Say it ain’t Saso - Major League Fishing

Say it ain’t Saso

Local rookie crushes 22-pound sack, leads by more than 5 at the delta
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Local pro Mike Saso of Elk Grove, Calif., caught a five-bass limit Friday weighing 22 pounds, 3 ounces to lead the semifinal round of the EverStart Series Western Division event on the California Delta Photo by Jeff Schroeder. Angler: Mike Saso.
May 7, 2004 • Jeff Schroeder • Archives

OAKLEY, Calif. – Fishing in his first FLW Outdoors tournament ever, Mike Saso of Elk Grove, Calif., commandeered a seemingly decisive lead in the Pro Division of EverStart Series Western Division competition Friday at the California Delta. He caught a limit weighing 22 pounds, 3 ounces in the semifinals and opened up a 5-pound, 4-ounce lead over opening-round leader Gary Howell heading into Saturday’s finals.

“I’m so stoked to be here. I’m very shocked,” said Saso, who has fished competitively on his home waters of the California Delta for years but has never competed in a BFL, EverStart or FLW event prior to this week.

The local picked the right time – an EverStart Friday – to have a good day. Saso caught “about 20” bass Friday, and his limit eventually culled out to a 6-pounder, 5-pounder, 4-pounder and two 3-pounders. Since five-bass limits again were the order of the day at the delta, the leader needed a strong showing.

But it took Saso a while to get things going Friday. Fishing a milk-run pattern not far from the takeoff point at Big Break Marina and following the tide, he caught his good fish using a creature bait.

“I just basically went with the tide all day,” he said. “Today started slow, but then at the end of the day they just turned on.”

Saso was aware of his feat Friday, where he decisively topped a pro field that included some the Western Division’s heaviest hitters, like 2004 points champion Mike Folkestad and 2003 California Delta champion Gary Dobyns. Asked if he would be able to repeat his dominating performance when it counts most Saturday, the rookie said: “There really isn’t a game plan. I stumbled across (the fish). I’m just going to go out on the delta and go fishing. I’m definitely excited.”

Pro Gary Howell of Stockton, Calif., caught a limit weighing 16 pounds, 15 ounces and qualified for the finals in second place.Howell tops rest of bunch in second

Behind Saso, the rest of the pro top 10 were pretty bunched up after Friday’s fishing. Just over 5 1/2 pounds separates second-place Howell from 10th-place Clayton Meyer.

Howell, also a local who hails from Stockton, Calif., caught a limit weighing 16 pounds, 15 ounces, but said it was a difficult day by delta standards.

“I’m not really getting a whole lot of bites,” he said. “This is the third day in a row that I’ve had to catch them on a different lure.”

Today, Howell knew to switch over to a crankbait and a Brush Hog.

“I know where some big fish live in the river,” he said.

As for the 5-pound deficit he has to make up to beat Saso Saturday, Howell said it will be a challenge – but anything goes on the California Delta, where 30-pound sacks are a dime a dozen.

“I think that he needs to slip up for me to catch him,” Howell said. “He has some pretty good fish going, but so do I. So we’ll see.”

Pro Jason Cordiale of Orinda, Calif., placed third with a limit weighing 15 pounds, 15 ounces.Cordiale third

Just a pound behind Howell sits pro Jason Cordiale of Orinda, Calif., in third place. He caught a limit weighing 15 pounds, 15 ounces.

“I’m catching a lot of solid fish, but I haven’t had a really big bite yet,” he said. “Hopefully, it’ll come tomorrow.”

Pirch fourth

Clifford Pirch of Payson, Ariz., placed fourth with a limit weighing 15 pounds, 8 ounces. He said that he’s worried that his fishing spots have been fished out, but he has a possible ace in the hole waiting for him Saturday. Earlier in the week he spotted a huge largemouth sitting on a hump and has been trying to catch it the last couple of days.

“I spent about 30 minutes just fishing blind for it today, but the tide’s getting worse and worse for me,” said Pirch, a 2003 EverStart Championship finalist. “I’ll probably spend a little more time on it tomorrow.”

Folkestad fifth

Folkestad of Yorba Linda, Calif., didn’t rest on his laurels after securing the points title yesterday. He caught a limit weighing 14 pounds, 12 ounces today and placed fifth.

“I’ve had a great week. You couldn’t ask for anything better. Things are just going my way,” he said, then added, “but I really did struggle today.”

