Future Pro Tour Championship Recon
Thursday, November 06, 2008
Clear Lake: Reaction Baits Rule
It isn’t often that a championship is held on a lake known for its huge weights. Good examples of this statement were the 2005 Bassmaster Classic held at the Three Rivers in Pittsburgh, this year’s FLW Forrest Wood Cup held at Lake Murray, S.C., and the recent Women’s Bassmaster Tour Championship held at Arkansas' Lake Hamilton. All these tournaments were held either on fisheries that are tough at the time the event took place, or that were just plain tough in general.
California ace Michael Bennett says if you find a spot that seems to be producing on Clear Lake you need to "camp there and milk it" for all it's worth.
So when a tournament organization decides to hold a championship on a lake known for its big weights, it’s a treat not just for the anglers, but those watching as well.
This is the case for the Future Pro Tour Championship to be held this weekend on California’s Clear Lake – a world-recognized hog factory and the lake that boasted the 4-day tournament record until it was broken this spring at Falcon Lake, Texas.
In order to get an idea of what anglers can expect this weekend, BassFan contacted 2008 FLW Cup winner, Berkley Prostaff member and Clear Lake expert Michael Bennett to get a bead on what he’d do if he were fishing the event.
Here’s what he had to say.
Cool Water = Reaction
“We had the first major cold front of the season this week and that could play a role in this tournament,” Bennett said. “It should turn on the reaction bite really well.
“In practice I’d cover as much water with reaction baits as possible. Baits like jerkbaits, cranks and vibration baits. And if the water has cooled enough to start the shad die-off, I’d also look at using a jigging spoon.”
Too Much Shad?
“Clear Lake is known for its large shad population and that can make catching fish really tough at times,” Bennett said. “That’s why you have to look for spotty areas of shad with your electronics. In most areas the shad are so thick that is just blacks out the screen on your finder. The fish are there but the chance of them picking your bait over a natural one decreases your odds of catching something.
“What I look for there are areas where the bait is bunched in small balls,” he said. “That way there isn’t as much competition and the fish are more aggressive.
“I don’t see schooling fish busting bait as a factor in this tournament, but it could be an option,” he added. “Its one of those things that if you see it, try and capitalize on it.”
“Because the water is lower right now, I feel the tournament will be won from mid-lake south to Cache Creek,” Bennett said. “If I was fishing the tournament, that’s where I’d concentrate my time.
“There is a chance someone might get on an offshore weed bite in the north end, but I don’t see that as a big player. The better fish – and I’m talking the 5- to 8-pound bites – will be in the lower half of the lake.”
Another thing anglers will need to pay attention to is water color.
“With the recent storms we had this week I think water color will play a huge factor in this tournament,” he noted. “Guys that’ll do well will be fishing areas where the water has dirtied up some.
“Look for areas that are close to deep water and places that create ambush points,” he said. “Rocky points or submerged rock piles are always good there.
“The depth I’m taking about is typically down to 20 feet but with the storm the fish may have started to move down into the 30-foot range. Just keep an eye on the quality of the fish – if you’re catching 2-pounders, move shallower because that’s a sign the bigger fish haven’t moved down yet."
Baits and Techniques
“Because shad are the predominant forage this tie of year everything I throw is some sort of shad color,” he said. “Baits like a Lucky Craft Staysee 90 or a Pointer 100 have always been good for me there. Fish them slow and on a good fluorocarbon line like Berkley Trilene 100% fluorocarbon in 10- to 15-pound test.
“Clear Lake is also a great lake for medium- and deep-diving crankbaits,” he added. “For these I use heavier line like 15-pound Berkley 100% fluorocarbon.
“Like I said before, these baits are search tools for me, but if I catch multiple fish off a small area with them I will slow down and go back over the area with a drop-shot or Carolina-rig.
“For the Carolina-rig I like to use 17-pound 100% fluorocarbon for my main line and drop down to 12-pound on my leader. Then I use a 4-inch Berkley Power Hog in green-pumpkin or a 6-inch Berkley hand pour in a shad-imitating color.
“The drop-shot is even simpler,” he said. “I drop-shot the same worms on 8-pound test 100% fluorocarbon."
“There are some other patterns that could pan out first thing in the morning and later in the day,” Bennett said. “I’d throw a Spook in the morning and then throw a 9-inch swimbait the last 2 hours of the tournament. The swimbait isn’t going to win the tournament for you, but it will give you a good chance at a kicker fish if you already have a good limit.
“But you don’t just go out and haphazardly throw the swimbait,” he added. “Make sure you’re fishing those ambush points and make accurate casts. The big fish will be hanging next to the boulders."
> If you catch multiple fish in an area, stay put: “If you find a spot where you catch 2 or 3 fish, I’d camp there and milk it,” Bennett said. “These are spots that have all the right components and the fish use them as migration routes or holding areas. The action may not be hot, but you could put a good limit in the boat in a couple hours.
> “Saturday we’re supposed to have another front come in. If that happens and the wind picks up, don’t be afraid to cover a couple miles of shore with a crank. That is a pattern you can always rely on there.
> He feels it’ll take between 42 and 48 pounds to win this 2-day event.