Wednesday, June 12, 2024

History Made at Toyota Series at California Delta Presented by Suzuki Marine

Date:

Menifee’s Melton Earns Pro Victory, Moreno Tops Co-anglers as Female Anglers Finish 1-2 for First Time in History
OAKLEY, Calif. (June 9, 2024) – Pro Cristian Melton closed out his first professional win the same way he punctuated a dominant season in the Western Division Presented by Tackle Warehouse — with style.

Melton, who led after Day 2 of the Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats event on the California Delta, which was presented by Suzuki Marine, weighed in 20 pounds, 13 ounces on the final day to put an exclamation point on his victory. The biggest bag of Day 3, that brought his total to 61-7, putting him 4-15 clear of runner-up  Christian Ostrander.

Not only did Melton pocket $22,866 for the win, he added another $5,000 as the winner of the Fishing Clash Angler of the Year award for the Western Division. That title, too, he claimed in convincing fashion after finishing fifth at the season-opener on Clear Lake and second on Lake Havasu  prior to his triumph at the Delta.

“It’s crazy,” Melton said. “It’s going to take me probably two days for it to really soak in. I’m just going to be like, oh my gosh, that just happened.”

Melton arrived at the Delta solely focused on securing the AOY title. And even as well as he performed during the first two days, with each of the second- through fourth-place anglers entering the event also making the Top 25 cut, he had some work to do Friday before he could turn his attention to hoisting his first trophy.

It took him about 10 minutes to assuage those concerns.

Returning to the area where he’d caught most of his 22-pound Day 2 bag, on about his fifth cast, Melton hooked up with a Delta giant. The bass weighed 8-12 — the biggest caught by any angler during the event. Once it entered the net, Melton knew he had one victory wrapped up and was well on his way to a second.

“Me and my co-angler, Deanna (Moreno), we were just ecstatic,” Melton said. “I was like, well, that’s my AOY fish.”

Staying in that area, Melton filled his limit by 7:30 a.m. After running around for a few hours and catching “one here and one there,” he returned to the honey hole and upgraded a couple more times, all but sealing a second victory.

Melton described the spot as a slack-water pocket in the central San Joaquin River. Protected from the current and the wind, it featured cleaner water and healthier vegetation than most of the surrounding areas. As a result, while there was a lot of fishless water in the massive system this week, the spot was “teeming with life,” producing regardless of the tide.

 “Clean water is a big thing,” Melton said. “Clean, healthy grass, just a clean ecosystem. Not like blown-out stuff that’s getting new water every day. Just more protected from the elements, whether it be the wind, the current, just anything, stuff pushing into it all the time. And these fish somehow find it, and they just load up.”

Melton believes the area held bass in all three phases of the spawn. He sight-fished a few off beds, but “90 percent” of his keepers (including the 8-12) ate a wacky-rigged 5-inch Yamamoto Senko.

“It was just a mixture of what I believe is prespawn, spawn and postspawn (bass), because there were bluegill beds, and then right next to it was bass beds, and then there was postspawners off the bank, and I was watching fish funnel in these areas,” Melton explained.

The top 10 pros on the California Delta finished:

1st:        Cristian Melton, Menifee, Calif., 15 bass, 61-7, $22,866
2nd:       Christian Ostrander, Turlock, Calif., 15 bass, 56-8, $8,860
3rd:       Rodney Brinser, Discovery Bay, Calif., 15 bass, 54-2, $6,860
4th:        David Valdivia, Riverside, Calif., 15 bass, 50-0, $6,016
5th:        Mark Cobey, Woodland, Calif., 15 bass, 49-10, $5,645
6th:        Hunter Schlander, Modesto, Calif., 15 bass, 48-7, $4,573
7th:        Phil Tilbury, Escalon, Calif., 15 bass, 45-10, $4,001
8th:        Jon Strelic, El Cajon, Calif., 15 bass, 45-4, $3,430
9th:        Louis Fernandes, Santa Maria, Calif., 15 bass, 44-12, $3,358
10th:     Micah Jones, Kingman, Ariz., 15 bass, 43-10, $2,287

Complete results can be found at MajorLeagueFishing.com.

