By Jody Only
DISCOVERY BAY, Calif. – Damian Thao of Fresno, Calif. became the first-ever champion of the Wild West Bass Trail (WWBT) Kayak Series with the single day, five-fish limit of 83.50”. Thao bested a field of 92 competitors on the California Delta for the Trail’s season-opener presented by Lithium Pros.
Thao’s success was bolstered by his two biggest bass, stretching to 19-plus inches. They helped push him nearly three-inches past the runner-up.
Cast and retrieve speed is what Thao attributed as his difference-maker.
“I think it was just about how slow I was going,” he explained. “It was tough fishing, and I knew I would have to go slow to get the bites.”
With eight approved launch ramps in the Contra Costa area, Thao dropped in at Discovery Bay for line’s in and targeted docks with deeper walls.
The anglers blasting off at Disco saw an incoming tide with a high-switch between 10 and 11 a.m., before the outgo.
Thao’s double-prong approach kicked off the morning with a Duo Realis Popper 64 in ghost minnow on Trilene Big Game in 12-pound-test.
“I caught one good keeper on that; but after, I couldn’t get another bite on top and went to my deeper stuff,” he added. “There, I threw a weightless Gary Yamamoto Senko, fishing it slow and just letting it sink. I was getting bit mainly on the fall when it would get down close to the bottom. It seemed like they would follow it all the way down and pick it up when it got to the bottom.
“I was fishing in about 15-feet and my bass were under the docks. The smaller ones were back by the bank; but the bigger ones were up by the middle of the docks.”
After he racked up his limit-fillers, Thao went sight fishing.
“I used my Power-Poles, locked on some areas with beds and got a few doing that,” he said. “The ones that were on beds didn’t help me, but I got some blind casting, including my big one that was 19.75” and that was pretty much how I got the win.”
His down bait for docks and beds remained consistent. He threw a wacky-rigged 5-inch Yamamoto Senko in green pumpkin watermelon laminate on a Gamakatsu Weedless Drop/Split Shot Hook tied to P-Line Tactical Fluorocarbon in 10-pound-test.
His Garmin Electronics revealed a water temperature of 68-degrees. Thao reported good visibility and witnessing no fry in the water.
“It was a tough day fishing; but it was better than my pre-fish, when I got skunked,” he stated.
John Myers, of Atwater, Calif., climbed his way into the second seat with 80.75”, earning $1,250 for the effort.
Myers credited an abnormal type of “reaction bite” for his morning fish.
“It was a little different; because it wasn’t with hard baits and treble hooks,” he explained. “It was pitching a drop shot to the dock poles. I found these fish using my Garmin Panoptix and saw there were a bunch of them near the poles, about half-way down.
“I pitched my drop shot over to them and immediately got bit, right when it hit the bottom. That is when I knew that the fish would follow my bait down and just like a reaction bite, as soon as it hit the bottom, they hit my bait., I started pitching to every pole that I could find.”
At tide change, his reactive drop shot method came to a halt and Myer had to find a pivot. His next targets were milfoil mats behind docks.
“I tried pitching the outside edges and then went right for the dead middle and that is how I caught my biggest fish,” he said. “After that, I just started pitching the middle of every mat that I could find, but I never got another bite on them.”
He finished the day on a bed.
The three productive rigs in Myers’ arsenal included a drop shot, a Texas-rig and a Gary Yamamoto Fat Ika.
Myers’ drop shot rig held a 6-inch Margarita Mutilator Roboworm, Texas-rigged on a Gamakatsu Straight Shank Hook with a 3/16 pencil weight. A key for Myer was a two-foot hook to weight leader that allowed the plastic to suspend in the milfoil and the grass. He was spooled with a braid to fluoro leader –10-pound Power Pro Hi-Vis Yellow braided line to 10-pound P-Line Tactical.
His watermelon red flake Fat Ika was rigged upside-down on a 3/0 Gamakatsu Straight Shank Punching Hook with a ½ ounce, green pumpkin Picasso Tungsten on 20-pound P-Line Tactical Fluorocarbon.
Robert Woodruff, of Sacramento, Calif. rounded out the top trio with 80.50”, anchored by his 20.75” kicker. Woodruff earned $1,000 for the day.
Like the anglers finishing above him, Woodruff also started his day in Disco.
“I mostly stayed close to the Marina, but also hit two coves that were right outside,” he explained. “The area was very clear, and I did find four fish on beds. I got two of them to go.”
He reported getting bit all day, without much lull and tempting his big one at about 11 a.m.
“I was working the banks and the docks in shallow water,” he said. “I was fishing in about 3- to 5-feet and looking for rock piles or brush or cover – just as much cover as I could possibly find.”
Woodruff credited two predominant baits for his weigh fish – a weightless, wacky-rigged Zoom Trick Worm in green pumpkin on an open hook, and a Z-Man TRD on a Z-Man Ned Rig Jig Head, both tied with 10-pound P-Line Fluorocarbon.
Overall, he called his day smooth.
“I think like the fish, so I don’t really know how I came up with my method,” he said. “It is just bred in me.”
Jiongbo Zhang, of San Francisco, Calif., grabbed Big Fish honors with his 21.75”
The next WWBT Kayak Series stop will be May 2 at Tulloch Lake. Registration is underway.