Best of the West - Major League Fishing

Best of the West

FLW Outdoors anglers give their take on the best, most unsung fisheries in the western United States
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Partly cloudy skies greeted the top 10 pros Saturday morning. Photo by Brett Carlson.
November 20, 2007 • Gary Mortenson • Archives

In 2003, FLW Outdoors took its first major step toward becoming a permanent fixture out West with the unveiling of the Stren Series Western Division. Since that time, a variety of FLW Outdoors tournament-fishing circuits have taken hold on the Left Coast – proving that western anglers are just as passionate about their sport as their eastern counterparts. The success of the Wal-Mart FLW Series’ wildly popular National Guard Western Division – which debuted in 2007 – only served to further reinforce that point.

Throughout the last few years, it’s also become clear that western anglers – while maybe not as well known – are a force to be reckoned with on the professional bass-fishing circuit. In two of the last four years, two western anglers (Luke Clausen in 2004 and Brent Ehrler in 2006) took home the top prize at the Forrest Wood Cup – one of the most lucrative and prestigious bass-fishing tournaments in the history of the sport.

Taking into account the phenomenal growth of the sport out West, decided to poll a few of the nation’s top pros – primarily targeting anglers born and raised in zip codes west of the Colorado River. Specifically, asked anglers two questions.

What is your favorite place to fish out West?

What are some great places to fish out West that most people have never heard of?

The following are excerpts from those interviews.

Pro Gabe Bolivar of Ramona, Calif.

Tylenol pro Gabe Bolivar of Ramona, Calif.Favorite lake(s): My favorite places to fish out here would probably have to be Lake Mead (Nevada) and the California Delta. Obviously, they are two totally different places, but each one is great in its own way. I have many fond memories fishing Lake Mead. I grew up fishing team tournaments and small circuits there with my father. It’s also a very scenic lake that has a lot of unique features. It has lots of big water, cool canyons, and, in a lot of ways, Lake Mead feels like you’re fishing on the moon. It’s just amazing watching the sun hitting those canyon walls in the early mornings and late-afternoon hours. The other thing I like about Lake Mead is that you can take your boat into the cracks in the canyon walls which are very narrow. Sometimes it’s hard to even turn your boat around. But you really feel like you’re totally alone. In some cases, you can follow those passages for up to a quarter-mile. It’s definitely a pretty neat feeling.

I also like fishing the California Delta, which is a tidal water system. For me, it’s really a challenge figuring out the tides. Also, the quality and size of the fish you catch there is great. The other thing I like about the Delta is that there are so many ways you can fish it. I like fishing tournaments there, but it’s also a great place to fish just for the fun of it.

Favorite unheralded lake(s): As far as lakes that some people may not have heard about, I really like Diamond Valley Lake. It’s a great lake (located in southern California) that has a lot of big fish in it. There is also a variety of cover and tons and tons of fish. It’s one of the lakes I cut my teeth on growing up.

Three other lakes I really like are San Vicente Reservoir, Lake Hodges Reservoir and El Capitan Reservoir. These were probably my three of my favorite places to fish growing up, and they’re all located right around the San Diego area. They’re little tiny lakes, but they have lots of fish, and they’re really fun places to visit. I used to go to fish a lot of 25-boat team tournaments on these lakes when I was younger. The one drawback is that they do get a lot of fishing pressure.

Finally, another lake you have to put in there is Lake Poway. It’s a really small lake in the San Diego area, but it’s got huge fish in it. It’s a gin-clear lake, and they only allow gas-powered motors, so that’s kind of interesting. Lake Poway is really the lake I first learned to fish on. When my mom was working, she’d just drop me off at Lake Poway instead of sending me to day care. It was great. At that time, I fished for everything. When I was 9 years old, I caught a 10-pound largemouth there. I still have great memories of Lake Poway.

Basically, the other great thing about all of these lakes I just mentioned is that, no matter which one you pick, you can catch a 10-pound fish anytime you make a cast.

Pro Luke Clausen of Spokane, Wash.

