Managing Vast Waters

I love heading out to the California Delta, but what's great about the Golden State's Central Valley drainage can also be profoundly perplexing.

With a labyrinthine network of sloughs, canals and tributary streams feeding into the San Joaquin and Sacramento rivers, this sprawling wonderland abounds with big-bass potential.

Only problem is that it all looks fishy. Tules, hydrilla, weed mats, riprap, docks—all in great supply—seem to compete for completion; each making a solid case for a cast or three. No doubt, even when manning only a camera, I've found myself struggling to decide which of the many appealing scenics to shoot.

Only experience and time on the water will help you whittle down to the areas of consistent productivity, but Delta pro Bobby Barrack, offers a simple test for evaluating a spot's potential.

Bass need three things in a good spot:

  • Sanctuary – the grass and deep water where they live.
  • Food sources – Crawfish, bluegill, Delta perch.
  • Hotel Room (shallow spawning areas)

Barrack surmises that most bass will live out their lives within a few miles of where they were spawned. Therefore, the fish often make the same prespawn, spawing and postspawn movements each year, so once you learn an area's patterns, you should be able to replicate the bites each year.

Of the Delta's propensity for overwhelming anglers, Barrack says this: "Don't worry about trying to fish too much water in one day. There's often a brief period when the tide is right and those fish will feed aggressively. You want to be sitting on a good spot during those major solunar periods, not running around the Delta."

Barrack's words of wisdom apply to many of the nation's vast bass fisheries—even non-tidal waters. Pick an area, get to know it throughout the seasons and learn which baits and presentations fit each stage of the bass' life cycle.

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