An unwavering commitment to one fish-laden area enabled Kyle Grover to earn his first Costa FLW Series win with a three-day total of 66 pounds, 13 ounces at the Western Division event at Clear Lake. The tournament was presented by Ranger Boaters and hosted by Konocti Vista Casino Resort & Marina.
Grover fished a major community hole known as Henderson Point, but he did so with a patient and thorough manner that yielded a nearly 9-pound winning margin. Throughout three days of diverse weather conditions, Grover caught his fish on jigs and crankbaits.
Here’s how the rest of the top 10 made the cut.
2. Collins climbs to second
The only pro besides Grover to break 20 pounds twice was local angler Gary Collins. He says he let the inclement weather of day one curtail his original game plan, resulting in a modest 15-1 limit, but getting back on track delivered the two big bags he needed in the later rounds.
“With the wind and the rain on day one, I chickened out and didn’t go south. I stopped on a spot mid-lake and worked it all day,” he says. “On day two, I made a move, dealt with the wind, and it benefitted me. I went back to the same spot on day three and also fished a couple of other spots in the south end.”
“The jig bite was very slow,” Collins says. “It was crucial to fish it as slowly as possible. It’s very boring – until one bites it.”
3. Uribe “drops” into third
One of the division’s most consistent competitors, Joe Uribe Jr. kept himself near the top of the standings all week, despite struggling with the big winds of day two. Working a spot that he and his sister, co-angler Rachel Uribe, found during practice, the Surprise, Ariz., pro placed second on day one with 22-8. He had planned to return the next day, but a strong northwest wind blew out his spot.
“I was able to fish that area in the Rattlesnake arm, but on day two, I’m going halfway there in the morning, and I looked at my partner and said, ‘We’re changing it up today.’ We went down south and were pitching drop-shots with 6-inch margarita mutilator Roboworms and 1/4-ounce Voss weight to tules. I also pitched a Texas-rigged Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver around trees.”
Day two yielded a limit of 19-5 that moved Uribe into the first-place spot. Calmer conditions on day three allowed Uribe to reach his prime area, but he struggled to find quality bites. Adding a day-three limit of 15 pounds gave Uribe a tournament total of 56-13.
Uribe notes that a critical element of his performance was the 7-2, medium custom Performance Tackle drop-shot rod that allowed him to make precise casts, while offering plenty of power.
4. Mixed arsenal leads Valdivia to fourth
David Valdivia of Norwalk, Calif., earned his bites by cranking a Strike King 6XD in green gizzard, flipping a Texas-rigged green pumpkin Strike King Rage Bug and working in a Scottsboro Tackle Co. Swimbait on a 1/4-ounce Buckeye Lures head.
“I was just mixing it up,” Valdivia says of his varied approach. “I was fishing the creature bait outside the tules and in front of rock piles in 7 to 9 feet. With the swimbait and crankbait, I caught them winding in about 15 feet of water
5. Jig and crankbait key for Loberg
Andrew Loberg of Rocklin, Calif., spent most of his tournament sharing water with Grover.
“I stuck to a big jig and a big crankbait all week,” Loberg says. “I bounced around on day one and figured out a little area that had a bunch of fish. Day two, I stuck with that spot, and on day three I hit that spot and ran to another similar spot. There were so many fish on that main spot; they just kept reloading and reloading. It was a blast.”
“I was working the jig with an average retrieve,” Loberg says. “Once you’d hit those rocks, they’d eat it.
“The key to working the area was knowing certain rocks and the depth changes. It’s a big bluff wall, but there are sections you definitely needed to know.”
6. Under-spin works for German
Ryan German faced the same diverse weather conditions as the rest of the field, but the Fairfield, Calif., pro included something that no one else mentioned en route to a sixth-place finish: an under-spin.
“The first day, I caught them on wacky-rigged Senkos, and my big one on a 1/4-ounce Fish Head Spin with a 3.8 Keitech rainbow shad swimbait trailer,” German says. “The second day, they all came from the under-spin. Day three, they came on a drop-shot with a 6-inch Roboworm in the margarita mutilator color and a wacky-rigged green pumpkin Senko.”
German describes his under-spin technique as something more like a jig presentation.
“I wasn’t really swimming it too fast,” he says. “Around 1 o’clock on day two, I found out that they wanted it slow. I sat my rod down to grab something out of the ice chest, and when I picked it up, a fish was there.
“On day three, I was just going back and forth on the same tule lines and mixing it up between the drop-shot and the Senko.”
7. Day one heroics buoy Olson
Eighteen-year-old Lane Olson from Forest Grove, Ore., set the high mark on day one with a 25-pound limit that ended up second only to the 26-2 Grove caught in the final round. Intercepting an 8-11 and a 6 1/2-pounder in a magical five-minute window gave him a 2 1/2-pound lead going into day two. The second and third days proved more challenging, as Olson caught limits of 12-9 and 15-11.
Drop-shots with 7-inch margarita mutilator Roboworms delivered his first two days’ fish. In the final round, he threw the drop-shot, but also caught a couple of his weigh fish on a white River2Sea Bully Wa Frog.
“On day two, I screwed up and lost one over 7 on a frog. That really hurt me,” Olson says. “On day three, they were eating the frog pretty good. I just walked the frog pretty fast and made as many casts as possible.
“Holes in the tules were the main deal. If there was a little pathway up next to a dock, I’d skip that frog in there as far back as I could and work it out.”
8. Topwater bite helps Smith
Roseville, Calif., pro Bryant Smith put much of his faith in the topwater bite for an eighth-place finish with 51-15.
“I don’t know what happened today [Saturday]; I really thought they’d bite a lot better,” Smith says of the final day’s cloudy, rainy conditions. “I was just running a lot of water and keying on the areas those fish are going to.
“I was catching a lot of postspawn fish; not all the way back, but not all the way on the main lake yet; just kind of that in-between area.”
Although a green gizzard shad Strike King Sexy Dawg and a 1/2-ounce white double buzzbait served him well, Smith describes his overall strategy as junk-fishing. His bait selection also included a 1/2-ounce swim jig with a Strike King Rage Swimmer trailer and a drop-shot with a Strike King Fat Baby Finesse.
“The first day was really good. I probably had 30 to 35 keepers, but day two was a struggle when the sun came out,” Smith says. “On day three, I probably caught another 25. Like everybody else, my hands are ripped and bleeding, but you can’t complain when you make a top 10 against these guys.”
9. Archer flips for ninth
Travis Archer got off to a strong start with 21-2, but his enthusiasm might have burned him in the long run. The pro from Covington, Wash., saw his weights drop off to 15-4 and 12-7 on days two and three.
“I didn’t put my flipping stick down all week because that’s how I was catching my big fish,” he says. “I burned them up on day one because I wanted to catch a big bag.
“All I did was flip all day. That’s all I could do to get my bigger fish, but they kind of faded away with the weather conditions that came in. I tried to adjust, but I adjusted a little too late. I started catching them on a drop-shot because I watched my co-angler kick my butt a little bit with that rig.”
10. McLaughlin keeps it simple
Jim McLaughlin knows Clear Lake well, so he didn’t see any need to break from what he knew would deliver top-10 consistency. Like so many of his competitors, the Bakersfield, Calif., pro pitched a drop-shot with a margarita mutilator Roboworm and finished 10th with 48-7.
“I was just throwing it in the tules in about 5 to 6 feet of water,” McLaughlin says. “Some of them were right on the bank.”