By David A. Brown

LAKESIDE, Calif. — Joe Uribe Jr. of Surprise, Ariz. played a smart game that complemented a conservative start with the right amount of aggression and sacked up a limit of 12.97 pounds to win the APEX Cup event on El Capitan Reservoir/San Vicente Reservoir presented by DISH and Accell Marketing Inc.


After two days of qualifying competition on El Capitan, Championship Sunday concluded on San Vicente. Uribe, who qualified through the Most Scorable Bass standings, earned his first APEX Cup trophy by a margin of 3.37 pounds.


“This was a goal of mine; I wanted two major wins this season,” Uribe said. “I got the WON BASS Arizona Open (February on Lake Havasu) and I definitely wanted one of those APEX trophies.


“Today everything just came together. I knew at like 1:30, ‘It’s gonna happen.’ I’ve been there before and when it’s your time, it’s your time. There’s nothing you can do, so just enjoy the moment and that’s what I did.”


The only competitor to break 10 pounds on the final day, Uribe, said he knew that trading El Capitan’s stained waters for San Vicente’s ultra-clear complexion would require strategic adjustment. While he started the first two days by targeting active fish with a topwater, he began Championship Sunday with finesse tactics.


“I caught a small limit pretty early on a dropshot with a 6-inch Roboworm in morning dawn on a 2/0 Robowom Rebarb hook and a 3/16-ounce Voss tungsten weight,” Uribe said. “Then around 10-10:30 I said ‘Alright, I have to figure out what I need to be doing now that the wind’s blowing and there’s a lot of boat traffic.’”


Focusing on flatter, muddy banks with sparse grass, Uribe felt confident there were bigger fish in his area, so he picked up a white double buzzbait with a Zoom Horny Toad and a trailer hook — the same one he fished on El Capitan — and started covering water. Targeting mud lines, he quickly found success.


“Once I caught one, that gave me the adrenalin to just do it,” Uribe said. “I was putting that double buzzbait right on the bank. I was throwing it where other guys wouldn’t throw it.


“I didn’t get bit on the outside weed line, so I was putting it in little weed pockets where I’d get maybe five cranks of the reel. Most of my fish were in a foot of water.”


While Uribe’s reaction bait yielded the best quality, he’s confident he executed the right game plan. Starting with an aggressive presentation may have delivered, but he wisely established a firm foundation from which to expand.


“I told myself, ‘Just catch a limit and get the momentum going,’ because I figured if I went for the gusto right away and it didn’t happen and these guys got on the worm bite really good, then I would have missed the boat,” Uribe said. “If I had gambled and thrown reaction baits right from the start, but only caught two fish, that wouldn’t have been enough.


“I kinda tested the waters a little bit until about 10 o’clock and I said ‘Fishing’s tough on the dropshot and the fish are small.’ So I put that away, went to my first bay, put the tolling motor on 7 and covered some real estate, just like I did at El Cap. I just got in that rhythm and once I got that first bite, I stuck with it and it paid off.”


Luke Johns of Folsom, Calif. finished second with 9.60. After qualifying by flipping El Capitan’s shallow grass, he tried to re-pattern that scenario on San Vicente, but found that the extreme clarity necessitated a modified approach.


“I boiled it down to finding brush piles that had some grass mixed into them,” Johns said. “I targeted the edges of these weed lines where there would be some brush sticking out of them. I caught all my fish in 5 feet or less, except for my biggest one, which was a bed fish in 8 or 9 feet of water.”


Johns said he wasn’t necessarily looking for bed fish and he wasn’t sure of the fish’s status until he took a shot at it.


“I rolled into a pocket about 10 o’clock and there was a hole in the grass with a little stick,” he said of the late-morning opportunity. “I saw the fish and didn’t really think it was on a bed, but it didn’t move when I drove right over top of it.


“I whipped around and pitched a dropshot in there. I shook the bait twice and just felt the fish thump it. Thankfully, it came up to the boat nice and easy.”


Johns caught his fish on a power shot version of the dropshot with a 6-inch leader of 12-pound fluorocarbon, a 6-inch Roboworm in morning dawn and a 1/-ounce weight.


Scott Hellesen of Paso Robles, Calif. finished third with 9.31. Taking an early morning cue, he committed his day to fishing the marina near the launch ramp.


“While we were all getting ready for takeoff, I saw (Day-2 leader) Matthew Nadeau’s son catch a 2-pound right there in the marina,” Hellesen said. “I said, ‘Okay, there’s fish here. I’ll just stay right here.”


Hellesen focused on a riprap bank and made his bait and depth decisions based on sunlight. In the morning, he fished close to the rocks and caught fish on a wacky-rigged 5-inch green pumpkin Yamamoto Senko.


Later in the day, as increasing light and heat pushed the fish deeper, he moved out to 20 feet and switched to a dropshot with a 6-inch Roboworm in margarita mutilator. With both scenarios, stealth was his top strategy.


“The water here is very clear on San Vicente and these fish are super smart,” Hellesen said. “Long casts and fishing super slow was the key.”


Rounding out the top 5 were Thomas Kanemoto with 8.63 and David Swendseid with 8.17.


After two days of full-field competition, the top-10 anglers advance to Sunday’s Championship round. The final field will comprise the top-5 anglers with the Most Keepers and the top-5 anglers with the highest Total Weight. Total days weight and keeper count from days 1 and 2 are accumulated. In the final round, weights and keeper count are zeroed.

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