REDDING, Calif. — A patient game plan plus a late-day bonus gave J.R. Wright, of Truckee, Calif. the Day 1 lead with a 5-bass limit of 11.75 pounds at the Wild West Bass Trail Superclean Showdown Pro/Am on Lake Shasta.
Competing in a full field, the tournament veteran spent his day on the main lake, where he targeted shallow habitat in 8-10 feet. Tuning out Shasta’s deeper options, Wright said he committed to grinding out his day on what had been producing well in practice.
“I didn’t catch many fish; I only caught like eight today,” Wright said. “You have to cover a lot of water, as opposed to fishing deep where you fish slower and you’re hoping to get a bite.
“I feel like the big ones are shallow right now. If you cover enough water, you can run into a couple of big ones like I was fortunate enough to do. Late in the day, with 20 minutes to go, I caught a 3 1/2-pounder, which helped.”
Fishing from Bridge Bay to the upper end of the Sacramento River arm, Wright filled his limit with spotted bass. He fared best by targeting clay bottom with the right mix of isolated rock.
“As the day warms up, they seem to gravitate toward the red clay with the rock; it just seems to warm up a little faster,” he said. “It had to be mainly clay with just a little bit of chunk rock.
“If it was too much rock or too much clay, I couldn’t get bit. I think the crawdads seemed to be on that better than anything else.”
Wright said he caught his fish on a green pumpkin Yamamoto Kut Tail Worm. He wacky rigged his bait on a No. 2 Owner Mosquito hook.
“I fished the worm weightless because I was fishing so shallow,” Wright said. “It had to sit on the bottom and chill. It was like dead sticking.
“When they bit, it was just pressure. I didn’t have an aggressive bite all day.
Summarizing his day with a look-ahead to Saturday’s final round, Wright said: I just got lucky and ran into some fish. I got the right five today; now, I need to catch the right five tomorrow.”
APEX Cup angler Jeff Michels of Lakehead, Calif. trails closely in second place with 11.54. He started his day in the McCloud Arm and then transitioned to the upper Sacramento Arm.
“I was fishing in 15 feet or less on rocky points,” Michels said. “Because the lake is so low, there’s not a lot of cover in the water, so when you find some, there’s usually fish on it.”
Michels said he used a mix of reaction baits and slower presentations. The key, he said, was sticking with what he intended to do.
“I had a plan and I followed the plan and it worked,” Michels said. “I caught fish all day. I probably caught 60 fish; I just had to pick through them all day to get five good ones.”
Matthew Nadeau of Colfax, Calif. is in third place with 10.63. Following in fourth, APEX Cup angler Greg Gutierrez of Red Bluff, Calif. had 10.59.
Gutierrez started on the main lake, where he fished shallow and looked for early morning kickers with swimbaits and jerkbaits. Once the sun got higher, he relocated to the mouth of the Pit River and Squaw Creek.
“I was flipping wood with a weedless finesse presentation,” Gutierrez said. “I thought that would be a good strategy and it turned out that it was, because my biggest fish — a 4.98 — came later in the day.”
Colby Huntze of Discovery Bay, Calif. leads the amateur division with 9.89. Huntze said he caught all of his fish on a 1/4-ounce shaky head with a green pumpkin Daiwa Yamamoto Neko Straight Worm.
“We fished a deep drop-off in about 30 feet early and the fish were right along the drop,” Huntze said. “Later in the day, we fished shallow points with isolated boulders. I was just casting that shaky head and slowly dragging it.”
Anglers take off at safe light for Saturday’s final round. The weigh-in will be held at Bridge Bay Marina at 3:15 p.m. Pacific.