Top 10 Patterns from Lake Havasu - Major League Fishing

Top 10 Patterns from Lake Havasu

How the best in the west got it done during the prespawn transition
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February 12, 2018 • Jody White • Toyota Series

The last two times the Costa FLW Series Western Division started at Lake Havasu the final day was a Joe Uribe Jr. blowout. Slinging a big swim jig, the Arizona pro capitalized on largemouths rushing toward the bank to spawn. This time around, that pattern never got to full strength or was too beaten up by attempted imitators – instead, smallmouths and brush piles accounted for the majority of the weight.

With water temperatures in the high 50s and low 60s, some bass were spawning, but many were still transitioning from their wintering grounds in deeper water. So, while Shaun Bailey caught his largemouths in 15 to 20 feet, David Valdivia boated smallmouths in less than 3 feet of water and Sean Minderman plucked largemouths from tules. Suffice to say, there was plenty of variety to be had on Havasu.

Top 10 baits

Bailey’s winning pattern

Complete results


2. Valdivia targets shallow smallmouths

David Valdivia was one of the last flights on day one, and he used the extra fishing time to figure out the pattern that lead him to sack up 48 pounds, 4 ounces on the week for a second-place finish.

“I figured out that the fish were in very shallow water,” says Valdivia. “They were in a foot of water, and what I noticed is a lot of guys weren’t up there that shallow. The fish were way back on these flats, up there warming themselves and getting ready and making beds.

“I ran with it, but I tried fishing for largemouth every day this week, just trying to catch a 5-pounder,” says Valdivia. “I think if I would have gotten it I would have probably taken it down. I felt like I had good spots to fish, but I just didn’t get the bites.”

For his smallmouths, Valdivia targeted shallow gravel flats in the main basin on the final day and in the basin and southward on the first two days. He tossed a drop-shot with a Roboworm Straight Tail Worm and a few other baits, but his money maker was a SPRO Phat Fly he fished on a custom 7-foot, 5-inch spinning rod from Performance Tackle with 5-pound-test braid and a 5-pound-test fluorocarbon leader.

“You used to be able to come out here and catch 80 a day on the fly and it was the most epic thing,” says Valdivia. “But people caught on to it. A lot of guys swim it and hop it, but I was more just barely moving it. I would almost approach my bait with the trolling motor while I was letting it sit, so if something was up there looking at it I could come back to it later.”


3. Kerr knocks down another good finish at home

Justin Kerr moved to Havasu shortly after winning the FLW Series event there in 2008, and the last few years he’s really been on a roll on his home pond. Catching 19-2 on the final day, Kerr rocketed up from 10th to third to improve his paycheck from $4,000 to $12,000.

“Today I fished brush piles and rock points, and the last two days I fished smallmouths on the points and secondary points,” says Kerr. “I caught them really good on the crankbait today, I caught like 15 fish.”

Kerr says that he cranked rock near the mouth of the river for much of his weight on the last day, in addition to cranking brush piles. His bait of choice was an Evergreen CR 16 in either ayu or olive crawdad for largemouths. For smallmouths, he used a drop-shot with a 4.5-inch Roboworm Straight Tail Worm (pro-staff peoples worm color) and a green pumpkin 3/8-ounce Picasso Fantasy Football Jig.

He tallied up 48 pounds of bass to notch his 13th career top 10.


4. Kinley drops to fourth

Local Chris Kinley relied heavily on the SPRO Phat Fly for his fish as well, but he spent an inordinate time up the Colorado River compared to the rest of the field.  

Up in the river, Kinley ran small points and current breaks with the hair jig, casting it up-current and working it down toward his boat. Kinley says he made a lot of precise presentations to specific lanes of clear bottom or current, which set him apart on the first two days. Fishing the Colorado at Havasu can mean long runs to remote backwaters, but Kinley wasn’t going too far, mostly fishing within a few miles of the mouth.

In the lake, Kinley mixed in a crankbait and a drop-shot a little, but the fly was still his primary weapon.

“I was basically fishing transition prespawn areas deep,” says Kinley. “I was fishing light line with a 1/8-ounce jig and that makes it hard. I had the bait control that I needed when the wind wasn’t blowing, but the wind came up today. Sometimes I’d swim [the fly] and sometimes I’d just let it sit there and jiggle it. Smallies are crazy, they see it falling in that clear water and they just have to check it out.”

To cast his fly in the river and the lake, Kinley used a 7-4, light action Dobyns Champion Extreme spinning rod (the 741 model) with 15-pound-test braid and 6-pound-test fluoro. Kinley says his setup enabled him to outdistance the competition, which was key for getting more bites and catching 46 pounds of bass.


5. Versatility was the key for Caruso

Prior to this year, Michael Caruso’s best finish with FLW on Havasu was 33rd, so a top five represented a dramatic improvement for him.

“Typically, when it’s winter I can catch them on Havasu, but typically in this tournament I can’t catch them here,” says Caruso. “In practice I tried to mix it up and find as many patterns as I could. I literally had an area for a hair jig, I had Senko areas, I had drop-shot areas. I tried to have enough areas so that even if I was struggling I could go somewhere and feel like I could get bites. Covering a lot of water in practice and finding a bunch of different patterns was key for me.”

