By David A. Brown
LAKEPORT, Calif. — Finding a different way to fish a pressured area, Christian Ostrander of Turlock, Calif. topped the field at the Wild West Bass Trail on Clear Lake presented by Bridgford Foods with a total weight of 64.54 pounds.
After weighing 16.44 on Day 1, Ostrander added 20.96 on Day 2. In the final round, he stepped on the gas and turned in the event’s heaviest bag — 27.14 — and took home the $15,500 first-place prize.
Anchoring his limit with a 7.67-pound kicker, Ostrander committed his day to Konocti Bay, where he focused on deep rock next to spawning areas. Targeting postspawn fish, he did most of his damage on one rocky point.
“It was a big bend with some big rocks, super deep and somewhere that had a lot of fish,” Ostrander said. “In practice, a lot of people knew about this spot. The difference was how I approached it; how I fished it. Everyone was going in there and throwing a jig, but I was throwing a crankbait.”
As Ostrander explained, his bait selection — a Strike King 6XD in the red craw color — was even a departure from the norm.
“Everyone goes and throws these deep crankbaits on Clear Lake; they throw these baits that go to 25 feet,” he said. “This one was a lot smaller profile. It goes to 15-20 feet, but I could throw it up into 5 feet and work it out into deeper water.
“A big crankbait dredges and makes too much noise. I think a lot of guys overlook these little crankbaits here. The 6XD is just a more subtle profile.”
Ostrander fished his crankbait on a 7-3 Dobyns cranking rod with an 8:1 Daiwa Tatula reel and 15-pound Seaguar fluorocarbon. He likes the ability to quickly collect a hooked fish, but he only used a fraction of his speed on the retrieve.
“I had to fish the crankbait really slow,” Ostrander said. “A lot of these guys are going and burning a crankbait 100 mph, but I barely turned the handle on that reel. It was a mushy bite and then they’d load up.
“That’s something I figured out the second day of the tournament. I was struggling a little bit, but I started reeling it slowly and they started eating it.”
“Ostrander also caught a few fish on a 1/2-ounce California Reservoir Lures brown/purple football jig with a Yamamoto Double Tail Grub in cinnamon purple. Here again, a modest presentation excelled.
“Everyone is going through these areas fast and hopping a jig,” Ostrander said. “That works sometimes, but was just slowly dragging it along the bottom.”
Same as the first two days, Ostrander had his limit in about 20 minutes and secured his day’s total by 11. He attributed his big final-day effort to solitude.
“On Day 2, I was fishing with five to six boats; today, I had it all to myself,” Ostrander said. “I could get the angles; that’s what it was all about. I’d let the spot rest 10-15 minutes, fish the other side, then trolling motor back and catch another big one.”
Kasey Rhyme of Reno, Nev. turned in his second bag over 20 pounds to tally a three-day total of 60.44 pounds. His daily weights were 22.38, 15.94 and 22.12.
Rhyme ran south to the Redbud arm and fished rocky banks that came up to flats. In the mornings, he found his fish in 4-6 feet, but worked out to 10 feet later in the day.
“I noticed when the bottom turned to a mix of rock and grass, I didn’t get any bites; it had to be all rock,” Rhyme said. “Maybe it was better for eating crawfish.”
Rhyme rotated between a homemade 3/8-ounce football jig with a green pumpkin Strike King Rage Craw trailer and a homemade 3/8-ounce vibrating jig with a green pumpkin Z-Man Razor ShadZ trailer. He fished both baits along the shallow shoreline zone, but also took advantage of docks.
“I’d zip around a dock and let the wind blow me in between two docks, then I’d Spot Lock and fish the deeper water with the (bladed jig),” Rhyme said.
APEX pro Alex Klein of Oroville, Calif. turned in weights of 20.39, 19.34 and 18.52 to finish third with 58.25. Fishing the Redbud Arm, he targeted a mix of chunk rock and grass in 3-8 feet of water.
“I caught all of the fish I weighed on a 3/8-ounce white original Z-Man ChatterBait with a white Strike King Blade Minnow,” Klein said. “I varied the retrieve; it seemed like they liked it faster in the morning then, as it got sunnier, I slowed it down.
“Also, casts had to be very on-target. The fish seemed to be relating to either the chunk rock or the more well-defined chunk rock. If your cast was off the target, you wouldn’t get bit.”
Klein said he frequently cut his bait off and retied. This kept his line in optimal condition around the abrasive rocky habitat and prevented any lost fish.
Rhyme won the Big Bass award with a 9.26.
Dante Ray of Fernley, Nev. won the co-angler division with 52.68 pounds. Ray, who’s in the hunt for Angler of the Year, placed 29th on Day 1 with 14.27, but rose to third a day later after adding 19.66. Ray’s final-round limit of 18.75 pushed him over the finish line.
Josh Cutler won the Big Bass award among co-anglers with a 6.32.