The Fish Sniffer - NorCal Trout Anglers Challenge Tournament Tour Season Preview
NorCal Trout Anglers Challenge Tournament Tour Season Preview

Written By: Cal Kellogg, January 3, 2014
Species: Trout
Location: San Pablo Reservoir, Lake Amador, Collins Lake, Del Valle Reservoir, Camanche Reservoir,

NorCal Trout Anglers Challenge Tournament Tour Season Preview

The NorCal Trout Anglers Challenge (NTAC) created quite a stir in the Norcal trout fishing scene this fall when a lucky trout angler fishing the NTAC event at San Pablo Reservoir took home an awesome Klamath Boat complete with motor. Now they’ve made an even bigger splash with the announcement of a unique and expanded trout fishing tournament tour for 2014!

Before we get into dates and locations, I should speak a bit about the NorCal Trout Anglers Challenge for the folks out there that haven’t heard about it.

The NTAC is what I’d call the “every man’s” or “every family’s” trout fishing event. Sure each event offers up a bunch of cash prizes, gear and other goodies, but the entry fees are low. If you pre register adults only pay $15 to participate and kids under 15 are free. If you wait until game day to register, it will still only cost an adult $20 and a junior angler $5.

As if those prizes weren’t exciting enough, the NTAC season will end with a Tournament of Champions shootout where the overall winner will take home a fully rigged Klamath Boat complete with motor and trailer!

The top 25 youth finishers and the top 50 adult finishers from each of the 5 regular season tournaments will be invited to participate in the end of season TOC for a shot at the boat and a bunch of other cash and prizes!

The folks at the NTAC recognize the financial challenges that many anglers face these days, especially those raising families, so they’ve worked hard to keep entry fees low enough such that anglers on a budget can still enjoy the thrill of competition.

Along these same lines the dates and destinations for all NTAC tournaments were given special consideration to insure that the time of the year and venue set the stage for a level playing field for both boaters and bank anglers.

In other words the tournaments are held at certain destinations at certain times of the year when bank bound dough slingers and float tube trollers have just as much chance of winning the tournament as a guy equipped with a 25 foot aluminum sled decked out with downriggers and the latest electronics.

Let’s take a look at the destinations, dates and winning fishing strategies for the 2014 NTAC Tour!


San Pablo Reservoir: February 15

San Pablo Reservoir is located in the north bay hills off San Pablo Dam Road between Orinda and El Sobrante.

The picturesque lake was formed in 1919. When at full capacity the lake boasts 866 surface acres and 14 miles of shoreline, offering anglers their choice of fishing from boats, both private or rentals, or from shore.

While the lake impounds the waters of San Pablo Creek, most of the lake’s water actually comes from Pardee Reservoir via an aqueduct.

Heavily stocked with rainbow trout, San Pablo Reservoir is known as one of the finest fisheries in the East Bay. The visitor center offers fishing licenses for sale and a wide array of bait and tackle.

The facility offers a six lane boat launch facility that can accommodate motorboats and kayak/canoe launching.

San Pablo is known throughout northern California for the trophy rainbows that it kicks out every year. Stephen Dwy set the lake record rainbow trout record of 22 pounds, 12.8 ounces on April 18, 2001 while soaking chartreuse Power Bait off Oak Point.

PowerBait is the bait of choice for bank anglers fishing San Pablo in the late winter and early spring months. Subtle colors make sense when the water is clear and bright colors seem a logical choice if the water is cloudy, but in reality one color will work today and a completely different color will be best tomorrow, so bring a variety to determine what the rainbows want on tournament day.

If you’re fishing from a boat or other watercraft, PowerBait drifted through likely areas remains a top option. If your heart is set on trolling, try pulling orange Rapalas, chrome and blue Kastmasters or Wiggle Hoochies in white or pink.


Lake Amador: March 15

Lake Amador, located on Jackson Creek in the Mother Lode foothills near Ione, has acquired a well-deserved reputation for being one of northern California’s premier spots to battle huge trout.

Amador is unique among northern California lakes in that the trout stocked in the reservoir are raised on site in the Lockhart family’s fish hatchery. This means that the fish are raised in the same water as the lake – and the fish don’t have to adapt to the reservoir water like planted trout from other hatcheries have to. 

The lake normally stocks trout from mid October through Memorial Day weekend, when the water becomes too warm for them to plant the lake.

The fish are much bigger than those planted in most other lakes. Where else do you have a chance to battle a huge trout in the 14 to 16 pound class every time you go fishing?

Long time Fish Sniffer editor Dan Bacher has fished Amador extensively over the past 20 years.

“While I’ve personally experienced my best success at Amador over the past two decades fishing nightcrawlers and grubs 3 to 5 feet under a bobber, I’ve seen other anglers nail the trout while fishing big chunks of salmon roe under bobbers, flies under water bubbles or micro-jigs under bobbers,” related Bacher.

“Bank anglers find the top success fishing near the launch ramp, both corners of the dam, the spillway, as well as other areas on the reservoir. Trolling with nightcrawlers, Rapalas, grubs, Uncle Larry’s spinners, Cripplures, Hum Dingers, Needlefish and other lures can be also be very effective,” Bacher tips.


