OAKLEY, Calif. – Stephen "Bub" Tosh, Jr. would have loved to have had several of those big, thick California Delta mats to flip, but even though the year's new grass has yet to reach that level, he still leveraged the existing density to move into the lead at the FLW EverStart Series Western Division event on the California Delta with a two-day total of 48-4.
Like yesterday, Tosh caught his fish out of thick hydrilla that still stands beneath the surface. Day two began with the latter half of the incoming tide and concluded with the outgoing stage. That falling water revealed the targets Tosh sought, while positioning fish on the outer corners.
"When the tide gets low enough, you can see the grass mats," Tosh explained. "They're big underwater mats; they just haven't grown to the top yet. You have to wait until the tide gets all the way low and then you can find the grass."
Tosh caught his fish by dropshotting a prototype Yamamoto worm, throwing a swimbait and punching a Bub's watermelon punch skirt with a Psycho Dad (sprayed grass) with a 7 millimeter tube rattle. The latter produced his biggest fish of the day.
"The tide got lower and the grass was almost to the top so I could see it," he said. "I flipped a mat about 6 feet deep and caught that one that was close to 7 pounds. The dropshot is how I'm loading the live well and then I move to the swimbait and the punch when the tide gets right to try those kicker fish.
"Every day, the tide is 6 inches to a foot lower because of the moon phase, so the fish are moving every day and repositioning. The good news is I'm fishing a small area and I think I know where they're all at."
In addition to varying tide heights, the schedule of water fluctuation advances about an hour each day. Today's outgoing cycle started later than yesterday's, so Tosh found himself struggling in the early goings.
"I had to wait a lot longer today," he said. "This morning I thought I would go run the same area on the incoming tide, but it didn't work."
Once the outgoing tide dropped far enough for him to find what he was looking for, the action quickly picked up and he bagged a 23-pound limit. This was Tosh's second day with 20-plus pounds. He caught 25-4 on day one.
"I left them biting," he said. "There was an 8-pounder I think I could have caught; I just saved her for tomorrow and I hope that doesn't come back to haunt me. In the area that I left, I saw two big ones that I think I can catch tomorrow. I didn't want to (cull) a 3 ½-pounder to keep an 8 when I can keep an 8 tomorrow."
Moulton moves up to second
Patience proved to be more than a virtue for Jim Moulton, of Merced, Calif. – it was a sound strategy that netted him the tournament's largest catch and fueled a huge jump from 19th place to second. Moulton's day-two catch of 26-2 plus his day-one weight of 19-4 gave him a total of 45-6. The midday picture was something very different, but Moulton persevered and reaped the rewards.
"My pattern has pretty much been an afternoon bite and at 12 o'clock today, I had three fish," he said. "I had two 12-inchers and one that was maybe a pound a ¾. I just started throwing big and I got four good bites."
Moulton said his better fish today bit swimbaits and chatterbaits. He targeted a mix of grass and tules, but he wasn't tied in to a specific area.
"I'm probably fishing the best pattern out here – it's called the 'Luck Pattern,'" Moulton joked. "I just pull up at the right place and the right time and catch a fish."
Grass holes key for third-place Michels
Anglers are always proud to lift an 8-pound bass during a tournament weigh-in, but third-place pro Jeff Michels had the day's most memorable moment when he turned to Tournament Director Ron Lappin and said: "My dad passed away about 10 days ago and it's still a little emotional for me. But dad, this is for you."
Safe to say, no other fish received more applause over the past two days.
Besides Tosh, Michels was the only angler to break 20 pounds both days. He caught 21-3 on day one and today added 21-14 for a total of 43-1.
Michels has also been leveraging the outgoing tide to catch his fish. He threw a chatterbait with a swimbait trailer over the grass and targeted the holes that offered windows of opportunity. Michels said he caught fish on the incoming outgoing tides, but found the latter most productive.
"You need to lose about a foot of water and then you can start seeing the holes," he said. "When the water's high, the fish go to the bank and they're tough to reach. I'm fishing long grass beds and it's a long cast to get to the bank. As the water comes down, those fish pull off the bank and get in those holes. That just positions them where you can get at them with a chatterbait."
Suzuki makes big jump into fourth
Suzuki said he found Lucky Craft crankbaits produced best on the morning's high tide and then later in the day, he switched to a chatterbait with a red craw trailer.
"I fished (areas) with a grass and tule combination and strong current," Suzuki said.
Au slips to fifth
Vu Au, of Tuscon, Ariz. had a slower day than he did on day one and gave up one spot from fifth to sixth place. Today, his weight of 16-4 followed a 23-pound, 4-ounce limit yesterday, but his 39-8 total was plenty to secure his final-round berth.
"Yesterday I caught my limit in 45 minutes; today it took me three hours," Au said. "It's definitely tough out there."
Au described his strategy: "I started out throwing reaction baits to locate fish and once I located them, I'd slow down and start flipping and punching."
Best of the rest
6th: Sean Stafford, of Fairfield, Calif., 39-2
7th: Benjamin Byrd, of Moab, Utah, 38-13
8th: Aaron Lesieur, of Rancho Murieta, Calif., 37-13
9th: Miles Howe, of San Clemente, Calif., 37-6
10th: Timothy Venkus, of Wilton, Calif., 37-4
Browning moves into co-angler lead
Co-angler leader John Browning, of Payson, Ariz. caught his division's biggest bass – an 8-14 – that anchored his 17-pound, 5-ounce day-two limit and pushed his tournament total to 32-8. Browning improved his position from eighth on day one.
"I was on a reaction bite yesterday and I stayed with it again today and it came through for me two days in a row," Browning said. "It was tougher today than it was yesterday and I didn't catch nearly as many fish. I probably caught 30 yesterday and I might have caught 15 today. I had a limit of babies at 9 o'clock and then I caught my big one around 10:30 and then I was on top of the world and I knew all I had to do was just keep fishing."
Browning said he caught his fish on a trio of undisclosed reaction baits. "The wind played a big role (in bait selection and the amount of moss I'm in."
Kurt Chase, of Petaluma, Calif. placed second with 31-15 with Martino Adra, of Discovery Bay, Calif. placing third with 31-3. Day-one leader Dante Ray, of Sparks, Nev. took fourth with 30-1, and Jack Farage, of Discovery Bay, Calif. was fifth with 29-1.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 co-angler leaders at the EverStart Series Cal Delta event:
6th: Charles Peak, of San Jose, Calif., 29-0
7th: Roy O. Desmangles, of Lincoln, Calif., 28-8
8th: Barry McCoy, of Castro Valley, Calif., 27-0
9th: Neil Sterud II, of Antioch, Calif., 26-13
9th: Kenneth Mueller, of Lodi, Calif., 26-1
Day three of EverStart Series Western Division action on the Cal Delta continues at Saturday’s takeoff, scheduled to take place at 6:30 a.m. (Pacific) at Russo's Marina, located at 3995 Willow Road in Bethel Island, Calif.