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2010 Elite Series - Golden State Shootout

Preview

As soon as Bassmaster Elite Series pros compete March 11-14 in the season opener on the California Delta, they’ll hit the road to travel about 175 miles north to Lakeport, Calif., to prep for another northern California tournament, but one of an entirely different nature.

The March 18-21 Golden State Shootout will be on Clear Lake, the largest natural lake to lie entirely within California’s borders. In sharp contrast to the sprawling, shallow system of canals and sloughs that comprise the Delta, Clear Lake is 19 miles long, measures 8 miles wide at its widest point, and has an average depth of 27 feet.

Elite pros will compete on Clear Lake for four days to claim the $100,000 first-place prize. They’ll also be striving to earn points that count toward qualifying for the Bassmaster Elite Series postseason in July, as well as for next year’s Bassmaster Classic and Elite season.

Tour Review

GS Shootout reaction

I’m on my way home from Clear Lake – a lot earlier than I’d like. I just didn’t get the big fish I needed. If you look at the weights over the first couple of days – and really on Saturday, too – you’ll notice that a lot of the guys weighed in 15 pound sacks, more or less.

That’s because a lot of us were fishing in front of the bass. What I mean by that is that we wanted the bass to be moving to their beds, or maybe I ought to say we thought they should be doing that. We were fishing where we wanted them to be, or thought they should be, rather than where they were.

In the mornings the water was in the low 50s and it steadily warmed as the day went along. Overnight it cooled back down. When we launched the next morning it was right back in the low 50 degree range.

The fish were moving but they weren’t doing it in an aggressive fashion. I could see them sunning themselves but couldn’t make them bite. I managed to get a couple of big bass bites on swimbaits but, for whatever reason, I didn’t get a good hookset and didn’t get them to the boat.

Most of my bass came on finesse techniques fished slow. That gave me my 15 pound bags. The problem is on Clear Lake the only thing you get with 15 pounds is the weekend off.

Now, to be fair a few of the guys found some better fish, and are apparently catching them on swimbaits. All I can say is more power to them. They found fish I didn’t.

The lesson for all of us – me included – is that you can’t get ahead of the fish. It might be spawn time to you, but it has to be spawn time to the bass as well. Don’t let the warm, sunny weather fool you. Make sure you know where the fish are and then fish for them in those spots.

Lane's Lunker

Throwing a swimbait finally paid off for Bobby Lane. He whacked a monster bass that tipped the scales at 11 pounds, 1 ounce and his 24-13 bag moved him into seventh place. The big fish came early and set the tone for the second-heaviest stringer of the tournament.

“It was freezing out there in the morning and I wasn’t wearing enough layers,” Lane said. “All I could think about was how cold I was. I bombed that big 9-inch swimbait out there about five or six times and I had a few bumps. On my 10th cast, that big one ate it.”

A big fish always makes for a nerve-wracking fight, but Lane managed to subdue the fish relatively quickly.

“She jumped right under the boat,” Lane said. “Then I grabbed her and put her in the livewell and didn’t look at her again.”

Lane’s Marshal also benefited from the catch, since Lane promised a swimbait if the fish was over 11 pounds.

“I can handle that,” Lane said. “If I could give a bunch of swimbaits for an 11-pounder every tournament, I would.”

Day 1, Vevick tears it up

Nearing the 10-year anniversary of when Velvick established the three-day BASS’ record for tournament weight here, Velvick, once a West Coast resident, raided Clear Lake in a similar manner, boating the first double-digit bass of the Elite season, a 10-11 beauty.

Now settled in Del Rio, Texas — on the periphery of another bass-factory Lake Amistad — Velvick is in a different place now.

“Ten years ago, I actually missed some of my bigger bites,” said Velvick, 45. “But not today. I have more knowledge now and the equipment is miles ahead of where it was. I absolutely love this fishery. Maybe I should move to Clear Lake.”

Although prevailing Clear Lake wisdom would assume that Velvick tied on a big swimbait and fired it around the whole day, the two-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier said not so. Instead, he is mixing up his lure choice — a swimbait is still a big part of it — and is mining shallow water spots that have consistently produced over the years.

Golden State Shootout preview thoughts

The Elite Series is tickling the nose of a sleeping giant.

After two practice sessions Monday and Tuesday that Bassmaster Classic champion Kevin VanDam described as “so brutal I can’t believe it,” most of the 93 anglers leaving the Willow Point Park launch on Clear Lake, Ca., Wednesday for the final day of practice for the 2010 Golden State Shootout sound like they’ve been snake-bitten. It’s been that tough.

“I think most of us would rather be back on the Delta,” Denny Brauer joked Tuesday after practice. “I’ve thrown that swimbait 1,000 miles and don’t have a thing to show for it.”

Or, as VanDam put it: “It can’t get any tougher than this.”

Oh, but how quickly that could change.

This 43,000-acre lake located 160 miles northwest of Sacramento has been locked down in a late-winter funk, thanks to an early-March temperature dip that brought nighttime lows into the high 20s last week. Water temperatures consequently took a plunge, dropping into the high 40s and putting the emergency brake on the pre-spawn schedule of the largemouth population in northern California’s most revered big-bass lake.

Top 10 to watch in the Golden State Shootout

1. Kevin VanDam – His 29th-place finish at the Delta last week was his worst since a 45th at Wheeler last April, and he won the event after that. Always a huge threat, but even more so when he’s coming off a disappointing outing.

