Top 10 baits and patterns from the California Delta - Major League Fishing

Top 10 baits and patterns from the California Delta

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A wide array of baits worked for the best of the West on the Delta. Photo by Charles Waldorf.
April 27, 2023 • Charles Waldorf, Tyler Brinks • Toyota Series

OAKLEY, Calif. – The finale to the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats Western Division on the California Delta showcased an improving bite on the famed fishery compared to the event held just over a month ago.

The top anglers mixed it up with the usual shallow-water suspects of ChatterBaits and spinnerbaits, but sight fishing also helped many advance to the final day. Plus, Delta favorites like frogging and punching also made an appearance.

Here’s a rundown of the top baits and patterns from the left coast.

1. Power techniques play for Demecs

Arizona pro Conrad Demecs was as consistent as you can be, bagging 19 pounds a day on the way to his first MLF win. He did it with the help of a vibrating jig and a frog.

He focused on isolated grass clumps near spawning banks with the vibrating jig and went to a frog when he came across a mat or when the sun was higher.

“I fished a 3/8-ounce vibrating jig when the tide dropped, but the 1/2-ounce size was ideal for the higher tide,” he said. “I was using a green pumpkin blue color and had a creature bait rigged vertically as the trailer to imitate bluegill better.”

Focusing on the mid to southern section of the fishery, a yellow and black popping frog also contributed to his winning bags.

2. Ostrander slings a blade and flips

Turlock, California’s Christian Ostrander had a solid week with three straight bags in the upper teens. He kept it simple, throwing a spinnerbait and flipping.

His spinnerbait was a custom hefty 3/4-ounce model with Colorado blades tipped with a grub as the trailer.

“It’s made by who I think is the best spinnerbait angler in the world, Brian Rabeth, and was all chartreuse and the Colorado blades gave it a lot of thump,” he said.

He went with a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver in green pumpkin with a ½-ounce weight and 4/0 Gamakatsu Aaron Martens G-Finesse Heavy Cover Hook for flipping and pitching.

“I was targeting dirty water tules and looking for eddies; this is where the fish were both prespawn and postspawn,” he said.

3. Finessing the spawn works for Deakin

Although his weights dropped each day, Colorado pro Adam Deakin had a great event to finish up third. He did it by primarily focusing on bedding bass in the mid to upper section of the California Delta.

“The first couple days were all sight fish, and I would throw a Senko out in front as I searched for bedding bass,” he said. “I ran out of sight fish as the event went on, but I was trying to imagine any place where the bass would spawn, hard bottoms and good places, whether the edges of weed lines or tules.”

Deakin used a 6-inch green pumpkin Yamamoto Senko wacky-rigged on a No. 1 VMC Weedless Neko Hook or Texas-rigged with a 3/16-ounce weight for bedding fish.

4. Crist leads off with a big bag

Cody Crist started with a bang, catching 23-11 to lead the event after the first day. His bags dwindled from there, but he secured his best-ever finish with MLF. The young Ramona, California, pro did it with reaction baits and sight fishing.

“I started the event throwing a Precision Tackle spinnerbait with double Colorado blades in the morning and then threw a 6-inch Yamamoto Senko in green pumpkin/watermelon laminate on a Texas Rig,” he said. “The spinnerbait was a shad pattern with a little chartreuse in the skirt. Later in the event, it was a green pumpkin 3/8-ounce  Z-Man Evergreen ChatterBait JackHammer with a Yamamoto Zako trailer. I also went to a 5-inch Senko on a wacky rig instead.”

Crist fished the Little Mandeville and Mildred areas, focusing on fish coming and going from spawning sites.

“Those are two really good spawning areas, and I was fishing the sloughs connecting the ponds,” he said. “When the tide would drop, there was still enough depth and the fish would sit on the grass lines.”

5. Slow going for Joudrey  

Local Oakley, California, pro, Beau Joudrey got better daily and ended up with a fifth-place showing on his home waters. He did it with a combination of two soft plastic rigs, fishing up and down the San Joaquin and targeting areas close to current.

“They were deeper places where the fish would filter in, staging areas where prespawn bass would cycle in and out of,” he said. “During the high tide, it was rocky banks and tule islands. As the tide dropped, I looked for beds.”