Fernandes earned Thursday’s $500 Berkley Big Bass Award with a largemouth bass weighing 8 pounds, 2 ounces. Pro Mark Cobey of Woodland, California, earned the $500 Berkley Big Bass Award on Friday with a 7-pound, 7-ounce bass.

History was also made, Friday, in the Strike King Co-angler division. Although females have won previously in the Toyota Series, this event marked the first time in MLF history that female anglers finished in both first and second place,

Deanna Moreno of Salida, California, brought a limit of bass to the scale totaling 13 pounds, 1 ounce to the scales on Day 3 of the event on the California Delta, slamming the door on her first career win in the Strike King co-angler division. Her three-day total of 40-15 topped runner-up  Rachel Uribe  of San Diego, California, by 4-5 in the event, which was presented by Suzuki Marine. For the victory, she earned a Phoenix Boats prize package worth $33,500.

Moreno, who had fished 17 previous Toyota Series events as a co-angler, traveling alongside her husband to compete in the Western Division Presented by Tackle Warehouse, described celebrating her breakthrough win with Mike (who finished 23rd on the boater side) as “a rush.”

“I just couldn’t believe it,” she said. “Without his support, I wouldn’t be where I am as a fisherman today. He’s taught me everything. I know he’s been hard on me, but I know why he’s been hard on me. He’s my biggest supporter.”

The result wasn’t only cause for celebration for the Moreno family. Deanna’s victory made history. She became the third woman in MLF/FLW history to win a Toyota Series event and the first since 2001, when Renee Hensley won the co-angler competition at the Toyota Series Championship on Pickwick Lake.

“That’s an honor,” Deanna said. “Not that I want to be separated from males, because we’re all fishermen. But it’s an honor to do it as a female.”

At least on paper, Moreno made the win look easy. Filling out a limit all three days, she sat in second after Day 1 with 15-0, then climbed into the lead with 12-14 on Day 2. Her 40-15 total would have landed a top-20 finish on the pro side.

But Moreno said it took plenty of patience and a few key adjustments to generate the winning bites, as she caught most of her weight on different baits each day.

On Day 1, she didn’t catch a keeper during the first half of the day, but she stayed calm, reminding herself that the outgoing tide should improve the bite. Indeed, fishing alongside Jon Strelic, she boated five keepers within a span of minutes from the same spot. Then, she culled in a big way with a 6-2 lunker. All of her Day 1 fish ate an M.M. III-colored Roboworm Straight Tail Worm on a drop-shot

“All of a sudden, in probably a 10-foot stretch, it was like one right after another on a drop-shot,” Moreno said. “Got my five, and then I was like, OK, they’re all schooled up, what is going on here? And I just kept throwing out there, and all of a sudden, I caught that 6-2.”

Moreno once again started slow on Day 2. This time, as the tide fell, she switched to a walking topwater, which produced the majority of her weight.

Mercifully, given that she was “super nervous” after sleeping on the lead, she didn’t have to wait nearly as long for the action to pick up on Day 3. Fishing alongside pro winner Cristian Melton, Moreno used a wacky-rigged Yamamoto Senko to fill her limit by 7:30 a.m.

“I had four little ones and then a nice one, and I was like, OK, I’ve got all day to upgrade here,” she said. “It did calm the nerves a little bit.”

Around noon, Moreno upgraded in style. Just as the boat containing MLF photographer John Zeolla found her and Melton, she boated her biggest fish of the day.

“You know how some people don’t like the camera boat around them?” Moreno said with a laugh. “Well, when the camera boat came around like noon, I caught a 3.8 on a Senko right in front of the camera boat. So, that was pretty cool. I really feel the camera boat is lucky.”

