WON Classic Champ Tells All
By Cris VanClef
First I need to say thanks to WON Bass and Mike Kennedy and staff for putting on a great event for the Classic at Cachuma. They have been doing this a while and it shows in the way things are run, it couldn't have been smoother.
I planned on fishing 4 days before the event instead of going down before that to practice. I wanted to have the most time under the current conditions and not work on fish that might change locations or their moods going down a week or more before the event. This was good as the lake is small and only took a few days to understand.
I contacted a local by the name of Brian K. He has fished this lake since he was young and would be my guide and question answerer for the first two days before official practice would begin.
I had studied a map of Cachuma for over a month trying to learn every ledge, deep hole, creek, cove, flat and wooded area I could find. Talking with Brian gave me confidence as he had a lot of history I could fall back on threw him about the areas I was looking at. For an event like this it was in my opinion best to be as ready as possible before I got there. The competition would be the hardest I have ever faced and alot of those competitors would already have experience on this lake.
Day 1 Practice:
I met Brian at the ramp and we blasted off, I wanted to head straight to the dam area as that would have the clearest water color.
No bites, well maybe a tap on a dropshot, but that was it. We picked up and headed to the opposite side of the lake to the dirtiest water on the lake. Hours went by without even a bite, we were focusing on plastics and simply trying to establish a bite. It wasn't happening and now I see how tough the lake was fishing from what I had heard. Dropshot, split shot, texas rigs not producing. I couldn't believe we weren't getting at least bit. Finally Brian gets a fish to go, it's about a 1.5lb fish and on a texas rigged worm.
It comes off at the boat but at least a fish showed itself.
The bite came around 12:30pm in shallows in off colored water. My confidence was being tested. We simply couldn't get anything going. Later that day I finally get one to go on a dropshot, about a 2 lbr at 3:30pm. We decide to fish a few more hours and then call it a day.
Sitting in my room, I was ready to pack it up and drive home. We had nothing what so ever and the tourney was 3 days away. I brain stormed and decided we needed to go with reaction the following day, all day!
Day 2 Practice:
We start right off cranking. I found a good ledge right next to the ramp area with a large flat and good drop-off. Brian throws really shallow and I am fishing the ledge when he sets and misses what he thought was a bite, he gives the rod a good yank and gets creamed by a good fish, I pause for just a second when he hooks up then continue my retrieve while he is fighting his fish, which looks like a good one, when I get smacked on my crank! A day of fishing before to get 2 bites at different times to a double first thing in the morning! AWESOME!!
His fish is a 5 and mine was a near 3 lb smallie!
I shake mine off but his has to be removed with pliers! Beautiful fish, fat and healthy. Now thats what we came here for and now we have something to work with. We leave this spot and start hopping from spot to spot. I get my the blade going in an area on the south side near Indian Island. I stick a 4 and a near 3lb fish off of some stickups.
We keep jumping around and covering water, my blade is catching fish and they are good quality.
My confidence is now peaked and I know we are on tourney fish, it is only the second day and I have 2 days left to fine tune the bite.
Going back to the ramp I decide to fish one more flat, a huge flat and with a good deep water break on the outside according to my map. We fish most of the flat and almost get to a point when a trout comes racing out of the water with a big fish hot on its tail! This trout gets munched and Brian picks up a swimbait and tosses it over to where the activity happens and starts cranking.
A couple cast later he gets slammed, a 5+ and fat!
I get my swimbait out and first cast get nailed by a 5+!
WooooHooooo, high fives and a golden spot found! We call it a day and what a heck of a day it was. This was the bite I would commit too for the event, these were the fish we were after. Brain was a huge help, he took sometime off to show me around his lake and I think it helped me eliminate alot of water, fast. Thanks Mr Brain K!!!
Official Practice period begins:
Because I knew what I would be doing for the tourney I didn't fish anything like we did the second day, I needed to establish another style if I could.
The 2 days of official practice fished like the first day, not good. I had a friend in the boat that qualified as an Am for this even. He stuck a 3 lb smallie off a point with a crank, NICE FISH! I caught some other fish but they were pretty small. The plastics bite sucked! The 2 practice days go by fast.
Day 1 Tourney:
I drew two guys from Salinas, the number 1 qualifying AM and the number 4 guy in points. Great draws on my part! Jason Borofka was my first day partner and I told him driving to the lake that I was onto something. If we could get these fish to go I felt we could take the first day lead. We started on the swimbait spot first, everyone in the area was out in deep water and I had this spot to myself, cool!
We couldn't get them to go early as the fish hadn't moved up yet. The spot where Brian and I doubled on cracks had 3 boats on it so that spot was toast. I decided to fish adjacent to the cranking spot and I get a smallie to go that was almost 3 lbs. I'm stoked, we just got started and we have a fish in the boat. I move back to the swimbait spot, I had my partner throwing an MS Slammer and I the Osprey. He gets nailed on the MS and visions of toads coming to the boat race threw my mind, anything that is gonna eat that bait is usually big but his fish is only a 2 lbr!
That fish could barely swim with that big bait in his mouth. But who cares we now have two in the boat. I decide we need to leave this area until later so we run to the south end where I got my blade fish and we don't get bit. Jason mentions that he and a friend caught some good fish on a break-line near where we are so I motor to the spot and we start cranking. About 5 minutes into that he gets a hit on his DT-22. Its a good fish and I net a 4 lbr! Yahooo, high fives, silly grins. Now we're rolling!
It's getting closer to the magic time of 10:30am, the time I figured the fish would start to move up in the swimbait area. So we pick up and go back to that spot.
