The Wild West Bass Trail is the newest tournament trail sweeping the west coast with their 100% payouts, unheard of contingencies and Championship ranger prize boats.
The first WWBT Pro/Am kicked off at Lake Pleasant January 16-17th 2016. Fishing was at a record low for pleasant this time of year with very few limits brought to the scales. There were many veteran anglers left scratching their heads after the four days of practice and tournament.
Lake Pleasant is normally very patternable this time of year. You can either fish shallow creek channels or deep winter paterns in the main lake. My favorite way to fish this time of year is finding shallow fish that move up to feed. There is usually two ways I like to catch them. One is throwing reaction baits in stained water where the shad will hang out. The stained water will retain heat and will heat up faster throuout the day. Often schools of shad will move up in waves followed by the feeding flurys of white and striped bass. This triggers the lethargic large mouth to become active and often easy to catch. The other technique I like to target is main lake cuts that have flooded timber and what I like to call "cockalburs". The crawfish will typically move up into this vegitation and largemouth will follow making them very easy to catch throwing a light drop shot.
So what was different this year? Here is my prediction based on my history on this lake: This year the water rose extremely fast and was about 20ft higher then it has been in January previous years. The water was also crystal clear in the back of the creek channels and water temps never rose high enough for the shad to survive. Water temps ranged from 52-55′ throughout the tournament. I think the fish never had time to acclimate to the water change and the shallow bite will be later this year.
During pre-fish I found the most productive way to catch five fish would be to stay in the creek channels and gamble with having enough bites to get a limit. The quality was there and on thursday of pre-fish we found a pod of shallow fish that were very easy to catch including one fish that was close to 5lbs caught on an AZ Custom Baits 3" hollow belly swimbait. Most of the other bites came in deep trees in depths up to 60ft deep. Some anglers reported catching them from 70-90ft on spoons and drop shots.
Day one of tournament I was boat number 57 and didn’t have many places to start. I decided to work my way into a small cut up in one of the creek channels and I was sharing it with two other anglers. My Co-angler Chad Davis quickly caught a short fish on a drop shot but no keepers moved up. We moved to our second spot where I had caught that 5lber and I set up away from my waypoint casting my a-rig with 3" AZ Custom Baits hollow bellies and caught fish #1 that weighed 3.87lbs. We fished around a bit and Chad got a second bite on his drop shot which keyed us into a color they might be liking. I made a quick switch on my drop shot and caught keeper #2 at 2lbs. After a grind all day and no more bites I was in 10th place with Clifford Pirch leading the event with 11.72lbs.
Day 2 I decided to start in the same area I caught that 3lber and things started out slow. It was slack calm and bluebird skies making fishing even harder. I decided to throw a jig around a bit and caught my first keeper estimated at 3.5lbs. I estimate it because I had her up to the boat playing her out and right as I went to lip her she just pulled off. My Co Angler Garret Davis quickly caught his first keeper on a drop shot that weighed 3.37lbs. It was an absolute grind the rest of the day and bites were few far and between. I boated my second fish on a wacky senko but it didnt measure. Fish #3 was a keeper on a drop shot and weighed 2.67lbs. I got 4 more bites that day and never hooked up again. Weighed in one more fish for a two day total of 8.49lbs good enough for 11th place and a check for $1500.
Congratulations goes to Johnny Johnson for his two day total of 17.87lbs good enough for first place and $13,000 in cash payout! Looking forward to the next Pro/Am at Lake Havasu Feb. 27-28th 2016.