OROVILLE, Calif. – Heading into Friday’s EverStart Series competition on Lake Oroville, Wayne Breazeale of Kelseyville, Calif., was in fifth place, 1 pound off the lead. Today, however, Breazeale made sure that he wouldn’t be in a position to chase anyone entering the finals. Weighing in a two-day total catch of 24 pounds, 9 ounces, Breazeale grabbed the top spot in the Pro Division and is now ready to pull out all the stops in tomorrow’s final day of tournament action in a bid to hoist the prestigious EverStart Series trophy.
“This field is awesome and you don’t get too many opportunities like this,” said Breazeale. “I’m really happy right now. I did lose a couple of big fish, but I’m happy to be where I’m at right now.”
After trying his luck with reaction baits in practice with little success, Breazeale switched gears and decided to go all in fishing finesse-style baits once the tournament began. And so far, it’s paid off.
“I was just catching too many small fish with reaction baits so I switched up and started dragging worms on the bottom,” he said. “And that’s pretty much what I’ve been doing all week.”
Breazeale said that he has been targeting “no-nothing” banks with worms in a green-pumpkin color, fishing anywhere from 30 to 50 feet deep.
“It’s a very slow presentation and it’s boring as heck,” he said. “But the key for me is finding isolated wood. And that’s very hard to find on this lake, especially that deep. I have five little spots that I cycle through every day and that is what I’m going to do again tomorrow. The only problem is that I’m worried that I may have burned through all of my big fish. So we’ll just have to see how it goes on Saturday.”
Friend climbs to second
Despite fishing his first-ever EverStart Series event as a boater, Ryan Friend of Oroville, Calif., continues to make the most of his rookie opportunity, parlaying a two-day catch of 24 pounds, 5 ounce into a second-place finish after Friday’s competition.
“It’s just awesome,” said Friend. “This is my first time as a boater so things are going really good. Everything is going really smoothly right now.”
But that doesn’t mean it’s been a cakewalk either.
“I had a pretty good day today but the fishing got a lot slower,” he said. “I’ve had one good bite each of the past two days and that’s helped. But without that big bite today, I would have come back with about 8 pounds, so I feel fortunate. And right now, I really don’t know what the fish are doing. I’m fishing shallow but I’m worried that I’m starting to run out of fish.
“I’m from this area so there are a couple of spots I really have confidence in,” Friend continued. “They are areas where you may only get one bite in 30 minutes and if you’re not sure there are fish there, it’s pretty tough on you. But I have a lot of confidence in those areas and that’s really important.”
Friend said that he’s fishing a finesse style as well, using a very slow presentation while targeting spotted bass with a combination of soft plastics and jigs.
“I’m fishing some flats with boulders and my bite really turns on around 10 a.m.,” he said. “That’s the area where I’ve been getting my bigger bites. The first fish I’ve caught each day has been on that spot and it’s been my kicker fish both days. After the fish stop biting there, I’ll move around and start fishing points and the sides of points to get my limit.”
As far as the finals go, Friend said he’s going to do more of the same.
“I’m pretty much going with the same game plan,” he said. “I think it’s going good right now but I’m nervous as heck. If I don’t get a big bite tomorrow it’s going to be tough.”
Michels drops to third
After leading the EverStart event on Lake Oroville after the first day of competition, Jeff Michels of Lakehead, Calif., fell two spots in the standings after recording a total, two-day catch of 23 pounds, 15 ounces. However, the good news is that despite losing the top spot in the standings, he’s only 10 ounces behind the leader heading into Saturday’s finals.
“I figured it would take about 12 pounds a day to win this tournament so, overall, I’m pretty happy right now with how things are working out – especially since I had such a terrible practice,” said Michels. “But I found this niche bait and that’s helped a lot.”
The niche bait that Michels is referring to is a 3 ½-inch swimbait in a pond smelt color that “matches the hatch almost perfectly.”
“I’ve been throwing that bait all week and it’s worked out well. And I really don’t think anyone else is doing exactly what I’m doing – and that helps,” he said. “I had a limit today by 8:30 a.m., targeting a pea gravel no-nothing bank. That’s where I’ve been catching most of my bigger fish. I went there three different times today and caught fish there each time.”
While that spot has been crucial to Michels’ success, he said that during the finals he should be able to expand his fishing venues in a bid for the title.
“I’m definitely going to fish that spot again, but a lot more points are going to open up for me to fish now that the 115-boat field has been reduced to the top 10,” he said.
While Michels knows that there is one more crucial day of fishing left to go, the California native isn’t merely focusing exclusively on a tournament title.
“Anytime you make the top 10, you’re doing good – so I’m stoked,” he said. “But my main goal is (qualifying for) the Forrest Wood Cup. And you have to win angler of the year to do that. So that’s what I’m going to try to do.”
