By David A. Brown
To Ken Mah, the California Delta is not just a fishery; it’s a lifelong friend that he knows well enough to read its mood and understand its tendencies. On the eve of competition, Mah’s old pal is a little under the weather, but likely on the mend.
Nothing tragic; just the equivalent of a head cold, so to speak.
“Based on the (severe) winter that we had and all the water we had from December to March, I would say the entire system is behind three to four weeks,” Mah said. “It is fishing better than it was fishing during the MLF event in March. I think there will be more fish caught and there’s going to be more bigger ones caught.
“She’s still very tricky and she’s not fishing like a typical mid-April, where 17 pounds would be pedestrian and there would be multiple bags of 18-20 pounds. I don’t think this is setting up to be a slugfest.”
On the upside, Mah said he’s seen water clarity improving with a significant amount of water enjoying 1 1/2 to 3 1/2 feet of visibility. Water temperatures are also sneaking upward, so while the Delta’s not where it should be, it seems to be headed in the right direction.
“I think it’s going to free up this talented field to do whatever they want to do,” Mah said. “When it’s warm and winds are down, everything is on the table. As long as the wind stays down, you’ll be able to fish your strength.”
Tides: Mah said the Central Delta, which should see the majority of the tournament effort, will experience low tides in the mornings, with incoming cycles throughout the day. High tide will come progressively later each afternoon and that could be a key factor.
“For people that are looking for those high tides, it’s going to be tricky.”
Biggest Optimism: Mah points to the week’s warming trend, which will likely spur the Delta’s prespawn fish. This stage finds the biggest fish moving into the most accessible positioning and bringing with them big — make that “huge” — appetites.
“When it’s prespawn and they get going, they eat,” Mah said. “The few fish I caught in practice were not finicky, they wanted to eat.”
Biggest Concern: Making moments matter — Mah said that’s the difference between competitors and winners.
“I think the person that wins is going to get one or two of the right opportunities every day and that person has to execute on those bites.”
The Wildcard: Mah’s been doing this long enough to know that bass have general seasonal patterns, but they do not follow scripts. He searched diligently in practice, but despite his thin findings, he knows the Delta’s ability to suddenly unleash mayhem.
“I could be wrong and the fish could flood the bank somewhere. But I have literally been in every corner of the Delta. I launched my boat three different times on Wednesday.”
But what if something amazing happens between the end of practice and the Day-1 takeoff? This is what anglers think about while they try to fall asleep.
The Magnitude: Like most inaugural events, the DiscountTackle.com Western Bass Shootout swirls with optimism, expectation and competitive anticipation. On the water, Mah’s all business, but he also sees the big picture impact.
“I’ve been at this a while and there have only been a handful of events that I’ve been truly excited about and this is one of them,” Mah said. “The prize money is important, but my excitement is what this means to the community of Sacramento, the fans, and young anglers who aspire to do this.
“If there are 10 kids at the weigh-ins, or 1,000 kids there, I look forward to motivate that next generation of anglers who say: ‘This is where I want to be.’ Someone is going to win, but it’s what we do with the opportunity to influence young people that is truly important.”