LAKEPORT, Calif. – Challenging conditions including low water, abundant baitfish and a late-season algae bloom set the stage for an epic bass battle among the 212 pros and co-anglers vying for top honors Oct. 9-11 in the Rayovac FLW Series Western Division Clear Lake tournament, which kicked off this morning at 7:30 a.m. PT.
Presented by Evinrude, the three-day event promises plenty of drama. Anglers are competing for lucrative paybacks, including $32,448 in cash for first place on the pro side, plus a fully rigged Ranger Z518C with 200-hp Evinrude outboard if the winner is Ranger Cup compliant, for a total purse worth more than $80,000. On the co-angler side, the victor claims a fully rigged Ranger Z117 with 90-hp Evinrude, plus $5,000 in Ranger Cup cash if entered in that contingency program.
Adding to the excitement, this is the third and final 2014 Western Division tournament, which means Strike King Angler of the Year honors and 30 coveted invitations to the 2014 Rayovac FLW Series Championship are up for grabs at this event.
Points leader Roy Hawk of Havasu City, Ariz., was ready to get the showdown started.
“It’s exciting being here on Clear Lake for the season finale,” he says. “I have a lot of things on my mind today, though. For one thing, it’s my 44th birthday. Plus, my mom is visiting Japan right now where the typhoon is getting ready to hit. I’m in a constant state of prayer.”
Winter Springs, Calif., pro Jimmy Reese, who is currently sitting in sixth place in the points race, considers Clear Lake his home waters. He explained that recent warm weather, which resulted in high water temperatures and massive algae blooms, has largemouths in a state of transition, making dialing in consistent patterns tricky.
“There’s also a ton of silverside minnows, shad, panfish and baby bass in the lake right now,” he adds.
Reese expects to see at least 10 limits top 20 pounds on day one, and close to 70 pounds for three days to be the winning weight. He believes this event will boil down to a battle between shallow-water anglers wielding punch baits in weed mats or worming the rocks, and deep-water warriors throwing reaction baits including crankbaits and spinnerbaits.
“I think the field will be evenly split between deep and shallow water,” he adds. “And the great thing is that on Clear Lake, any cast, all day long, can produce a game-changing 10-pound bass.”
Pro Jim Lyon of Reno, Nev., is also a longtime Clear Lake fan.
“I love this lake dearly,” he says. “It’s a shame to see it so low. It’s a little tough out there, but I think we’ll see at least a half-dozen or so 20-plus limits.”
For his part, Lyon plans to target deep fish off points and rocks with a drop-shot rig.
“But if we get any wind at all, the crankbait bite will heat up,” Lyon says.
Another Clear Lake veteran, pro Greg Gutierrez, of Red Bluff, Calif., is fighting to make the top-30 cut in the points race. Despite an intimate knowledge of the lake, he’s been struggling to put a strategy together.
“It’s been tough to find a concentration of fish and a sound pattern,” he says, noting that fishing pressure from end-of-the-season tournaments has also made Clear Lake’s famed largemouths more challenging to catch than normal. “Combined with the low water eliminating so many fishing areas, abundant forage and the cloud of an algae bloom, it’s really a tough puzzle to figure out. I can’t have any errors. I need to go out and execute today.”
Takeoff: 7:30 a.m. PT
Temperature at takeoff: low 50s
Expected high temperature: low 80s
Water temperature: 68 to 72 degrees
Moon phase: full moon
Rayovac FLW Series event information
Location: Fifth Street Launch Ramp, #15 Fifth Street, Lakeport, CA
Time: 7:30 a.m. PT
Location: Lakeside at Fifth Street Launch Ramp, #15 Fifth Street, Lakeport, CA
Time: 3:30 p.m. PT
For those who can’t catch the weigh-in action in person, FLWOutdoors.com offers FLW Live, an online application that brings fans real-time weigh-in results, streaming video and audio.
For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the Rayovac FLW Series on Facebook at Facebook.com/FLWFishing and on Twitter at Twitter.com/FLWFishing.