A Mixed Bag at Clear Lake - Major League Fishing

A Mixed Bag at Clear Lake

Plenty of patterns in play for the Western Division finale
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Anglers were greeted by a perfectly calm lake to start day one. Photo by Matt Pace.
October 15, 2015 • Jody White • Archives

Clear Lake is famous for a good reason. Not only does it hold some giants, it’s home to tremendous amounts of fish over five pounds apiece. October tournaments on Clear in the last few years have shown some of the lake’s tremendous potential, with big ones grouped up and big-time numbers caught by many. As the Rayovac FLW Series Western Division tournament presented by Evinrude gets underway, things might be a little different this year.


The conditions

According to Western superstud Jeff Michels, the shad population (and the bait numbers in general) in the natural lake is at nearly an all-time high.

“Clear Lake is cyclical,” says Michels, who has two Rayovac FLW Series Western Division AOY titles to his credit. “The threadfin shad get big here [Michels illustrated by spreading his hands about 7 inches apart] and the population will take 15 or 20 years to build up before a harsh winter kills them off.”

The sheer amount of bait was a popular topic at registration Wednesday afternoon. It’s so remarkable that Walmart FLW Tour pro and Clear Lake local Jimmy Reese underscored it by sharing a photo of his graph on Facebook. The screen was covered with bait signatures. The abundance of forage also has Reese a little concerned.

“The problem with having this much bait is that it’s anyone’s ballgame,” says Reese. “You can idle off a random drop, see something on your graph and – if they decide to bite – you’ll be on them in no time. Conditions like this are great for anyone to win.”

The location of the bass relative to the bait has also been affected by the recent weather. A cool spell a few weeks ago had big bass crashing the bank and grouping up, but the summer-like heat the last week or so has the fish set up in places where they’re hard to catch, or so say some local veterans.

“I can catch them from the bank to 30 feet deep,” says Elk Grove, Calif., pro Kevin Stewart. “I just can’t figure out how to catch them in the midrange depths.”

One of the impediments of a solid midrange pattern is the lack of grass. Most of the anglers attribute the scarcity of really good fish-holding grass to herbicide spraying that’s been heaver than usual. Whatever the reason, there aren’t as many good stretches of grass as usual and most of the field has likely found the best stuff – and the same stuff.


How to catch them

Despite some dissatisfaction in the conditions, most everyone agrees that a huge amount of weight will be required to win, with estimate ranging from the high 60s to mid 70s. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be one sure-fire way to get to the winning numbers.

“This is my favorite lake in the country, and I always look forward to fishing here in the fall, but it’s just not right yet,” says B.A.S.S. Elite Series pro Jared Lintner. “For me, it’s going to be a junk-fishing deal. I really don’t have a school found. I’ve practiced for two days where I normally catch them, and they’re just not there. I might have the most rods I’ve ever had on the deck for this one.”

On the opposite side of Lintner, it has been pretty steady going for Ken Mah.

“I was up here quite a bit prior to the event being rescheduled, when I got back up here, I checked some stuff I found a few months ago and it kinda stayed the same.

“A lot of guys are taking about how tough the bite it, but I think overall the bite is better than it was last year,” speculates Mah. “I think a lot of guys will catch them a lot of different ways, but I’m going to catch them on a topwater and flipping.”

In addition to revealing that he’s in on the shallow bite, Mah also offers the winning recipe, which he says almost certainly doesn’t involve one magic spot.

“The person that wins it will have something figured out doing what they are doing. If I win, it’ll be with a topwater and a flipping stick and I’ll be progressing each day. Clear Lake is one big community hole, so other anglers will impact how you can fish. It’s all about adjusting to the fishing pressure and figuring out your pattern every day.”

All told, it seems that just about anything could happen this week at Clear Lake. Someone could figure out the elusive midrange bass; big crankbaits, swimbaits and jigs could pluck giants form the deep spots; flipping docks could play – or maybe something else. Come what may, considering the fact that Clear Lake isn’t really that big, the number of possible techniques that might prevail is pretty extraordinary. Though records aren’t likely to be broken this week, the weigh-ins are likely to supply some surprises.



Sunrise: 7:18 a.m.

Water temperature: low 70s

Air temperature at launch: 56 degrees

Forecast high: 87 degrees

Wind: light south west wind, building throughout the day.

Weather: sunny


Tournament Details


All boaters and co-anglers will compete for three days. The top 10 boaters and co-anglers based on cumulative weight after two days of competition will advance to the third and final round, with the winner in each division determined by the heaviest cumulative three-day weight.

Presenting sponsor: Evinrude

Host: Konocti Vista Casino Resort & Marina

Takeoff time: 7:00 a.m. PT

Takeoff location: Konocti Vista Casino Resort & Marina, 2755 Mission Rancheria Road, Lakeport, Calif.

Weigh-in time: 3:00 p.m. PT

Weigh-in location: Konocti Vista Casino Resort & Marina


More information

For complete details and updated information, visit the Rayovac FLW Series tournament page. For regular updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the Rayovac FLW Series on Facebook at Facebook.com/FLWFishing and on Twitter atTwitter.com/FLWFishing.