Moreno insisted that she never wants to be treated differently than another co-angler because of her gender. Like any other tournament winner, her triumph on the Delta was memorable because of the work that went into it, the puzzle pieces clicking together, the thrill of fighting and landing big bass.

“We’re just out there, we enjoy this sport; it’s a passion,” she said. “I wish I could bottle up that feeling of the 6-pounder, the 5-pounder. It’s just great. It’s awesome. There’s nothing like it.”

But Moreno also recognizes the gravity of her and Uribe’s performances. Her message to other women who might see her with a trophy and want to give tournament fishing a try: “Get out there and fish.”

“Don’t be intimidated by it,” she said. “The guys that are out there, they help you, they support you. It’s just like fishing with your friends. I really feel like if women just go out there, you start doing it, you get confident, just work through it, you’ll do it.” 

The top 10 Strike King co-anglers on the California Delta finished:

1st:        Deanna Moreno, Salida, Calif., 15 bass, 40-15, Phoenix 518 Pro boat w/115-hp Mercury outboard
2nd:       Rachel Uribe, San Diego, Calif., 13 bass, 36-10, $3,003
3rd:       Mike Alvarez, Clovis, Calif., 15 bass, 35-11, $2,403
4th:        Paul Buccola, Dayton, Nev., 15 bass, 35-6, $2,102
5th:        Brandon Gee, Yuba City, Calif., 15 bass, 34-0, $1,802
6th:        Tracy Patton, Oakdale, Calif., 15 bass, 32-11, $1,652
7th:        Blaine Christiansen, San Jose, Calif., 15 bass, 32-9, $1,201
8th:        Rodney Brown, Sacramento, Calif., 15 bass, 31-1, $1,051
9th:        Keith Adams, Redding, Calif., 15 bass, 30-6, $901
10th:     Colton Underwood-Garside, Riverside, Calif., 15 bass, 30-0, $751

Strike King Co-angler Firuz Gizatullin of Discovery Bay, California, earned the $150 Berkley Big Bass on Thursday with a 7-pound, 13-ounce bass, while Friday’s Day 2 $150 co-angler award went to Jonathan Green of San Pablo, California, who brought a 6-pound, 9-ounce bass to the scale.

The Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats at the California Delta Presented by Suzuki Marine was hosted by the City of Oakley. It was the third and final regular-season tournament for the Toyota Series Western Division. The next event for Western Division anglers will be the Toyota Series Championship at Wheeler Lake, Nov. 7-9 in Huntsville, Alabama. For a complete schedule of events, visit MajorLeagueFishing.com.

The 2024 Toyota Series Presented by Phoenix Boats consists of six divisions – Central, Northern, Plains, Southern, Southwestern and the Western Division Presented by Tackle Warehouse – each holding three regular-season events, along with the International and Wild Card divisions. Anglers who fish in any of the six divisions or the Wild Card division and finish in the top 25 will qualify for the no-entry-fee Toyota Series Championship for a shot at winning up to $235,000 and a qualification to REDCREST 2025. The winning Strike King co-angler at the championship earns a new Phoenix 518 Pro bass boat with a 115-horsepower Mercury outboard. The 2024 Toyota Series Championship is hosted by the Huntsville/Madison County Convention & Visitors Bureau, the Madison County Commission, and the Huntsville Sports Commission.

Proud sponsors of the 2024 MLF Toyota Series include: 7Brew, Abu Garcia, B&W Trailer Hitches, Berkley, BUBBA, E3, Epic Baits, Fishing Clash, FX Custom Rods, General Tire, Lew’s, Mercury, Mossy Oak, Onyx, Phoenix, Polaris, Power-Pole, REDCON1, Strike King, Suzuki, Tackle Warehouse, T-H Marine, Toyota, WIX Filters, YETI.

For complete details and updated information visit MajorLeagueFishing.com. For regular Toyota Series updates, photos, tournament news and more, follow the MLF5 social media outlets at Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.



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