By Mark Fong
For the nearly 300 competitors, the sixth annual Yamamoto Big Bass Challenge was an opportunity to put their angling skills to the test on the California Delta. Up for grabs were 60 big bass cash prizes, entrance into the Super 12 Grand Prize Drawing for biggest bass (weighed in during each official tournament weigh-in period) and a cash award for the biggest overall bass of the two day event.
Faced with changing late spring conditions and with the majority of the Delta in post spawn mode, the quest for big bites proved challenging. Many anglers reported catching big numbers of quality, tournament-grade fish, but in the GYCB Big Bass Challenge, only big fish matter.
Top Water Time
For the first time in the history of the Big Bass Challenge, the top water bite played a major role in determining the outcome of the event. When Sean Bias came to the weigh-in scales on Day1 for the second hour weigh-in, his bag contained a giant 9.51lb largemouth bass that was tricked by a White Bone colored Shibuki Popper. At the time, little did Bias know that his catch would hold up and earn him the $2,500 cash prize for overall big bass of the tournament.
“I was looking for a top water bait to throw and this time of year I always throw poppers or frogs, so during pre-fishing I picked up the
Shibuki and threw it a little bit,” explained Bias. “This bait walks really good, so I was walking it just off a rock bank in between some tules and a weed line instead of popping it, getting a lot of bites like that. The tide was actually low, it was like slack to rising, and I caught it (the big fish) at 5:20 AM within the first fifteen minutes of fishing. I usually do better on high tide but what I have found fishing the Delta for so many years is you just gotta be throwing topwater in the mornings, even if the conditions aren't how you want. That’s the key to catching a big fish.”
Bias' top water bite was not an isolated occurrence as big bass hourly winners Jason Brown and Terry Flowers utilized YamamotoBuzzbaits to earn their hourly cash prize awards and entries into the Super 12.
Punchin' and Flippin'
It should come as no surprise that on the Delta, where the flippin' technique was developed and refined, that flippin' and punchin' heavy cover had a major impact on the tournament. A quick look at the leaderboard revealed that the “big stick” played a big role. Flippin' and punchin' a Flappin' Hog was the ticket for a quarter of the Super 12 and resulted in the second and third largest fish of the event. Rumor has it that punchin' a Yama Frog was also a productive technique.
As it has done in each of the five previous editions of the Yamamoto Big Bass Open, the Senko left its mark on the leader board. Of the 60 hourly cash prizes, the Senko accounted for almost half of them, 29 to be exact right on pace with last year’s event where exactly half of the hourly awards went to the Senko. For the entrants into the Super 12, the Senko accounted for five. As for the most productive color patterns, the old Delta Stand By #208 (Watermelon w/ large black and small red flake) accounted for nine money places while the always popular #297 (Green Pumpkin w/ large black flake) and #925 (Green Pumpkin w/ small red flake /042J Laminate) each tallied four apiece.
As is tradition, the culmination of the Big Bass Challenge is the Grand Prize Super 12 Drawing. Starting with Sean Bias, and proceeding by descending weight, each hourly big bass winner selected one of twelve posted envelopes. In the end it was Day 1 Hour 6 winner, Biagio Capp, who drew the Golden Ticket. Capp's entry into the Super 12 came via a 6.68lb largemouth. “I did it flippin' 6” watermelon Senkos in Discovery Bay. Just flippin' docks, I was throwin' a little deeper than I normally do which is something that I don't usually do this time of year, but it paid off,” explained Capp.
The Twelve Hourly Big Bass Winners with the weight of their catch and bait used:
Day 1 - Saturday
Hour 1 Hunter Schlander 8.17 Flappin' Hog
Hour 2 Sean Bias 9.51 Shibuki Popper
Hour 3 Garrett Bradshaw 8.92 Flappin'Hog
Hour 4 Mike Faez 8.15 Senko
Hour 5 Jason Brown 6.68 Buzzbait
Hour 6 Biagio Capp 6.68 Senko
Day 2 - Sunday
Hour 1 Larry Hutton 7.21 Senko
Hour 2 Dave Simpson 5.34 Senko
Hour 3 Mark Lassagne 6.71 Flappin' Hog
Hour 4 Terry Flowers 6.30 Buzzbait
Hour 5 Mark Mendenhall 6.21 Senko
Hour 6 Kenny Schmidt 5.93 Yama Frog