By David A. Brown
SACRAMENTO, Calif. — He made it look easy, but Ken Mah was quick to clarify that his dominant wire-to-wire victory at the inaugural DiscountTackle.com Western Bass Shootout on the California Delta was anything but. Nevertheless, a 3-day total of 61.54 pounds earned the local pro what he termed the biggest win of his career.
“In my opinion, this place, along with Lake Mead, is one of the hardest places to put together three successful days,” the accomplished pro from Elk Grove, Calif. said. “It’s so hard to win and the reason I get emotional is it’s not just the work we angers do; it’s the families, it’s the wives, it’s their sacrifices. That’s why we’re able to do what we do.”
Mah took the Day-1 lead by sacking up the event’s heaviest limit — 27.58 — and establishing a margin of 4.63. He’d expand his advantage to 8.79 in the second round with a limit of 20.59.
A tougher final round marked by a hard, cold wind yielded only 13.37, but that was more than enough for Mah to edge Beau Joudrey by a margin of 7.01. For his efforts, Mah won a $127,500 prize package comprising a Bass Cat Cougar FTD, Mercury motor, Garmin electronics, Power-Pole package, Next Gen Lithium contingency and cash.
Beyond the tangibles, Mah will forever hold the honor of winning the first Western Bass Shootout trophy. Most meaningful, he said, was the tournament’s prestigious format which assembled a 50-boat field comprising anglers who qualified through the APEX Pro Tour, MLF Toyota Series, WON BASS Events, and the Wild West Bass Trail Pro/Am series.
“You only have one chance to win the first one,” he said. “This was the top 50 anglers who qualified; you can’t just enter this tournament. That’s what makes it so special and to come out on top is just unbelievable.”
Mah based his tournament strategy on his belief that the week’s warming weather would trigger the spawning movement that had been drastically delayed by an extremely cold winter and recent voluminous rains. Making long runs from takeoff, Mah sought secluded spawning habitat with a mix of shallow hard cover, tules, matted vegetation, and close proximity to deep water.
Mah’s huge Day-1 bag bolstered his premise and a strong Day 2 further supported the notion. However, after two fairly mild days, Championship Sunday’s big winds brought an unavoidable impact that forced adjustment.
“I went to my primary spot where I wanted to be and the water had muddied up,” Mah said. “I made two presentations and I said ‘This ain’t it.’ I trusted my gut, my instinct and I went to where the conditions were right.”
Mah punched the heavy cover with a Big Bite Baits Yo Mama in the confusion color and a Big Bite College Craw in spicy purple on 4/0 and 3/0 Gamakatsu hooks with G-Money punch skirts and a 1- to 1 1/4-ounce weight. He fished the open banks and tule edges with a Bill Lewis SB-57 squarebill in Ozark craw. Imparting occasional pauses was essential to his crankbait’s appeal.
The right tackle setups were important for the consistency success demands. Mah fished his crankbait on G. Loomis NRX 893 rod with a 6.2:1 Shimano Curado carrying 16-pound Sunline FC Crank fluorocarbon. For his punching, he used a 7-11 G. Loomis GLX 954 and a Shimano Chronarch MGL 150 with 80-pound Sunline braid.
Mah, who has won at the Wild West Bass Trail Pro-Am level, as well as the APEX Pro Tour, gave an emotional tribute to the man who provided early inspiration and opportunities that lead him to the impressive fishing career he now enjoys.
“My dad is here and I’m standing here because of him,” Mah said with teary eyes and a quaking voice. “He took me fishing with my brother when I was 5.
“These kids that came out to see guys like Beau Joudrey and Kyle Grover and Joe Uribe can aspire to be here one day. That matters, so I want to thank the parents for bringing them.”
Hailing from Oakley, Calif., Joudrey posted daily weights of 22.04, 15.33 and 17.16 for a total weight of 54.53. Basing most of his tournament focus on bed fishing, Joudrey said he knew the Day-3 weather would prove challenging, but he believed the fish were far enough into the spawning movement that he could justify devoting his day to this plan.
“I knew I needed to just put my head down and go for five big bites,” Joudrey said. “I wanted to go look for bed fish, but I had about two hours I could waste during the low-light conditions. I fished a marina, but it was a ghost town.
“I left and stayed with my game plan to look for bed fish, even though it was blowing like crazy. The only thing I changed was the locations I had to look. I looked for the calmest flattest water. The fish were few and far between, but luckily that 8-pounder showed up around 1:45.”
Joudrey caught all of his fish on a Neko-rigged Zoom Trick worm with the tail dyed chartreuse to mimic bream. Joudrey rigged his Neko with a 1/8-ounce weight for precise casts to beds, while a 1/16-ounce worked best for the slow fall he needed for blind casting.
Kyle Grover of Rancho Santa Margarita, Calf, finished third with a tournament total of 52.74, which include limits of 19.77, 19.61 and 13.36. For two days, Grover split his time between a Texas-rigged 5-inch Yamamoto Senko and a 1/2-ounce Ladies Man Tackle bladed jig with a Yamamoto Zako trailer. The final day forced him to streamline the operation.
“Today, the wind blew so hard that I had to put the worm down because I just couldn’t do it,” Grover said. “I caught all my big fish the first two days worming. Today, it was too much to do that and I caught everything winding the bladed jig.
“Today, at 2 o’clock, I caught one almost 5 on a Berkley Frittside crankbait.”