Top 10 Patterns from Clear Lake - Major League Fishing

Top 10 Patterns from Clear Lake

Finesse and flipping play big on a tough week
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Kyle Grover Photo by David A. Brown. Angler: Kyle Grover.
October 3, 2017 • David A. Brown • Archives

Winning with relative ease, Bryant Smith was the only angler to top the 20-pound mark at the Costa FLW Series Western Division event on Clear Lake. The California lake’s legendary productivity was largely absent during the event, as aggressive grass eradication has robbed most of the lake of its essential habitat. This, along with the related oxygen decline and fluctuating fall temperatures had the lake in a stingy mood.

Smith’s winning pattern

Top 10 baits

Complete results


Clayton Eslick

2. Strong start buoys second-place Eslick

For Clayton Eslick, a strong start of 19 pounds, 12 ounces positioned him sufficiently to withstand declining productivity and finish second — a spot he held all three days — with a tournament total of 45-9.

Eslick caught his fish on a Lucky Craft LV 500 and a Lucky Craft LC RTO 2.5. He says he had spots in Clear Lake’s north end, as well as the mid-lake to south region.

“I found some canals up north, but everyone was flipping and punching, so I started casting the LV500 out in the middle and yo-yoing it,” he says. “I found one canal that was loaded. I caught seven in a row, left it and came back in the tournament and caught probably 30 fish the first day, including a 7-pounder.

“I had another spot down south; a break in 3-5 feet. There was one boulder on the front and I hit it once and caught a 7 during practice. I hit it again during the tournament and caught another 7-pounder, so it was a good week.”

On day three, a windy morning seemed to promise greater reaction bait opportunity, but that was not the case and Eslick split his time between cranking and dock flipping.

“I had two big ones come off late in the day, but that’s fishing; it wasn’t meant to be,” he says.


Jimmy Reese

3. Despite big loss, Reese rises to third

Jimmy Reese of Witter Springs, Calif. kept himself near the top all week and steadily improved each day. On day one, he placed fifth with 16-7 and moved up to fourth on day two with 15-11. Day three was slower, but his 12-5 was enough to lock up a third-place finish with 44-7.

“When you have expectations of catching 25-pound bags and you’re catching 15-17, you just have to accept it and fish hard,” Reese says. “That’s what we did; we just went fishing and caught fish on all kinds of baits.”

On day one, Reese caught his fish on a Frenzy Baits Nail Shakey Head with a 6-inch Roboworm Fat Straight Tail in the margarita mutilator color. Casting into a shady pocket next to something solid, like a dock piling, in about a foot of water.

The second day brought cloud cover and a little more wind, so Reese picked up a 1/2-ounce War Eagle spinnerbait. On his third cast, he hooked a fish he estimated at 7 or 8 pounds, but a violent leap broke the spinnerbait and freed the whopper.

Pulling himself back together, Reese ended up catching a couple good ones on the spinnerbait and filled his limit with a 3/4-ounce football head jig with a prototype Yamamoto creature bait. Day three saw the spinnerbait and the shaky head producing Reese’s keepers.

“I just covered a lot of water, fished docks, rocks and whatever was in front of me,” he says. “I found two patches of grass and caught a lot of fish out of the grass.”


Kyle Grover

4. Grover commits to punching

He probably would have preferred to fish the main lake, but when Kyle Grover realized where his better potential awaited, he decided to play the numbers game and turned in a fourth-place performance with 43-11.

“I like to throw shallow squarebills in the fall, but I just couldn’t catch them like that,” Grover says. “In practice, my dad (Rick Grover) called me and said ‘I’m getting a lot of bites in this canal, you should come check it out.’

“So, I went down there and flipped pennywort with a 1-ounce weight. The bait didn't seem to matter, as long as it was black and blue. I threw a  Strike King Rage Bug and when I ran out of those, I went to the Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver.”

Grover says he kept one outfit in his hand the entire event — a 7-11 iRod Genesis II Bub’s Punch Rod with a Daiwa Tatula 8.1:1 reel. A Gamakatsu Super Heavy Cover Flippin’ Hook helped him keep his fish buttoned up.


