I was scared. I didn’t catch many fish today, but they were good ones. It was awesome.”
Jason Newby of Glennville, Calif. finished second with 67.04. Spending his tournament in the mid-lake area, Newby fished rocks in 12-15 feet and turned in daily weights of 23.69, 20.24 and 23.11.
“I set up on certain structures, paralleled them and did whatever I needed to do to get the right angles on them,” Newby said. “Moving around and changing angles was (important.). I caught probably 20 fish today. I had one of the best days I’ve had since I’ve been here.”
Newby caught his fish on a homemade 7-inch soft pour swimbait he calls the “Newby Bait” in hitch color and a Norman DD22 in a crawfish color that he modifies with black accents.
“I was working shade lines, where the fish positioned better,” Newby said. “It was better when it was sunny. When it was cloudy, they were roaming more.”
APEX Cup pro John Pearl of Upper Lake finished third with 67.01. After turning in two consistent bags of 23.42 and 23.52, Pearl saw his spots fizzle. A tougher Day 3 yielded 20.07.
Since Day 1, Pearl has targeted a trio of grass patches in the lakes north end. Rotating through these spots, he would eventually intercept groups of fish moving up to feed. Day 3’s colder conditions diminished this bite.
“Yesterday, I caught 80-90 cookie cutter 4 1/4-pounders, but today, they were gone,” Pearl said. “I caught two on one spot, two on another spot and had to milk my way through the day. I caught about 15 fish today.”
Pearl caught his fish on a Lucky Craft LV 500, a Strike King Redeye Shad, a G-Ratt Sneaky Pete glide bait, and a GCJ Custom Baits glidebait.
Rick Correa of Wilsonville, Or. won the Big Bass award with his 10.88.
Michael Peterson of Palo Cedro, Calif. won the co-angler division with 57.74. His was a tale of constant improvement, as he started Day 1 in 22nd place with a limit of 16.55 and gained 10 spots on Day 2 by adding 17.54. In the final round, Peterson’s 23.65 propelled him to the win.
“The guy I drew — Timothy Venkus — was on the fish,” Peterson said. “Yesterday, I was 100 yards from him and watched him and his co-angler catch a bunch of fish.
“I could see what they were doing, so it was a lot easier to prepare last night for what I needed to do. Tim was just an absolute professional and a pleasure to fish with.”
Peterson fished north end grass in 4-11 feet. The vegetation was full of small hitch and the staging prespawners were there to feed.
“I caught all of my fish on a Lucky Craft LV 500 lipless bait in ghost wagasaki and a 4-inch Keitech Easy Shiner in Tennessee shad on a 3/16-ounce ball head,” Peterson said. “If the fish stopped biting my LV, I threw the Keitech to fill my limit, but once I got my limit, I focused on bigger fish with the LV.”
Ryan Luke of Ione, Calif. won the Big Bass award among co-anglers with a 9.42.