Joudrey fished a watermelon/red flake Zoom Trick Worm, Neko-rigged with a 1/16-ounce Dobyns Nail Weight and a 1/0 Owner hook. He also employed a green pumpkin Zoom Brush Hog with a ¼-ounce tungsten weight and rigged it on a 4/O Owner Jungle Flipping Hook.

6. Touey makes another Top 10 with a combo approach

The winner of last year’s Toyota Series on Lake Havasu, Patrick Touey scored another Western Division Top-10 finish on the California Delta. He did it with an early morning spinnerbait bite and switched to sight fishing later as the tide dropped while fishing near White Slough.

“Early in the morning, the spinnerbait bite was good in the current,” he said. “After that, it got tough, and I went to dead-end sloughs to sight fish with a wacky-rigged 5- and 6-inch green pumpkin Yamamoto Senko.”

His spinnerbait was a 3/8-ounce War Eagle with a white and chartreuse skirt. He opted for a Colorado/Indiana blade combination for added vibration.

7. Schlander knocks out another Top 10 on the Dirty D

Hunter Schlander, who also finished in the Top 10 here last month, kicked off the event with an even 20 pounds. He did it with a combination of a Yamamoto Senko, a Z-Man Evergreen ChatterBait JackHammer and punching.

“It was a mix of those three things, and I would start each day with the Senko just to get a limit,” he said. “I’d do that for the first few hours until the tide started to drop and then I’d go look for any kind of canopy to punch. Later in the day, when the tide was the lowest, I hit the weedlines with the ChatterBait.”

His Senko of choice was a 6-inch in watermelon red flake and he wacky-rigged it on a 3/0 Gamakatsu Wicked Wacky Hook. He punched with a 1.5-ounce weight, a 3/0 Owner Jungle Flipping Hook and a craw-colored Missile Baits D Bomb. Schlander’s JackHammer was a 3/8-ounce model in green pumpkin red and he used the same D Bomb as a trailer.

Another key for him was running the tides.

“I started each day in the central Delta because it had the highest tide and would follow the tide south every day,” he said.

8. Mixing it up works for Phillips

Concord, California’s Ken Phillips started each morning with a crankbait in his hands. He worked his way towards bedding and roaming fish as the day went on while targeting the southern section of the California Delta in Victoria Island and the surrounding areas.

“I was fishing a crankbait on riprap and it worked well in the colder mornings and was perfect for the high tide,” he said. “After that, I would fish a swimbait in the grass or look for fish spawning. I also caught some flipping a Zoom Brush Hog in little pockets in the grass.”

His crankbait was a discontinued Lucky Craft squarebill in a Delta craw color and he mixed it up between a Gan Craft Jointed Claw, a small swimbait and a wacky rig when fishing around grass later in the day.

9. O’Shinn adapts after Day 1

A week before the event, Bill O’Shinn competed in the inaugural Western Bass Shootout on the Delta and although this additional time on the water could have helped him, it hurt him on the first day as he weighed just 10-2.

“A few of us who were catching them in that event struggled up north,” he said. “The water in the Delta was getting colder in the north and south from all the runoff and those areas weren’t as good. That’s why I switched to the central part of the Delta the final two days.”

He bagged two 16-pound limits on the two final days, primarily targeting fish that were staging to spawn, fishing with reaction baits in the morning and opting for a bed fishing approach as the sun rose.

His morning bite consisted of a trio of chartreuse and white ½-ounce spinnerbaits with gold and silver willow leaf blades, a Lucky Craft squarebill in spring craw and a ½-ounce Z-Man Evergreen ChatterBait JackHammer in black and red with a Pro Point Lures Machete Minnow in the blackedout color as the trailer.

For his bed fishing, it was a Yamamoto Cowboy in green pumpkin with a 3/0 extra wide gap hook and a ½-ounce tungsten weight.

10. Faber slips into 10th on the bed bite  

Colorado’s Ty Faber scored his second straight Delta Top 10 in the Toyota Series. This time, it was primarily by sight fishing.

“I caught a few little ones on a ChatterBait, but bed fishing was the main thing every day for me,” he said. “They were either spawning near the rocks or islands and were in any area I could find with clean water. I spent my time moving fast until I saw one worth stopping on.”

He used a ¼-ounce tungsten weight, a 3/0 Hayabusa FPP Straight Shank Worm Hook, and a white Berkley PowerBait Chigger Bug to catch his bedding bass.