LAKEPORT, Calif — Undaunted by dire predictions of tough fishing due to unseasonably high water temperatures, hordes of appetite-killing baitfish and a lake-darkening algae bloom of Biblical proportions, the 212 pros and co-anglers fishing the Rayovac FLW Series Western Division Clear Lake event roared out of the gate on day one.
Collectively, the field racked up more than 90 double-digit bags and 78 five-bass limits during the opening round of the three-day event. While many competitors acknowledged the mettle-testing conditions, most proved that persistence and versatility could trump Mother Nature’s best attempts to foil their carefully laid plans.
On the pro side, 16 anglers broke the 20-pound barrier—far more than pundits had predicted against the brutal backdrop. In fact, it took 19-2 to make the top 20, and landing in check-cashing territory, which extends to 28th place, required a 16-9 limit.
Leading the charge of pros rising to the challenge was Aaron Britt, of Yuba City, Calif. A veteran of the tournament trenches for nearly a decade, Britt is an old hand at battling for bass on hallowed Golden State lakes such as Clear, Oroville and Berryessa.
Britt sacked a five-bass limit weighing an impressive 29 pounds to top the leaderboard. But the catch didn’t come easy.
“It was tough,” he admitted. “I started out in my opening spot, where I’ve been catching big ones all week—and didn’t get a single bite.”
Bent but far from broken, Britt abandoned the area, at least for the moment. “I left and hit another prime area,” he said. “I loaded up four keepers real quick, then came back to where I started out and caught two 7 1/2-pounders. So it ended up working out well.”
The weight eclipsed Britt’s previous personal-best limit at a Rayovac FLW Series event—an 18-pound, 1-ounce benchmark set on the California Delta — and left him anxious to see what day two holds in store.
“I’m beyond stoked for tomorrow!” he grinned as he left the weigh-in area.
Second Sweet For Sweat
Dan Sweat of Pleasant Hill, Calif., weighed in ahead of Britt, and briefly held the lead with a mega-bag of his own. Sweat’s 28-pound, 7-ounce limit lit up the crowd of bass fans gathered lakeside at scenic Fifth Street Landing.
Though he slipped to second when Britt took the stage, Sweat still relished a successful day of competition. “I’m excited about this weight,” he said.
Understandably, he declined to share specifics of his strategies. But he did acknowledge that his best bites came early in the day.
“When you get your fish in the morning, it makes for a long, hot day,” he said. “I weigh in at 5 tomorrow, so I think it’s going to be another long day, too.”
“I’ll take it!” he beamed. “It was a grind. I caught eight fish all day, out of a total of just 12 to 13 bites.”
Crutcher confided that targeting bass cruising skinny water was his opening tactic. "I fished shallow early in the morning and then went deep later in the afternoon,” he said.
Looking ahead, he expects to work for every bite on day two as well.
“I left late today and am heading out early tomorrow,” he said. “I’m just going to keep it wet, not do a lot of running around and grind it out.”
“The wind blew early this morning, which really helped,” he said. “I just covered water and got lucky and got a couple of good bites.”
Whether similar good fortune will smile on Spencer tomorrow remains to be seen.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I found some good fish and hopefully they’ll bite again. My last cast was a 4-pounder, but tomorrow is a new day.”
Meyer’s Gamble Pays Off
When Clayton Meyer of Henderson, Nev., identified a productive pattern early in the day, he gambled that it would pay off on similar spots—even if those areas hadn’t proven themselves in practice. The risk paid off, however, as he ended the day in fifth with five bass weighing 24 pounds, 11 ounces.
“I caught some fish early from one area, and just kept going with it,” he said. “I moved to another spot that looked the same but hadn’t produced in practice, and we got three or four bass there.”
Flush with confidence, he rolled the dice a second time.
“I moved to another similar spot that hadn’t given up any bass yet, either, and ended up getting my big fish on it,” he laughed.
When asked to explain what might have livened up those previous dead zones, Meyer speculated, “I think the temperature drop and wind the last day of practice and today made them a little bit better.”
Rest of the best
Rounding out the top-10 pros in the Rayovac FLW Series after day one:
6th: Kyle Grover of Trabuco Canyon, Calif., five bass, 24-01
7th: Steve Ericksen of Palo Alto, Calif., five bass, 23-12
8th: Jimmy Reese of Witter Springs, Calif., five bass, 22-14
9th: Gary Collins of Upper Lake, Calif., five bass, 22-11
10th: Ishama Monroe of Hughson, Calif., five bass, 22-07
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.