The Costa FLW Series Western Division event presented by Power-Pole on the California Delta featured all the typical Delta tactics. Punching, vibrating jigs, finesse and even a frog made an appearance in the top 10. Blake Dyer, who won, and Jason Borofka, who finished second, both brought enormous bags to the scale on day one, but Dyer maintained better, never weighing less than 15 pounds any of the days.
For the win, Dyer flipped and fished a vibrating jig mostly, with a few fish mixed in on a drop-shot. While he was far from the only angler to mix his patterns, he certainly did it the most successfully.
2. Borofka finishes second
Delta stick Jason Borofka of Salinas, Calif., put the most serious pressure on Dyer. After placing second on day one with 25-8 — the tournament’s second-largest bag — Borofka added 16-4 on day two and slipped to third. A stronger day three would yield 19-8 and bring Borofka back into second with a final tally of 61-4.
Borofka, whose final day limit included a 7-10 kicker, says the tournament actually began slowly for him. Realizing he had to get the ball rolling, he made a big day one move that proved to be a prudent decision — and one that delivered an unforgettable moment.
“I had some fish near the tournament site that didn’t go and about 10 o’clock, I ran down south towards Stockton,” Borofka says. “I pull up there with only three little 1-pounders and stick an 8-12. With four fish in my ‘well, I flip over this dock and I stick an 8-6.
“That was my craziest fish catch in a tournament. I stretched out as far as I could and I told my co-angler: ‘Lay on my feet and don’t let my feet leave this boat.’”
Stretched across the dock — all the while adhering to tournament rules by maintaining foot contact with his boat — Borofka blindly reached out with his net, as his co-angler verbally guided him and eventually confirmed when the big fish was in the net.
Borofka got his day-two limit on the same spot, but a third day was too much to ask. Changing locations allowed him to compile a big sack and make a serious run at unseating Dyer.
To catch his fish, Borofka relied on a 1/2-ounce Z-Man ChatterBait Jack Hammer with a Yamamoto Zako trailer and a wacky-rigged 6-inch Yamamoto Senko.
3. Wilson winds and punches
Austin Wilson, the 2018 winner of The Bass Federation’s Living the Dream package, was the only competitor besides Dyer to break 20 pounds twice. The Citrus Heights pro placed fifth on day one with a limit of 20-2 and rose to second a day later after adding 21-14. Wilson stumbled in the final round and after weighing 15 pounds, he settled at fifth with an even 57 pounds.
Wilson says day three followed the same basic formula he used all week.
“I’d go down the bank with a ChatterBait and get a quick limit and then I’d pick up a big stick and start flipping and cull out everything,” he says. “Getting five in the boat with the ChatterBait gave me confidence and let me calm down and flip.
“I’ve been punching with a Dobyns Champion Extreme HP 805 with 65-pound braid and I had two different weights tied on. I had a 2 1/4-ounce for the super thick mats, but most of the time, I was catching my fish on a 1 1/2-ounce.”
Wilson says he alternated between a Missile Baits D Bomb and a Berkley PowerBait Bunker Hawg. His vibrating jig of choice was a 1/2-ounce Z-Man ChatterBait Jack Hammer.
4. Nourot breaks out a frog
Nick Nourot of Benicia, Calif., placed fourth on day one and held that spot through the event’s conclusion. His daily weights of 21-3, 16-4 and 17-13 gave him a tournament total of 55-4. When his initial plan came apart, Nourot pulled out a Delta standby and kept himself in the hunt.
“I thought I was going to be punching the whole time; I punched my weight the first day,” Nourot says. “The second, it was really cloudy and overcast and I could not get them to bite a punch bait. I had literally zeroed at 10 a.m., so I threw out a frog and hoped for the best and I caught a 6 1/2-pounder right away.
“I stuck with the frog because I was frustrated with the punching. My second-day weight was lower because of it. I think I would have stuck some more fish if I had been punching. On day three, I mixed in the frog and punching and got a combo bag.”
Nourot’s frog choice was a Snag Proof Poppin’ Phattie. He punched a Missile Baits D Bomb in black/blue and California 420.
“I had a good week, caught a big one each day and had fun doing it,” Nourot says. “The Delta is fun; you can go 30 miles-plus in each direction and catch 20 pounds. It’s just a great place to fish.”
5. Color change key for Birch
Capitalizing on an early day three opportunity enabled local stick Mike Birch to finish fifth with 55-13. Ten minutes into the final round, the Oakley, Calif., pro caught a 7-pounder that buoyed a limit of 17-2 and complemented his first two days’ efforts of 21-9 and 15-2.
“That morning, I picked up a Strike King Thunder Cricket and caught what we affectionately refer to as a ‘stupid fish,’” Birch says. “My number one technique all week was punching a Strike King Rodent. I usually flip the Strike King Rage Craw, which has a tremendous amount of action on it, but I’ve found that with these cold fronts, like we had during the tournament, they didn’t want the action, they wanted the glide.”