Rest of the best

Rounding out the top 10 pros to qualify for Saturday’s finals at the California Delta are day-one leader Bernie Gaunt of West Sacramento, Calif., with 14 pounds, 8 ounces (6th place); Bob Cagle of Yuba City, Calif., with 13-5 (7th); Dobyns, also of Yuba City, with 12-11 (8th); Jimmy Reese of Witter Springs, Calif., with 11-12 (9th); and Meyer, of San Diego, with 11-4 (10th).

All of the top 10 pros caught five-bass limits.

Reese Randall of Payson, Ariz., jumped from second place to take the lead in the Co-angler Division thanks to five bass weighing 17 pounds, 10 ounces.Randall tops co-anglers with 17 1/2

Reese Randall of Payson, Ariz., landed the top co-angler spot heading into Saturday by catching a hefty 17-pound, 10-ounce limit Friday. Like Saso, he will carry a lead of more than 5 pounds into the finals.

“Well, it’s about time,” Randall said. “I haven’t done really well this year, and I’m excited.”

Fishing with pro Bernie Gaunt Friday, Randall benefited from the same areas that gave Gaunt a 28-pound, 13-ounce sack of fish that included an enormous 12-9 kicker largemouth on day one. Randall said that he caught the bulk of his fish on day three using a drop-shot in underwater grass beds.

Co-angler Reese Randall catches his 6 1/2-pound kicker fish that anchored his leading 17 1/2-pound stringer Friday. Pro Bernie Gaunt is on the net.Coming in second was co-angler Pat Wilson of Petaluma, Calif., with a limit weighing 12 pounds, 9 ounces. Wilson finished fifth at Clear Lake last month.

“You know, I haven’t had any really great bites, but the delta’s just loaded with big fish,” he said. “You can catch 30 pounds here anytime.”

Third place for the co-anglers went to Roger Mezenen of North Ogden, Utah, for four bass weighing 12 pounds even.

Matt Lowery of El Cajon, Calif., who’s had a consistent season in the Western Co-angler Division with two prior top-10 finishes, qualified for his third finals with four bass weighing 9 pounds, 15 ounces. He placed fourth.

Co-angler Kyle Clement of Anderson, Calif., placed fifth with five bass weighing 8 pounds, 10 ounces.

Rounding out the top 10 co-anglers to qualify for Saturday’s finals are James Gross of Kingman, Ariz., with 8 pounds, 8 ounces (6th place); Gary Wilson of Tracy, Calif., with 8-4 (7th); Judy Chaney of Tucson, Ariz., with 8-2 (8th); Kirk Beardsley of Huntington Beach, Calif., with 7-15 (9th); and John Alimpic of Angwin, Calif., with 7-8 (10th).

All of the top 10 co-anglers also caught five-bass limits except Mezenen and Lowery.

Final round Saturday

Day four of Western Division competition at the California Delta begins as the final-round field of 10 boats takes off from Big Break Marina at 6:30 a.m. Pacific time Saturday. Friday’s weights carry over to Saturday, and each division’s winner will be determined by two-day combined weight.

The winning pro is guaranteed $8,000 cash plus an Evinrude- or Yamaha-powered Ranger 519 VS equipped with Garmin electronics, a Minn Kota trolling motor and EverStart Batteries, based on a 150-boat field. If the winner is the original owner of a Ranger boat, he will receive a $10,000 bonus from Ranger for a top pro award worth $59,900. If he is a qualifying participant in the Ranger Cup incentive program, Ranger will award another $3,000 cash (or $1,500 to the highest-finishing Ranger Cup participant if not the winner), and Yamaha will match 50 percent of Ranger Cup winnings if the angler’s boat is powered by a Yamaha outboard. Garmin will award the winning pro $1,000 if he uses only Garmin electronics and at least one unit is a qualifying unit.

The winning co-angler is guaranteed $4,200 cash based on a 145-boat field, and if he is a Ranger boat owner, Ranger will award him a new Ranger 519 VS for a total prize package worth $34,200. Co-anglers who make the final round of each regular-season EverStart Series event and wear an EverStart/Evinrude shirt and cap on stage are awarded points toward the EverStart Batteries and Evinrude Outboard Engines Co-angler Award. The co-angler receiving the most points by the end of the season receives a 2004 Evinrude 225HO Direct Injection outboard engine rigged on a Ranger boat equipped with a Minn Kota trolling motor and EverStart batteries.