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OAKLEY, Calif. – The sprawling California Delta is certainly an eyeful, but there's also more than meets the eye. That truth proved essential for Jim Moulton, of Merced, Calif., owner of C&C Marine in Modesto, who won the FLW EverStart Series Western Division event in this tidal wonderland.
As Moulton explained, the shallows of many Delta shorelines extend considerable distances from the bank. This creates a broad range of fishable water that's often overlooked. Moulton made it his strategy to take advantage of this untouched water and the plan paid off with a 3-day winning total of 59 pounds, 13 ounces.
"The whole tournament, I was watching everybody and they were cruising down the bank and doing the exact same thing – they were flipping, pitching, throwing chatterbaits, spinnerbaits. I decided these fish are getting (beaten up) and I noticed nobody was fishing off the bank.
"A lot of the banks go out 25-30 feet with the same depth and they're just loaded with grass. Everybody's just driving through that grass and I just backed off and targeted the channels in the grass that all the guys were driving over."
Moulton fished these areas primarily with a brown/orange Revenge chatterbait fitted with a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver in Big Texan color. This bait he fished aggressively through the grass to trigger reaction bites.
In channel bends or oxbows, Moulton threw a 1-ounce Blade Runner Swim Spin with a BassMagic swimbait trailer. Slow rolling the bait through these areas of concentrated potential proved effective.
"I don't go big on the (swimbait)," Moulton said. "A lot of guys are throwing great big baits, but sometimes I think they get too big. Yesterday, one of my 7-pounders came off that bait and another about 6, so that bait was critical on helping me get here."
After placing 19th on day one with 19-4, Moulton made a big move into second place a day later with the tournament's second-heaviest bag – 26-2. Today, he faced his toughest day, but he was elated to find that his day-three limit of 14-7 was enough to clinch the victory by a margin of 2-11.
Conditions greatly influenced daily outcomes. Starting with the weather, day one saw the overcast skies and dim, drizzly weather of a mild cold front, while day two saw the high, bright skies and strong winds typical of a front's backside. Day three was also clear and bright, but the wind was lighter than the 20-mph bluster of day two.
Tides are always important on the delta, as the daily rise and fall positions fish and forage. Day one started with an incoming tide that peaked late morning and the rest of the fishing day saw outgoing to low water. Tide cycles advance about an hour each day, so the outgoing cycle that many anglers – including Moulton – preferred offered a narrowing window of opportunity.
"My bite was really challenging, because it came on at the end of the day," he said. "I would sit in my boat with two or three fish with a rock in my stomach eating me up, just knowing that I need the tide, I need the wind for that afternoon bite. And every day it came through. Today, I really thought I had thrown it. I came in with 14 pounds and I didn't think I had much over 10. I didn't get the big bites today, but I got the right bites."Back To Reports
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