Ken Mah

5. Mah cranks and flips for fifth

Ken Mah made a big day-two move that lifted him into fifth place and then held onto that position to finish with 43-9. The pro from Elk Grove, Calif. posted an opening-round limit of 13 pounds, but grabbed a top-10 spot by following with 18-10. He added 11-15 in the final round.

“I caught them how I love to fish,” Mah says. “I caught them on a Bill Lewis Echo 1.75 and I flipped.

“On day two, I had six flipping sticks on my deck. They were all rigged with different line, different weights and different baits. Whatever situation I came to, I picked up the rod that I needed for that particular situation.”

Mah spent much of his time in The Keys, a residential canal system at the back end of the lake’s Rattlesnake arm. There, he punched pennywort mats and fished the crankbait along dock edges. For a more secure hold, Mah changed the Echo’s stock hooks to Trapper Tackle Standard Round Bend trebles.


Wayne Breazeale

6. Tules deliver sixth place for Breazeale

Local pro Wayne Breazeale of Kelseyville, Calif. placed 11th on day one with 14-12, rose to sixth on day two with a 15-pound bag and gained three more spots in the final round by adding 13-13 to finish sixth with 43-9.

“I caught them on a drop-shot like I always do, but I got into trouble on day three and had to break out a spinnerbait to catch a few,” Breazeale says. “The lake is fishing really tough.”

After targeting docks most of the week, Breazeale changed his focus to the tules where he’d caught fish in practice. Day one and two saw little action, but when bait schools moved closer to the stalky vegetation in the afternoon, Breazeale was there to capitalize.

“I went to the tules early on day three and got a bunch of fish,” he says. “I didn’t realize how big the fish were, but I went back later in the day and culled everything I had in 15 minutes.”


Clayton Meyer

7. Meyer cranks into seventh place

The biggest comeback story of the top-10 belongs to Nevada pro Clayton Meyer, who got off to a slower start with a catch of 11-9. He’d rise 37 spots to seventh on day two with an 18-pound bag.

On day one, Meyer caught his fish on a fluke, but his second-round decision to go with a Lucky Craft LV 500 was a game changer. Throwing it on rocky points, the Clear Lake classic produced all his weight on the final two days.


Travis Huckaby

8. Depth-focused Huckaby takes eighth

The pro from Modesto, Calif. placed 25th on day one with 12-15, but reached the top-10 by adding 17 pounds on day two. That put him in eighth place; the spot in which he’d finish with 41-4.

Huckaby flipped tules some, but mostly tossed a squarebill and a drop-shot on docks.

Huckaby says the key to his success was targeting a particular dock depth. The better fish were in about 6 to 8 feet. As the day progressed, the fish moved into 2 feet as sunlight warmed the shallows.


Richard Dobyns

9. Slowing down kept Dobyns in top-10

A fixture in Western tournaments, Richard Dobyns started strong with a day-one catch of 18-1 that put him in fourth place. The California pro described a state of general inconsistency, which seemed to plague him even more on days two and three.

“I had to slow down and catch my fish on a drop-shot and a wacky-rigged Yamamoto Senko. After practice, I knew the fish weren’t moving; they weren’t chasing,” he says. “I did catch a couple on a spinnerbait and a crankbait, but I caught most of them on finesse baits.”


Gerry Johnson

10. Johnson drags a jig

Modesto, Calif. pro Gerry Johnson rose from 17th to 10th on day two and ended up holding that position on day three. His daily weights of 14-0, 15-1 and 10-4 gave him a tournament total of 39-5.

Johnson relied mostly on a 1/2-ounce Sculpin jig paired with a cinnamon/black flake Yamamoto Double Tail Grub. He also fished a Texas-rigged  Zoom Brush Hog, but the jig produced most of his bites.

“I fished really slow on hard bottom,” Johnson says. “I had a couple of opportunities for big fish this week, but they got me wrapped up and that was the end of that. I never had an opportunity for a big fish on day three.”