17.Jan.2013 by Gary Mortenson
OROVILLE, Calif. – As expected, the first day of 2013 EverStart Series Western Division competition on Lake Oroville featured a tight contest from the outset. In fact, by the time Thursday’s weigh-in had concluded, weights were so bunched up that only 3 pounds separated eighth place from 93rd – a remarkable statistic to say the least.
However, for veteran pros, the results weren’t entirely surprising as that’s how Lake Oroville fishes historically. With plenty of fish in the 1- to 2-pound range, and a dearth of behemoth bass, anglers who made the successful jump up the leaderboard were almost required to show off a few nice kickers.
And nobody did that better than EverStart pro Jeff Michels of Lakehead, Calif. Boasting a five-fish limit of 13 pounds, 5 ounces, Michels now sits in the proverbial driver’s seat heading into Friday’s all-important day of competition – the day in which the top-10 cut in the both the pro and co-angler divisions will be announced.
Michels, who actually surprised himself with his day’s catch, said he couldn’t be happier with the results.
“This morning I thought 7 pounds was all I was going to get,” he said. “But I found one spot and got lucky on it. I caught two nice ones there right away, left and came back and landed another two quality bass later in the afternoon. It feels good to be in the lead. But let’s wait and see how I’m feeling after tomorrow.”
Michels said that he was familiar with the area from past events, but he didn’t know that it would produce as well as did.
“I knew the general area pretty well so I just tried to zero in on where the bigger fish were,” he said. “Then, during the first day of practice I was able to figure out a little bit better where exactly I wanted to fish. The area really isn’t that remarkable. It’s basically a nothing pea gravel bank.”
While a number of pros targeted bass by using reaction baits in the morning and switching to a more finesse-based approach later in the afternoon, Michels said that he stuck with reaction baits for the entire outing.
“Yeah, I threw reaction baits all day long,” he said. “I was using a small, 3 ½-inch swimbait and 6-pound test line. I only had two spinning rods on the deck the whole day. Some guys were throwing bigger baits but here you have to match the hatch and the (baitfish) really aren’t much bigger than 3 or 4 inches.”
However, the real question for Michels is: Can that spot produce for two more days?
“I think it can,” he said. “I might not be as successful throwing what I did today but I think I can slow down and still catch them with something else. I know this spot has some big fish on it. There is a giant there in the 5- to 6-pound range. And now, I just have to get it to bite.”
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