Dobyns lands in fourth place
Richard Dobyns of Yuba City, Calif., used a two-day catch of 22 pounds, 13 ounces to grab the fourth qualifying spot heading into Saturday’s finals on Lake Oroville. However, perhaps nobody in the field has logged as many miles on the water as Dobyns, who continues to employ a run-and-gun style that would make most people tired just thinking about it.
“Yeah, I did the same thing as yesterday – run, run, run until you get bit and then run some more,” said Dobyns. “I probably hit about 40 spots today and my goal is to hit about 75 tomorrow. It’s tiring, that’s for sure.”
Dobyns, who said he’s getting about eighth to 10 bites each day, is continuing to target bass with a combination of jigs and tubes.
“I’m pretty much fishing everywhere and anywhere,” he said. “I’m fishing in 5 feet of water and in 40 feet of water. I’m fishing flats, vertical walls and anywhere where the water is moving. That’s a big key for me. I’ll look across the lake and see ripples and I’ll go there because the wind is moving that water.”
While he’s aware that Saturday’s finals will be difficult, Dobyns said that he’s more than happy with his performance so far.
“I’m ecstatic to be in fourth place right now,” he said. “Honestly, I have nothing bad to say.”
Best of the rest
Veteran EverStart pro Cody Meyer of Auburn, Calif., grabbed the fifth qualifying spot heading into the finals with a total catch of 22 pounds, 4 ounces.
Rounding out the top-10 pro finalists:
7th: Brett Leber of Dixon, Calif., 20-13
8th: John Maes of Roseville, Calif., 20-12
9th: Jason Borofka of Salinas, Calif., 20-9
10th: Glen Lockhart of Biggs, Calif. 20-8
Dugan McIntosh of Palermo, Calif., won the day’s big-bass award after landing a 4-pound, 15-ounce catch. For his efforts, McIntosh won a check for $230.
Farage nets co-angler lead
“I’m in very good spirits right now,” he said. “Today I caught a five-fish limit and I dedicated each fish to one of my family members. And the last fish I caught today was for me.”
Farage said he’s fishing with a combination of jigs and worms, targeting rocky banks housing big boulders.
“I’m not fishing in only one zone and that’s important because the fish are everywhere,” he said. “I’ll throw out shallow and gradually work my bait back into 30 feet of water. I’m finding that I’m catching my bigger fish where there is a good combination of dirt and big rocks. And that seems to be the key to my bigger bites. If I see big rocks on the shoreline, I know they’ll extend down into the water and that’s been working out well for me. Today alone I caught about four or five limits.”
So what would a tournament title mean to Farage in tomorrow’s competition?
“I’m really excited about tomorrow,” he said. “I had a second-place finish last year at Clear Lake and maybe I’ll win it all this time.”
Hardin sits in runner-up position
“I was tied for 21st yesterday so I needed to do better and come back with a bigger bag,” he said. “I didn’t have a limit until after 2 p.m. so I was a little worried. But in the end, it worked out pretty well.”
Like most anglers, Hardin said that a slow presentation is key.
“I’ve been using a lot of finesse baits, worms, weighted Senkos and tubes,” he said. “But you have to go really slowly and make sure they’re on the bottom. I’ve mostly been targeting rocks. If you can find little rock piles you’re usually in pretty good shape.”
As for tomorrow’s finals?
“I’m going with the same game plan,” he said. “But I’m really happy to make a top 10 that’s for sure.”
Best of the rest
Gary Haraguchi of Redding, Calif., finished the day in third place with a total catch of 18 pounds, 9 ounces. Haraguchi had been in 17th place heading into today’s competition.
“I’m happy,” he said. “I took five years off from fishing and this is my first tournament in a long time. I didn’t pre-fish and I’ve never even seen the lake before. I wound up picking this tournament because I always seem to do well when the fishing is tough. So it’s worked out really well so far. It’s been a lot of fun and I’ve had some great pros.”
Avina said that he’s been targeting bass with homemade plastics designed by his uncle.
“They are 3- to 7-inch worms that are just a little different than what everyone else is fishing and I think that’s made a big difference,” he said. “My main thing is to be different than anyone else. I really like doing my own thing.”
Scott Bern of San Rafael, Calif., qualified for the finals in fifth place using a two-day catch of 18 pounds, 2 ounces.
Rounding out the top-10 co-angler finalists:
7th: Jason Bubier of Oroville, Calif., 17-2
8th: Aaron Seay of El Cajon, Calif., 17-0
9th: Todd Kline of San Clemente, Calif., 17-0
10th: Chris Trumbull of Oakley, Calif. 17-0
Debbie Carnahan of Flagstaff, Ariz., took the day’s big-bass award with a 3-pound, 6-ounce catch. For her efforts she took home a check for $153.
EverStart Series action continues during Saturday’s final takeoff, scheduled to take place at 7:30 a.m. at the Spillway Launch at the north end of the Oroville Dam in Oroville, Calif.