Redemption, continued

Clear Lake is history. I didn't do as well there as I did on the Delta. Nevertheless, I'm leaving California in pretty good shape — a heck of a lot better than the last time we were there.

It was a tough tournament, though. The cold winter we've had around the country has set the fish back at least a couple of weeks. That's something we all need to keep in mind this spring. The fish don't know about the calendar, but they do know about water temperature and other environmental factors. So should we.

It's easy to substitute our thoughts about what they should be doing for what they really are doing. That's one mistake we all tend to make when we're fishing. We think our way instead of the fish's way. That'll kill you every time.

After a disastrous first day of practice, I started fishing the moment. The bass weren't up as shallow as I thought they'd be, so I looked for deeper, offshore stuff. Clear Lake has a lot of rock. It's everywhere. I knew that was the key but I didn't want to fish community holes, stuff that everyone else was on.

I spent my time looking for other places — still concentrating on rock — that weren't as obvious. I finally developed a pattern that held up all three days. I fished big, isolated boulders that were lying away from everything else. The best ones were about the size of the hood of my truck.

On the first day I caught 40 bass, on the second day I caught about 50 and on Saturday I had over 25. For the most part it was nonstop all day, every day. My bags averaged around 18 pounds — good but not great.

The problem is I never hooked a giant. I thought that with as many fish as I'd been catching, I'd finally get one big enough to make a difference. I was hoping against hope for that 10-pounder, but it didn't happen. I ended up missing the cut for Sunday.

Most of my bites came on a Berkley Gulp Shaky Worm and a 3/16-ounce Tru-Tungsten Ikey Head or a 1/2-ounce Berkley Gripper jig. It seemed like those were the baits they wanted.

I honestly don't know if something else would have made a difference. I doubt it. Those are two great lures. If the big ones were on isolated rocks I'd have caught my share. You know the old saying — you can't catch them if they aren't there. They weren't there. I didn't catch them.

Anyway, I'm feeling positive about the season. Becky and I will be taking our time going back. We want to see a few things out here, and I want to look over the Arkansas River and Muskogee, Okla. We'll talk more about all that next week.