In the final Costa FLW Series Western Division event presented by Power-Pole, anglers were welcomed with frontal conditions featuring light cloud cover and strong winds by the end of day one on the California Delta. Not long after the 6 o’clock takeoff time boats were spotted running all over the vast estuary in search of spawning and postspawn bass. Mike Birch bested the other 109 pros and took a commanding lead by bringing in a 33-pound, 8-ounce limit to have him way out in front.
At 6:10 this morning, Birch reached his starting spot. The local stick out of Oakley, Calif., aimed to catch a large fish he had marked on a bed. Using the same techniques found successful in practice, he was unable to bring in the bass right off the bat.
By 6:15, Birch threw out his practice game plan all together.
“The pattern I had going into this wasn’t working,” Birch says. “You have to fly by the seat of you pants out here.”
“The weather is changing with this whole El Nino deal and the fish don’t know what to do. They move up, they move down. You’ll catch them in 8 feet one day, then 2 feet the next.”
Shortly after making an adjustment to his game plan, Birch caught his first fish of the day flipping soft plastics. It was a heck of a way to kick things off too considering it hit the scale at 10-11 – earning him big bass honors of the day. With such a positive outlook on his new flipping pattern, Birch went on to flip about a 4-mile area. Later, when cloud cover and the wind rolled in, he switched to throwing reaction baits.
By 10:30 Birch had the weight he would ultimately bring back to the stage at Russo’s Marina, which included three giants (he added a 7- and 8-pounder).
Birch is in a big bite area and says he broke off another giant – close to 9 pounds – in the same area. In an effort to save fish for later in the week, Birch decided to leave the area shortly after filling his limit.
“I left it for tomorrow,” he says with a sly smile. “And hopefully Saturday.”
Birch welcomes the incoming front that appears to have many in the field scrambling. He thinks the increased cloud cover and wind will help his bite but isn’t predicting another blowout day with fish of that caliber.
Top 10 pros:
1. Mike Birch – Oakley, Calif. – 33-08 (5)
2. Sean Minderman – Spokane, Wash. – 22-09 (5)
3. Mike Iloski – Escondido, Calif. – 22-00 (5)
4. Jim Lyon – Reno, Nev. – 21-13 (5)
5. Jim Moulton – Merced, Calif. – 21-10 (5)
6. Jon Strelic – El Cajon, Calif. – 20-11 (5)
7. Chad Hulbert – Gilroy, Calif. – 20-10 (5)
7. Jimmy Reese – Witter Spirngs, Calif. – 20-10 (5)
9. Dane Mitchell – Lake Charles, La. – 20-08 (5)
10. Ken Mah – Elk Grove, Calif. – 19-13 (5)
Agner sets co-angler pace
Jumping out to the early lead is Aaron Agner of Redding, Calif., who sacked up 20-15 to have a comfotable, but not safe lead of 4-3. Agner is a seasoned veteran of the Western Division, yet only holds two top 10s in his career. With another repeat of today he could be well on his way to his first ever title.