Team Chevy pro Luke ClausenFavorite lake(s): I learned to fish in Washington and northern California so Clear Lake is still my favorite lake for obvious reasons – lots of fish and lots of big fish.

Favorite unheralded lake(s): One of my favorite lakes to fish growing up would have to be Lake Coeur d’Alene in northern Idaho. It’s kind of like the Lake Champlain of the West. There is a lot of shallow milfoil to fish, and the lake is filled with 3-pound smallmouth bass. Another lake that I like a lot is Potholes Reservoir in central Washington. It’s a lake you don’t hear a lot about, but it’s a really cool place. You can fish for largemouth bass along a series of flooded sand dunes. It also has a lot of basaltic rock flats and bluffs where you can catch smallmouth bass. The lake has so much cover, and there are many ways to fish it. It’s definitely one of the most unique fisheries I’ve ever been to. It’s just got this incredibly remote feeling to it that really sets it apart.

Pro Mike Folkestad of Yorba Linda, Calif.

Pro Mike Folkestad.Favorite lake(s): My favorite places to fish have to be Clear Lake and the California Delta. Without a doubt, they are two of the top fisheries in the nation. Both places have lots of fish and have really come on in the last five years.

Favorite unheralded lake(s): Lake Mohave is a great place to fish. It’s not the best tournament lake, but it’s really a good place when you’re fishing just for fun. The lake (which is part of the Lake Mead recreational area) has a lot of fish in the 3- to 5-pound range. In many respects, it’s a typical desert lake. It’s got hardly any wood but plenty of rock, ledges and river channels to fish.

Another lake I like a lot is Lake Havasu. The lake has really come on in the last few years. They started a habitat program about 10 years ago, and it’s worked out well. Now there are so many more places for the baitfish to hang out. The lake has really turned around; it’s just a lot better fishery than it was. The lake has both largemouth and smallmouth, and people are catching fish in the 6- and 7-pound ranges.

Pro Brent Ehrler of Redlands, Calif.

Pro Brent Ehrler.Favorite lake(s): I’ve only fished them a couple of times, but I’d have to say my favorite water to fish is probably Clear Lake and the California Delta. But if I had a choice to go anywhere, it’d probably be Clear Lake. It’s hard to beat a place where you can catch 20-pound stringers all the time, using pretty fun fishing techniques.

Favorite unheralded lake(s): If I’m just going to run out and go fishing, I really like to go to Lake Perris in southern California. About three years ago, two-thirds of the lake was a shallow flat. But now, because the water levels are lower, the fish have been forced to congregate in the middle of the lake. If you go there you will seriously catch about 60 fish a day – the fishing is that good. Wintertime is a great time of the year to go as well. In fact, pretty much each year, I go to Lake Perris to break in my new boat for the season. One other thing most people probably don’t know is that Lake Perris actually used to hold the world record for spotted bass – although most of the spots have died off in the last few years.

Pro Jimmy Reese of Witter Springs, Calif.

Fourth place in the Pro Division belonged to Jimmy Reese of Witter Springs, Calif., with a catch of 23 pounds, 10 ounces.Favorite lake(s): Clear Lake is my home lake and my favorite place for sure. The lake speaks for itself. It’s rated No. 2 in the nation right now, and my guess is that it’ll be rated No. 1 soon. It’s got tons of fish, it’s got tons of big fish, and you can fish it with a variety of different styles and techniques. At Clear Lake you can easily catch fish about 10 different ways. It’s a great tournament lake, but it’s also a great place to bring the kids.

I also really enjoy fishing the Columbia River. It’s an awesome body of water and a great smallmouth fishery. It’s just a phenomenal river that is really fun to fish.

Favorite unheralded lake(s): A great lake that doesn’t get too much attention is Trinity Lake in California. It’s a phenomenal fishery. You can catch loads of smallmouth bass in the 8- to 10-pound range, and it’s got a small population of largemouth bass as well.

Another lake that doesn’t get a lot of big-time press is Lake Oroville in California. It’s a great fishery overall, and it’s an even better spotted-bass lake.