Collins Lake: April 5

Collins Lake, situated at and elevation of 1,200 feet, lies about midway between the cities of Marysville to the north and Grass Valley to the south. When at full capacity the lake boasts 1,600 surface acres of water and 12.5 miles of shoreline.

The Collins Lake Recreation Area offers all the amenities an angler requires and is family friendly. The recreation area’s facilities include a boat ramp and marina, picnic grounds, camping sites, RV sites, rental cabins and trailers, general store, laundry equipment, hot showers, sand swimming beach and a children’s playground. If you don’t have your own boat don’t despair. The marina offers outboard equipped aluminum fishing boats, patio boats and ocean kayaks.

Collins plays host to the most aggressive trout stocking program north of Sacramento. Spring and fall, big numbers of trout are planted. Many of these trout are in the 2 to 3 pound class, but several thousand of them are trophy caliber fish, weighing 3 to 8 pounds. For each plant the lake receives from the Department of Fish and Game, the recreation area managers purchase three plants of higher quality trout from private hatcheries.

Catching Collins Lake trout can be as simple or as complicated as you’d like to make it. Collins is one of the few lakes where shore anglers do every bit as well as boat anglers.

Trout can be encountered just about anywhere in Collins, but the largest concentrations are in the western half of the lake, in front of the dam and up in the creek arm. This is also where you’ll find the most anglers.

In the spring, soaking bait is a popular pastime for veteran Collins Lake anglers. Since I always buy a two-rod sticker, generally I start out with one rod rigged with a sliding sinker rig, and the second setup with a slip-bobber for drifting bait suspended below the surface.

The most popular baits at Collins are PowerBait, Power Eggs and night crawlers. But I’ve enjoyed very good action while using minnows, too.

A number of different trolling lures will tempt the lake’s trout effectively, as long as you consider their primary forage before making your selection. Threadfin shad are the trout’s favored prey. Lure and color selections should be made accordingly.

Chrome-and-blue spoons account for many of the largest trout taken by trollers. Other good choices include small minnow plugs and light shad-colored plastic grubs. When the trout are playing hard to get, a slow-trolled threaded night crawler fished without flashers or a dodger is often just what the doctor ordered.


Lake Del Valle: May 10

Lake Del Valle is located 10 miles south of Livermore off Interstate 580 in the San Francisco East Bay area.   The lake is surrounded by over 5,000 acres of beautiful oak-covered hills at an altitude of 745 feet. The lake stretches for 5 miles and has 16 miles of shoreline. 

For your convenience there are two stores which provide grocery items, ice, hot and cold drinks and snacks, toys, swimming apparel, camping goods, and firewood. 

The marina provides Department of Fish & Game fishing license and the East Bay Regional fishing permit, bait and tackle, and a boat rental fleet of motorboats, patio boats, pedal boats, canoes, and row boats.  Any size boat may be launched at the paved boat ramp, offering 6 lanes for your use.  The lake speed limit is 10mph. 

“For trout, bank anglers should use Berkley PowerBait, Power Eggs, and Gulp Trout Worms in an array of colors including white, chartreuse, rainbow, spring green, orange and bubble gum. Pautzke Fire Bait in a variety of colors and nightcrawlers are also highly effective baits,” recommended Dan Bacher.

“Trollers should use Kastmasters, Rapalas, Cripplures, Hum Dingers, Ex-Cel spoons, Stingfish, Flatfish, Uncle Larry’s spinners, Sep’s Pro Secrets and hoochies,” Bacher added.


Lake Camanche: May 31

Lake Camanche, nestled in the rolling Mother Lode foothills northeast of Lodi on the Mokelumne River, was renowned for years as a quality bass fishery with plentiful underwater structure.

Since regular rainbow trout plants begin in 1989, the East Bay Municipal Utility District (EBMUD) water supply reservoir has also become known throughout the north state as an outstanding trout fishery. 

The concessionaire plants about 75,000 pounds every year, with half going to the north shore and the other half going to the south shore. Of the fish planted on the south shore, half go into the lake and the other half into the pond. In addition, the Department of Fish and Game stocks 3,000 to 4,000 pounds of rainbows every year.

Bank fishing with standard baits like PowerBait and worms can be good at Camanche because trout follow the shoreline.

Trollers will want to work the long shallow coves with stick-ups. Troll as close as you can to the stick-ups. The trout are feeding on the small aquatic snails they get out off the stick-ups. If you get close to the stick-ups, you get close to the trout.

Anglers score well trolling shallow diving Rebels and Rapalas on the surface. In addition, many anglers use Needlefish, Ex-Cels and Vance’s Slim Fins, along with orange plastic grubs with Power Eggs in front of them.

Bait fishing from a boat is an overlooked fishing method at the reservoir. Fish 25 to 35 feet deep with PowerBait off the bottom – it can be best way to catch fish at times. Trolling with PowerBait on a size 10 treble hook is also worth a shot.


Fish The NTAC Tour!

If you love trout fishing and love competition, come on out and enjoy one or more NTAC events in 2014. It won’t break the bank, you’ll have lots of fun and you might just take home a cool prize or a cool wad of cash!

For more information or to register for any of the events go to or call (916) 768-0938.

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