Bryant Smith pushed through tough Clear Lake conditions to finish atop day one of the Costa FLW Series Western Division event presented by Evinrude with a limit catch of 20 pounds, 15 ounces.
Smith employed what he called a heavy finesse technique, which supplied good numbers, along with good quality.
Like Smith, many of the other top pros chose to fish slow, yet cover as much water as possible. Below is a look at how the rest of the top five approached Clear Lake for the final event of the season.
2. Clayton Eslick – Gilroy, Calif. – 19-12
He gave his trolling motor battery a good workout today, but the aggressive, demanding game plan that Clayton Eslick undertook paid off with a second-place performance of 19-12.
“I was just moving really fast through my areas; making 10 casts here, 10 casts there and switching up a lot of water,” he says. “These fish aren’t schooled up like they usually are this time of year. You just have to cover a lot of water and when they’re there, they bite quick and then it’s over.”
Stating that he caught fish throughout the day, Eslick says he caught his biggest fish — a 6-11 — at 9:15 and added his second biggest at 10:30. Past that, he couldn’t manage another kicker.
“I was mixing it up a lot with moving baits and down baits,” he says. “I was doing a ton of different things because you have to get to a spot and try three or four different things before they snap.”
Eslick spent his entire day in Clear Lake’s south end where greater water clarity offered the fish more comfortable habitat.
3. Kyle Grover – Trabuco Canyon, Calif. – 19-1
Kyle Grover knows Clear Lake, but he found one particular area in the south end with enough potential to keep his attention for a full day. His commitment earned him a third-place catch of 19-1.
“I was in an area where I caught a lot of 3-pounders in practice and shook off a lot,” Grover says. “I just kept my head down and stayed there. I was just fortunate to get a 5-pound bite.
“I’ve been here before in the fall and I just can’t catch any quality fish on the offshore spots. I just thought that 3-pounders would be premium this week. That’s what kept me there — because I could get bites in there. Usually in this lake, if you’re getting bites, eventually, you’ll run into one good one.”
Grover withheld his bait choice, but he noted that he’s fishing slow baits “extremely shallow.” His catch numbers increased in the afternoon, as the fish became more active.
4. Richard Dobyns – Marysville, Calif. – 18-1
Richard Dobyns says an open mind was his greatest asset today, as the California pro turned in a fourth-place effort with 18-1.
“I fished this place like a spotted bass lake — I fished slow, but fast,” he says. “It’s tough, but they’re there. You just have to knock them in the head. You make enough casts, you’re going to knock a couple of them in the head.
“You never know where your next bite is going to come from. I’d catch one out of a foot of water and the next one I’d catch out of 15 feet of water. It’s a random bite.”
Dobyns says he worked about 20 spots today, some were shallow, others deeper. Using a mix of reaction baits and a drop-shot, his targets ranged from offshore rock piles, to shallow docks, to emergent weed lines.
5. Jimmy Reese – Witter Springs, Calif. – 16-7
Veteran western pro Jimmy Reese says he figured out a particular element of the fish’s seasonal movement – a revelation that enabled him to sack up a fifth-place limit of 16-7.
“I had to slow down and fish slower than I’ve had to fish in the last two months here,” he says. “It’s about how the fish are positioned and I figured that out.
“I probably won’t be able to go back to where I caught them, but I have a lot of those scenarios throughout the lake. It’s just going to come down to getting a big bite. I know I’m doing the right thing, so I have the confidence to keep doing it.”
Reese adds that he caught his fish on a mix of reaction and slow baits.