My first cast with the big swimbait and I get slammed! Its a 4.5 lb fish and in the net it goes. Now things start to get interesting. On my next cast I slow crank my swimbait threw the sweet spot and get nothing but right at the boat, not 10 feet away a 5+ comes out of nowhere and inhales my bait and spits it out in a blink of an eye! I missed her, it was just to fast, it looked like an optical illusion. I'm bummed! Can't lose fish like that. On we go, we get to a point and I make a long cast over it, Brain still working the slammer and I get smashed! This one is big, over 5 and she comes to the surface, rolls and COMES OFF!!!! Holy sh$%#$#!! Not again!
Now I'm dying... That's 2 quality fish that don't stay on... Oh well, I regroup and start over.
I circle the area again and no bites. I head for the point and get cut off by a competitor, pissed me off but I have good fish in the boat and need to keep it out of my mind. I pass him and skip the bank I "was" fishing and motor out to a point and make a long cast over it, I bump some rocks and continue cranking when I get the sensation that something just swiped at the bait but didn't hit it.
I look down into the water and see a MONSTER BASS following my bait to the boat. She is easily over 10lbs!!!
She sees the boat and darts for deep water. Oh My Gosh, that was a good one! Instead of casting back at her I decide to let her set back up and give her about 20 minutes. I comeback and from the opposite side make a long cast over her point. The bait for some reason glides to the surface like a trout feeding and I flick the rod tip to get the head to pop out right over the point and get the tail to do a little flick and she comes unglued! She makes a massive boil on the bait but doesn't hit it again! I keep a steady retrieve and get ready as I left alot more room to reel the bait back in this time.
About 10' from the point I get nailed, and this time she actually smacks the bait, BUT DOESN'T GET STUCK, NOOOOOO!!!
Ok, I got excited, I just had a monster miss my bait 3 times now and that was the last I saw of her... I'm a bit depressed but it ain't over. I gather myself and decide to make a run to a point I graphed some fish on the first day of practice that we couldn't get any fish to go on to see if we could finish our limit there. 5 minutes and dragging jigs, Jason gets nailed and brings in a 4.5!!! Sweet! This guy Jason is money, high fives again and now we have our five fish in the boat!
We fish there a little longer then I decide to make one last run at the big fish and that swimbait area. We still have this area to ourselves, cool. No more bites but I motor to the point where Brain and I doubled up, the one where I cranked the 3 lb smallie earlier. We have 10 minutes to go and I'm fishing my swimbait when out of nowhere from a weed-bed a 3+ comes up and nails my bait! She's got the length of a 4+ but no gut at all. She culls the 2 lbr and we go it for weight in. We are fired up, we know we have a good bag and when we weight them in they go over 18 lbs, the nearest competitor at 14 and change! WOOOHOOOO, first day leader! Who would have thought! It was a tough night to get some sleep, I went down as early as I could, around 8:30pm but woke up at 1:30 and that was it, I was up, my brain just wouldn't shut up!
Steve Penrod my AM and I started like I did the first day but this time the swimbait spot was getting pounded before I could get there! Those deep water guys were now up shallow, go figure, and I had to make an adjustment.
Kind of bummed but not out, we start working different stuff.
This day was already fishing alot differently, much tougher, the place felt pounded wherever we went.
I decided to go south and work the stretch where I had blade fish in practice and got one to swipe on my blade but miss. We worked out to a point and started to graphed some fish. I threw up to a stick-up with the dropshot and the bait settled for a moment. One pop of the rod and it felt like I snagged so I half set to make sure. It was a fish and I barely woke it up but she went right into the heart of the bush and pulled off! It felt like a good one, a very good one, but the hook didn't hold and the headache began. It's 11am now and no fish in the boat, this can't be happening... I decide to run back to the swimbait spot to see if we could take a number.
The wind was down and that wasn't good, there were only 2 boats left there and they were chucking swimbaits also. No wind was a bad thing for this spot and that's what we had. I could see big fish swimming everywhere, 4-7 lbrs. Like looking into an aquarium. But they were as spooky as they can get and every time I pitched near one it would bolt off like it had seen a ghost, not good. I did notice a bunch of 2 lbrs near a bush and made a large circle and pitched a jig to them. I get a real bite and this one makes it to the boat! Finally! It's 12:30pm and the first fish is in the boat. I make another large circle and my partner Steve hooks up and lands another 2 lbr. Cool. Another circle and Steve gets another one. Thank God! 3 in the boat in 15 minutes but that was it for us, we couldn't get another bite. I was feeling a little better but would it be enough??
Weigh-in: I was depressed but hopeful, I still had the lead after weighing in but being in the second flight gave me time to watch the rest of the competitors. Torture... I watch what looks like a good bag come up, he has 2 5's! Oh no, what did he have the previous day, nobody around me knows. He weighs 11 something and they tabulate the weight, after a long pause Mike announces it would not be enough to take the lead!!! Holy Cr$#%$! I still have the lead and there are only a few boats left to weigh in, Torture... Finally the last boat weighs in and its over, I have won the event!!! Hand shakes, high fives, hugs, phone ringin' it all happened and my headache has disappeared. Oh man, I just won a huge event and am in shock for basically the rest of the day.
My two AM's were huge for me, both adding weight to our bags and I am truly blessed with my draws!
Awards: I suck at speaking in front of a large group, but alot of these people are my friends and when it was my turn to speak and accept my trophy and Certs for a new 520 I actually calmed down and talked for a few minutes, I think it all came out okay and finally it was all over. I actually got compliments on what I said and I never thought I would ever hear that. This day, these days were just awesome in every way. The people that came up and congratulated me, the big dogs that came up to shake my hand, it was incredible! And to top it off, my AM partner from day one won on the AM side, he totally deserved it!!!
This was my first win as Pro and to do it in this event will always be special to me and the people involved made it even better.
Thank You All again, you guys made my day even more special and thats a huge part of it being so great.
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