Denis Peirce: Out on the Delta
Damon Witt does monthly bass fishing seminars at Bass Pro Shop in Rocklin. He is there at 6:30 p.m. on the first Thursday. His topics always include what patterns the fish have been on in the past weeks and what to expect from a seasonal perspective in the coming weeks.
His primary focus is lakes ranging from Folsum, to Berryessa, Clear Lake, Comanche and many others within driving distance of Sacramento. If you want to improve as a bass angler a day on the water with him is a good investment.
You can follow him on Facebook: School of Bass, Guide Service.
The “Dog Days of Summer” are the toughest on trout anglers. The salmon guys are doing well but I haven’t been focusing much on bass fishing.
I had been in touch with Damon Witt, a bass tournament angler and guide. For a number of years he has been focusing on Clear Lake in the month of August putting his clients on good numbers of quality bass.
A month ago we made a plan to fish Clear Lake in the first week of August but that plan went up in smoke this past week. The fall back option was the Delta. Witt has an important tournament in the Delta in September and a day on the water there would not hurt.
Colin and I have fished the Delta for stripers on a number of occasions. We have picked up an occasional bass but there is a difference between fishing largemouth bass and stripers. They feed in different locations and the tackle used is not the same. We were going to learn something on this trip.
We met Witt at Wimpies Marina, on the Mokelumne River in the dark at 5:30 a.m. The plan was to throw top water baits before the sun hit the water.
We started out fishing immediately outside the marina where there is ideal cover and structure to keep bass in the area. Once the sky got light enough we could see dimpling on the surface for a hundred yards up and down the river channel. It was shad minnows feeding at the surface. The number of shad that it took to populate that much water is remarkable.
Witt has been out on the Delta with the Department of Fish & Wildlife crews electro-shocking fish for the bass tank at the ISE Sportaman’s Show in January. All of those big bass you see come from the Delta.
In the shocking process all species of fish come to the surface. Witt said that we would not believe the quantity of fish in the Delta. What we could catch on a very good day is a small fraction of the fish that are seeing our baits. The Delta is alive with fish.
Fishing the Delta is a different game
We were on the water Tuesday because of human schedules. On the Delta catching fish is about tides more than it is about time of day. Yes, low light conditions help in the heat of summer but the Delta is river fishing not lake fishing. There is a big difference.
At the top and bottom of the tides the current stops and conditions are a bit lake like but the bite turns off. The Delta fish have adapted to river currents and they feed by taking a position in slack water next to a moving current and eat what gets washed by.
We started our fishing day in the final hours of a falling tide. We did pick up a few fish but the bite was tough. Our top water lures did not get much attention from the bass. By 9 a.m. the current slowed to a stop and things were very quiet. It was not until the tide began to come back in that we began to get into the bass.
Witt took us downstream from Wimpies on the Mokelumne. There are sloughs coming in as well as water draining in from fields. If you look closely there are all kinds of features that can attract bass in what at first looks like a long canal.
In the heat of summer one of the main features Witt is looking for is shade. There are numerous places with trees over hanging the water. It is back underneath these that we had our most consistent bite.
The caveat to fishing the shade is that there needs to be sufficient water under there to hold fish. At low tide the bass move out as the water recedes. Many of the places we fished had a weed line a couple of yards off the bank.
When the tide is out the bass are on the outside edge of the weed line in deep water. As the tide come in they move to the slot between the weed line and the shore. The best combination for us was a rising tide, a couple of feet of water depth or more between the weed bed and the bank with tree limbs providing shade.
The ideal conditions occur during the last three hours of a rising tide and the first three hours of a falling tide. This puts sufficient water over the sandy flats that are common to fish in the Delta as well as under the trees next to the bank. It also puts you on the water with a good current that the bass favor for ambush feeding.
Colin and I had a great day on the water with Witt. He is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to bass fishing. If you ask the question he will explain why he has you in this spot, why and how he is fishing the baits he has pre-rigged and the way he makes the baits move. I came away with a much better comprehension of what the Delta is and how to fish it for largemouth bass.
Colin and I will be going back to fish the Mokelumne River.
Denis Peirce writes a fishing column for The Union’s Outdoors section and is host of “The KNCO Fishing & Outdoor Report,” which airs 6-7 p.m. Fridays and 5-6 a.m. Saturdays on 830-AM radio. Contact him via his website at http://www.trollingflies.com.
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