In the tournament, Caruso ended up using basically everything he learned in practice. Weighing a mix of smallmouths and largemouths, he caught fish on a variety of baits from grass, docks, rocks and tules. One area that ended up bring particularly key for him was the harbor where the new casino is being built on the California side. That small spot accounted for a key 5-pounder at the end of day two and much of his weight on the final day as well.

Milking all of his spots, Caruso racked up 45-1 over three days.


6. Numbers game for Leedom

Tom Leedom averaged 15 keepers a day, but never really connected with top-end size to push his bags into the 16-pound range.

“I couldn’t get bit very good on the bank in the morning, so I stayed out in the cages drop-shotting, and I caught a couple of key largemouth doing that every day,” says Leedom. “Then I just pulled bank with the fly the rest of the day and when I came past some tules I’d flip them with the Neko.”

On his drop-shot Leedom went with a 4.5-inch prizm kraw Roboworm Straight Tail Worm, and his hair jig of choice with a Outkast Tackle Feider Fly. When he flipped tules he used an weightless Daiwa Yamamoto Neko Fat Worm.

For Leedom, “pulled bank” entailed swimming his fly back in the middle of the water column in 5- to 10-feet of water on 45-degree banks and points. He says he particularly looked for good coble rock and fished in the basin most of the time en route to catching 44-2 total.

“I had a little bit of a milk run, and every day I tried to expand on it,” says Leedom. “But, there were certain banks I fished every day.”


7. Marina launches Minderman

Sean Minderman bounced from 51st to third on day two with the biggest stringer of the event before dropping back down on day three. Minderman’s 23-4 catch on day two was exceptional, but he just couldn’t replicate it on the final day and ended the event with 43-13 overall.

Minderman flipped up the river on day one and caught plenty of keepers, but he changed things up and ran into the Lake Havasu Marina on day two. There, he capitalized on five big ones that were moving into the sheltered area to spawn, but it wasn’t the same on the final day.

“I could tell it wasn’t gonna happen, so I left there about noon and ran up into the river,” says Minderman. “I was fishing tules and some rock, and I caught quite a few fish, but not the size I was looking for.”

In the marina, Minderman plied a drop-shot and a weightless Yamamoto Senko. Around the tules he flipped a light Texas-rigged tube from Clearwater Custom Tackle.


8. Another top 10 for Uribe

Coming into the final day, everyone thought Joe Uribe Jr. might do it again, but he ended up weighing only four keepers and staying put in eighth place with a final weight of 42-4.

“In the morning I was throwing the swimbait, fishing shallow coves with brush piles and shade was the key,” says Uribe. “Then at about 10 o’clock I started resorting to smallmouths. I was fishing secondary points just on the inside of main lake points.”

Uribe used his famous swim jig/big swimbait combo for largemouths, and says a coppertreuse-colored Z-Man Finesse TRD on a custom 3/32-ounce head and a 6-inch oxblood light red flake-colored Roboworm Straight Tail Worm on a drop-shot did his smallmouth damage.


9. Swimming things work for Milligan

Jason Milligan has now made four top 20s in a row on Havasu and seems to have developed a knack for it despite only boating four keepers on the last day.

“I like the desert lakes, I’m from northern California where we have a lot of fish,” says Milligan. “The Colorado River lakes don’t have the population that we do, but it’s a nice challenge. Of all the Colorado River lakes I’ve fished, I prefer Havasu over all of them.”

Milligan fished for smallmouth with a with a 3-inch Megabass Spark Shad on a 3/16-ounce jig head all three days. For smallmouth, he stuck to the main basin and targeted points and humps in 10 to 20 feet of water, swimming and crawling his swimbait back. On the first two days Milligan also fished habitats and trees for largemouths with a ¾-ounce swim jig paired with a 4.8-inch Keitech Swing Impact FAT.

“I don’t really know what changed,” says Milligan of day three. “I was catching my fish the same way, but I never did go throw the deep swim jig. I probably should have, but I wanted to get five before I did that and I didn’t get a bite after 11:30.”

Despite not catching a limit, his 40-15 total weight was enough for a solid check and points.


10. Wright fishes south

Jay Wright only caught one 4-pounder on day three, but a solid day one and a big day two got him into the top 10 where he’d cap the week off with 34-7 worth of Havasu bass.

“I was catching mostly smallmouth on rock,” says Wright. “I was fishing in goosenecks and s-bends, and the south wind just stopped the current today. They were running stronger current on day two and I was able to get on spots I wanted to get on. That’s why it was so good.”

Wright used a wide variety of baits that included an oxblood light red flake-colored Roboworm Straight Tail Worm on a drop-shot, a homemade green pumpkin jig trailered with a Berkley PowerBait Fight’n Bug, a nail-weighted Jackall Crosstail Shad and a Duo Realis Vibration lipless crankbait.

Wright primarily fished the southern part of the lake, and it was basically just him and Uribe down there on the final day. Despite that, neither pro could muster a limit from the more canyon-looking section of Havasu.