2. Skeet Reese – He’s competed here many, many times over the past quarter-century and has had a lot of success, including three 2nds in BASS competition. Badly wants to win here for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is to salve last week’s 1-ounce heartbreaker.

3. Jeff Kriet – He’s been on a great run over the last 10 months and conditions this week just might suit his finesse skills. His more-positive frame of mind is producing results wherever he goes.

4. Kelly Jordon – He’s a man to be reckoned with wherever big fish swim, and they definitely reside here. He’s due for a good finish after a couple of mediocre performances thus far in 2010.

5. Alton Jones – He won here in 2003 under adverse conditions, so he knows he can do it. He’s been overshadowed by other anglers over the past year, but his record over that stretch is rock-solid.

6. Greg Hackney – The reigning Forrest Wood Cup champion came within a single keeper of winning at the Delta. If not for his Classic stinker, you’d have to say he’s fishing as well as anyone on either tour right now, and he loves to catch pigs.

7. Mark Tyler – Has cashed just one check in his last nine Elite outings and could really use a good finish to get some momentum flowing in the right direction. He knows this lake well, and this could be the week.

8. Mike Iaconelli – No matter what the conditions come launch time, he’ll either have something figured out or will get onto something soon thereafter. There seems to be no puzzle he can’t solve right now.

9. Steve Kennedy – He probably can’t duplicate what he did here 3 years ago, but he’s far from a one-trick pony. Even if the fish stay away from the banks, he’s still dangerous.

10. Aaron Martens – Turned in a disappointing defense of his ’07 title at the Delta, but this tournament actually seems to set up better for him. If the dropshot’s a factor all week, he should be right there.

Top 10 to watch in the Golden State Shootout

1. Kevin VanDam – His 29th-place finish at the Delta last week was his worst since a 45th at Wheeler last April, and he won the event after that. Always a huge threat, but even more so when he’s coming off a disappointing outing.

2. Skeet Reese – He’s competed here many, many times over the past quarter-century and has had a lot of success, including three 2nds in BASS competition. Badly wants to win here for a lot of reasons, not the least of which is to salve last week’s 1-ounce heartbreaker.

3. Jeff Kriet – He’s been on a great run over the last 10 months and conditions this week just might suit his finesse skills. His more-positive frame of mind is producing results wherever he goes.

4. Kelly Jordon – He’s a man to be reckoned with wherever big fish swim, and they definitely reside here. He’s due for a good finish after a couple of mediocre performances thus far in 2010.

5. Alton Jones – He won here in 2003 under adverse conditions, so he knows he can do it. He’s been overshadowed by other anglers over the past year, but his record over that stretch is rock-solid.

6. Greg Hackney – The reigning Forrest Wood Cup champion came within a single keeper of winning at the Delta. If not for his Classic stinker, you’d have to say he’s fishing as well as anyone on either tour right now, and he loves to catch pigs.

7. Mark Tyler – Has cashed just one check in his last nine Elite outings and could really use a good finish to get some momentum flowing in the right direction. He knows this lake well, and this could be the week.

8. Mike Iaconelli – No matter what the conditions come launch time, he’ll either have something figured out or will get onto something soon thereafter. There seems to be no puzzle he can’t solve right now.

9. Steve Kennedy – He probably can’t duplicate what he did here 3 years ago, but he’s far from a one-trick pony. Even if the fish stay away from the banks, he’s still dangerous.

10. Aaron Martens – Turned in a disappointing defense of his ’07 title at the Delta, but this tournament actually seems to set up better for him. If the dropshot’s a factor all week, he should be right there.

2010 Elite Series - Golden State Shootout
Clear Lake, Lakeport, California
Mar 18 - Mar 21, 2010

Leaderboard

1
Byron Velvick - 98.6
2
Bill Lowen - 92.9
3
Guy Eaker - 90.11
4
Randy Howell - 86.2
5
Skeet Reese - 85.3
6
Tommy Biffle - 81.4
7
Terry Butcher - 80.8
8
Bradley Roy - 79.11
9
Boyd Duckett - 79.8
10
Jared Lintner - 78.9
11
Brian Snowden - 76.0
12
Matthew Herren - 75.13
59
Kevin VanDam - 31-0
1. 15-6, 2. 15-10

History & Notes;

Big Bass
day 1: Byron Velvick 10-11
day 2: Bobby Lane 11-1

Number Of Anglers: 93
Fish Caught: 1,128
Total Weight: 4,033 lbs 10 ozs
Bass Limit: 5
Limits Caught: 202
Cash Winnings: $603,000.00
Merchandise Bonus: $0.00
Cash Bonus: $2,500.00

Velvick lands a 10 pounder
After four days on the California Delta and most of the weigh-in on Day One at Clear Lake, no bass had crossed the scales bigger than 8 pounds, 10 ounces. That all changed with the last man to weigh-in Thursday.

Byron Velvick dropped a 10-pound, 11-ounce California beast on the rest of the field and leads the tournament by nearly 6 pounds.

“It was awesome when I stuck that fish, it didn’t move and started peeling drag in the other direction,” Velvick said. “When she came up and shook her head and couldn’t get her body out of the water — that’s when it became real for me.”

The fight was an exciting one for two reasons.

“It was a pretty good fight,” Velvick said. “I was freaking out. I didn’t want it to come off or be hooked outside the mouth.”

By California law, all fish hooked outside the mouth must be released. Fortunately for Velvick, it was a clean catch and he heads into Day Two having caught the first 10-pound bass of the 2010 Elite Series.