“I was throwing the Bama bug color yesterday,” says Birch. “I had four fish for 8 pounds at 11:45 and I switched back to the Falcon Lake craw color, which is a red/green pumpkin with gold flake and as soon as I switched, I started hammering them. That brought me to the final round.”
As Birch explains, the Falcon Lake craw color closely resembled the crawfish he had observed in his areas. At one point he noticed a crawfish crawling across shallow rocks, so he pitched his bait over for a color comparison and it was nearly identical.
6. Pearl stays consistent
John Pearl of Upper Lake, Calif., devoted most of his week to the punch game and placed sixth with 50-5. His consistent daily performances of 17-10, 16-5 and 16-6 kept him in good position the entire event.
“I caught everything the first two days punching Strike King Rage Bug in California craw and blue craw,” Pearl says. “I also had one on a green pumpkin Senko.”
For the entire event, Pearl punched with a 1 ½-ounce weight.
“The first day I only had about seven bites, day two I probably had 15 and on day three, I had seven or eight.”
7. Fong relies on a ChatterBait
Michael “Bub” Fong of Sacramento, Calif., hovered near the top for three days and ultimately settled at seventh with 49-5. Fong caught 19-5 on day one, added 15-12 the following day and closed out his tournament with a day three limit of 14-4.
“I caught a lot on day one, on day two it tapered off and on day three, it was tough to get any bites — I was lucky to get what I got,” Fong says. “I probably had 20 the first day, 15 the second day and 10 the third day.”
Fong says his tournament total included a few big fish that he caught by punching a Reaction Innovations Double Wide Beaver with a 1 1/2-ounce weight. That bite was short-lived, but Fong was able to get most of his work done on a 3/8- and 1/2-ounce Z-Man ChatterBait Jack Hammer with a Strike King Rage Bug — both in red.
“I saw a lot of crawfish on the banks and they were all red,” Fong says. “Most to the time, crawfish are going to be red, orange or brown, but red is the primary color.”
8. Tosh punches as expected
Bub Tosh of Modesto, Calif., faced a shallow water angler’s worst nightmare on day one — a trolling motor malfunction that left him unable to effectively fish the dense mats he favors. With only his big motor to bump from spot to spot, Tosh caught a limit that went 13-14. With the problem fixed for day two, Tosh hauled in 23-8 — the day’s biggest bag — and moved up from 37th place to fifth. With cold front conditions hampering the final round, he managed only 10-12 and slipped to eighth place with 48-2.
An accomplished puncher, Tosh stressed the importance of prudent site selection. Not all mats are the same and he says he prefers a mat with two or more types of mixed vegetation. Tosh also says he fishes mats that many pass up because he knows how handle the super thick vegetation
Fishing imported Japanese style soft plastics, particularly s bluegill shape with a swimbait style tail, Tosh went as big as a 2-ounce weight when stout winds compressed mats and challenged penetration. The key, Tosh says, was a stealthy presentation.
“I see a lot of guys going down the bank and bombing that weight in there and making a big splash,” Tosh says. “Sometimes, you have to use a heavier weight and be a lot more quiet.”
9. Dutra mixes it up
Philip Dutra of Concord, Calif., never dialed in a specific deal, but his mobile strategy yielded daily weights of 16-6, 17-13 and 13-0. After improving from 19th to ninth on day two, his final total of 47-3 kept him in the number nine spot.
“I went out on the final day and fished all fresh water and tried to catch the biggest bag I could, but they just shut down today,” Dutra says. “I had 16 rods on my deck and I used them all, but I just couldn’t figure out how to get a bigger bite.
“The first two days, I caught 20 or 30 fish, but today I caught eight or nine. I did a lot of running — I actually ran 275 miles in three days. I was all over every part of the Delta.”
Amid his diversity of baits, Dutra found his better bites came from a 1/2-ounce white double willow-leaf spinnerbait and a bluegill pattern Toxic Baits Wade Hogg wake bait.
10. Andrews punches the whole time
For Oakley, Calif., pro Jamond Andrews, the decision was simple: keep the “big stick” in his hand. Punching his way through three days of competition, Andrews caught 15-10, 19-12 and 10-11 to finish tenth with 46-1.
“If you’re not flipping, you’re not trying to win,” Andrews says. “That’s how you win out here consistently; you put that big stick in your hand and you go to work. The program I had was working, but that cold front shut them down.
“I saw the fish I was catching all week; there were 5- and 6-pounders swimming around all over the place, but on the last day, they decided to get under those mats. I wasn’t trying to throw a Senko or a drop-shot for them. If they didn’t eat what I was throwing, they weren’t going to eat.”
Andrews says he matched his baits to fish aggression. On day one, he threw a Reaction Innovations Double Wide Beaver and Big Bite Baits Yomama. As the fish turned finicky with the cold front conditions, switching to a Reaction Innovations Smallie Beaver helped coax a few more bites.