Adjusting to California ways

The trip to this week’s Sacramento River Elite event serves as a reminder of what fellow Elite Anglers who live out here must endure and just how different life is on the West Coast.

First, there is the drive. My trip was broken up with a short stay in Branson, Mo., but it was still a 30-hour haul from Branson to here.

Add then there is the time change that messes up your body clock. It’s a struggle to get acclimated. I’m accustomed to getting out of bed early, but I’ve been waking up at 3:30 Pacific time every morning.

Getting into California with a boat is another new experience. The moment I hit the California state line, I had to go through a zebra mussel inspection of my boat and another inspection by state officials to make sure I wasn’t bringing in any other exotic species. On Sunday prior to the practice, the state had sniffing dogs at the launch area inspecting our boats for quagga and zebra mussels. Some of our guys failed that inspection.

I’m not bashing the system, as I know how important it is to keep exotic species out of the lakes. It’s just something most of us never have to deal with.

Another oddity we don’t see back home is the battle over watering rights due to the severe drought in the West. Based upon the signs we see around the lake, you can tell there is a major, ongoing feud between the farmers and the city.

I thought we had a lot of farmland in the Midwest, but I’m amazed at the amount of agriculture out here. It’s unbelievable how many miles of fruit trees, vegetables and a sundry other crops are grown out here.

The fishery itself takes some getting used to, too. It’s extremely vast and creates a lot of challenges. We’re launching out of a ramp in Sacramento, but the good fishing on the Delta is a long boat ride away. That’s going to shorten our fishing days considerably which means we have to find and catch them quick.

Furthermore, this is tidal water with a 3-foot or more tidal swing that plays a key role in when these fish bite. You can fish through an area on the right type of tide and catch ‘em quick, but if you miss that window, you’d swear there isn’t a bass within a mile of you.

To add to the dilemma, the tidal times aren’t favorable to the tournament hours we’ll be fishing so that makes it even more critical to make the most of every second we’re on the water.

Does that mean I don’t like fishing here? Heck no! It’s a fun place to fish, with more habitat than any other place we fish. Every bank is lined with tulles, hydrilla and rocks.

It’s a maze of channels and canals that have been levied for watering farmland. But within some of those canals live some mighty big bass. I’ve seen some of the pictures fellow competitors have been posting on their Facebook pages, so you can bet that some giants will be caught in the tournament.

That’s why I totally prepped my equipment differently before I left home. My “light” line is 20-pound fluorocarbon, but I’ll be fishing a lot with 50- to 60-pound braid. I suspect flipping and frogs will be big players here.

To win, an angler will have to locate some of those giant bass then manage his time and capitalize on the opportunities he’s given. This tournament requires total concentration and good decisions. Look for a lot of drama when viewing the live feed on

It should be fun, and remember, it’s all about the attitude!