By Jason Haley
The first leg of the 2016 California Tournament Trail (CTT) pro-am circuit wrapped up January 16-17 at Lake Oroville. After four years of drought, we’re finally having a real winter trying to fill the lake all at once. As the newly crowned amateur champion, Sean Widger of Livermore put it: “It was nasty.” This made fishing, boat-runs, and on-the-water coverage challenging, even during the practice period.
Anglers stuck it out despite the weather, with virtually every boat weighing in, as they should, in a great display of sportsmanship and support. In the end, it was Chico State college angler; Travis Bounds of Roseville getting his first win as a pro taking home $2,600 by edging Chad Frie by the smallest of margins. Well-known veteran, Greg Gutierrez finished third, less than two pounds back, after leading day-one. Danny Cross finished 4th and last year’s AOY, JR Wright, finished 5th in a strong field of 56 pros.
Bounds weighed 22.27 pounds over two days, to 22.24 pounds for Chad Frie, the closest finish to date in the CTT. “Water weight,” said Frie, when asked about it. Bounds’ primary weapon was an A-rig and he bumped around a core area in one of the forks. Frie relied on blades made by D&M Custom Baits, mostly in a single “sweet spot.” Each Pro had double-digit bags both days, which is easier said than done with spotted bass in winter (no matter what the reports say). Frie weighed a big spot both days.
Weights were down, but somewhat customary for this time of year. The final check was taken by Terry DeVincenzi, in 12th-place at 18.56 pounds. He survived a 6.53 bag on day one, and braved the rain to bring in the best bag of the event on day two (over 12 pounds), which included a 3.81 kicker.
The amateur side was equally tight. Sean Widger won, taking home $1,300 and the trophy. He edged out Austen Schmalz, Jeff Daugherty, and Leo Busolo, who also had two-day totals over 20 pounds. Widger (age 24), is a former college angler from UOP. He practiced with Chad Frie and was finding his better fish in deeper water near steeper rock formations using 4-inch swimbaits. “I’ll probably use it to pay for entries the rest of the year,” he said.
Next up: pre-spawn slug fest at Lake Berryessa, where a 30-pound bag was weighed last season. See you there!
Get signed up for the next event on Lake Berryessa Feb 27th-28th