BassWestUSA - Spring, 2012, Page 90

chanical harvesting. This approach clears them for shoreline ac- cess, water skiing and boating, but many of the areas of the lake were left untouched. What discussion of bass fishing would be complete without a discussion of tournaments and their effects? A topic that con- tinues to generate controversy is bed fishing. As Ross England is quick to point out, however, “If bed fishing had a negative impact on this lake, we wouldn’t have any fish left. It’s been going on for- ever here and guys are getting better and better at it.” Nevertheless, England concedes that the almost continuous run of tournaments does affect the fishing, especially for more casual an- glers. “The average tournament fisherman is more skilled at more different presentations, with everything from dropshots to swimbaits. By the time these fish have been beaten on for ten, twelve, fourteen weeks in a row, the average fisherman, who just comes up here to fish, is finding it a much tougher fish to catch. It’s tough for the average guy to come out here, stumble around and get one to bite.” Some tournament practices could be improved as well. Bob Myskey feels those ever-popular tournament buoys have their nega- tives. “The fish put on tournament buoys are getting stressed. Those fish are skinny. Obviously that’s affecting and impairing the way they feed. Some of those holes are 4” long. Oftentimes we catch those fish, I’ve seen them inflamed, I’ve seen them red. They get infected and that doesn’t heal back up.” Myskey has found that up to 20% of the bass he catches have slits in the soft tissue of their mouths. Both Myskey and England feel that summer tournaments have their downsides. “The other part of the puzzle that no one has mea- sured here are the warm water periods and delayed mortality from tournaments, which I think is much bigger than anyone wants to talk about or attempt to measure,” states England. “It’s my person- al belief that we’re losing more fish than we actually understand. They’re pretty hardy fish but sometimes we push them beyond their limits.” And, as Bob Myskey points out, “I’ve seen these bass die and go straight to the bottom of the lake. They don’t always float.”

where we’re headed

Although it may not be what it was a few years ago, Clear Lake remains a top bass fish- ing destination. According to DFG’s statistics for average size of tournament-caught bass, Clear Lake is right up there. In 2010, it aver- aged 3.05 pounds, significantly better than the Delta’s 2.44 lb’s and even beating out famed

big-bass factory Lake Casitas at 2.97 lbs. In fact, the only well- known tournament lake with a better average is Diamond Valley at 3.25 lbs, and it’s significantly smaller and sees fewer tournaments. As for the ways they’ve adapted to the changed fishing condi- tions, Bob Myskey notes that he seldom throws spinnerbaits and ripbaits anymore because, with the lack of shad, bass aren’t re- sponding to them as well. England notes similar trends and feels that swimbaits have a lost a bit of their luster, too. He’s found that instead of chasing the once-abundant shad, bass are resorting to cannibalism to maintain their girths. “We’re copying juvenile bass as a baitfish instead of having shad pattern baits, which is a big deal. And at certain times of the year, crawdads have gotten to be a bigger deal, too. Crawdad color or style baits have really come back. “There’s a huge population of crawdads that live in the tules,” adds England. “There are a lot of fish that have lived in the tules this year and probably never saw a bait because people couldn’t get to them.” He’s also found that many of his traditional honey-holes aren’t producing, in his opinion because of the change in forage. “During the summer, most of the structural components that I fish on all three arms of the lake just were not as productive as they had been in the past. You’d go around and look and there was just no bait on them.” As to where Clear Lake currently ranks among western bass fisheries, Bob Myskey feels it remains the best. “You can’t go to Shasta and Folsom and Oroville and Berryessa and consistently get 3 and 4 lb’ers. There’s bigger bass in Berryessa but not in the quantity that we have.” England, too, feels that Clear Lake still takes top honors in the western United States. “What I have been astounded by this year is the number of 5 and 6 pound fish that are coming through the system. They’re going to be the future 8s, 9s and 10s. I don’t know if it’s going to get back to a numbers fishery, but I definitely feel strongly that the quality is coming back. My view is, we’ve already seen the bottom and this is probably the first year of it starting to head the right direction.” England maintains a strongly optimistic view of Clear Lake’s future. “Even as tough as it’s been the last couple of years, if you can put a limit of fish in the boat, you’re going to have 15 to 20 lbs. It’s a difficult lake to fish, but it’s never been easy. I don’t know anywhere else you can go and get the quality of fish that you can catch here. I’ll stick with Clear Lake as #1.” BWU

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Spring 2012