OROVILLE, Calif. — A diversified strategy paid big dividends for Juan Acosta of Tracy, Calif., whose two-day total of 24.19 pounds leads Day 2 of the APEX Cup on Thermalito Afterbay presented by Garmin Fish & Hunt and DUO International.
Placing sixth on Day 1 with 11.82, Acosta surged ahead by adding a second-round limit of 12.37. Day 2 saw him returning to the same area on the south shore, but making an adjustment to find his fish.
“I started on the same stuff I fished on Day 1, but it didn’t pan out, so I literally went across the cove and found these fish,” Acosta said. “I’m kinda junk fishing a little bit; I’m catching them on tules and offshore grass in 3-12 feet.
“Everything’s all in the same area, so I have it all right there. So as I’m going, I’ll see a nice patch of (grass) and I’ll throw my frog and then I’ll flip the tules.”
Acosta caught his grass fish on a Spro Bronzeye Frog in the killer gill color. Day 2 saw the frog produce a single keeper, but it was his biggest — 3 1/2-pounder.
Acosta fished the tules with a 1/2-ounce Beast Coast tungsten jig with a Reaction Innovations Sweet Beaver, a Texas-rigged Yamamoto Cowboy with a 1 1/2-ounce weight and a dropshot with a Roboworm in the margarita mutilator color.
Acosta noted that the lake’s full-pool status put a lot of water on the tules. He fared best by targeting tule clumps with 8 feet of water around them.
“The key was to stay out and pick apart the grass,” Acosta said. “When I was flipping the tules, I kept my distance and stayed about 20 feet away. The fish were coming in and out. When you found them, they had no problem eating.”
Despite cooler temperatures and a moderate breeze, Acosta said the weather had no real impact on his day. Success, he said, hinged on constantly varying his presentations.
“I was just covering a lot of water,” Acosta said. “I didn’t just stick to punching or flipping — I mixed it up.
“Tomorrow, I’ll start on a tule clump and try to get a limit and if that’s not happening, I’ll go to my flipping. I think the topwater bite and the flipping is what’s going to get it done.”
Day-1 leader Greg Gutierrez of Red Bluff, Calif. is in second place in the Total Weight standings with 23.34 pounds. After sacking up the event’s heaviest limit — 18.08 — he added two keepers for 5.26.
Gutierrez intentionally laid off his main spot in an effort to save his best potential for the final round. Weights and keeper counts zero after Day 2, so he played a conservative strategy aimed at ensuring his final-round berth.
“I started worrying when I only had two fish, but I didn’t really see any reason to go over and hit that good spot,” Gutierrez said. “I knew all I needed was a couple of fish to get it done.”
Gutierrez caught both of his keepers on a dropshot with a 6-inch Roboworm in the margarita mutilator color. He used a 3/16-ounce Woo Tungsten weight around riprap and a 3/8-ounce in grass.
Although he started deeper, Gutierrez found his fish shallow. The first fish was in 2 feet and the second was in a foot and a half.
Rounding out the top-5 were Ken Mah of Elk Grove, Calif. with 22.56, Alex Klein of Oroville, Calif. with 22.06 and Austin Wilson of Citrus Heights, Calif. with 20.02.
Mark Lassagne of Dixon, Calif. retained his lead in the Most Keepers standings with 16. Lassagne added four keepers to the dozen he caught on Day 1.
“They weren’t biting as good as they were yesterday, but I didn’t stay as late in my main area today,” Lassagne said. “I didn’t burn them up, in case I need them tomorrow.”
Lassagne caught three of his keepers by fishing a dropshot with a Yamamoto Shad Shape Worm in the baby bass color alongside the tules. After that, he went practicing for Day 3 and spent the last hour punching tules with a Yamamoto Flappin Hog (green pumpkin red) and a 3/4-ounce weight. That pattern yielded a 3-pounder.
Lassagne said his Day-3 strategy will probably include throwing a topwater early, flipping tules and then punching.
Bill O’Shinn of Auburn, Calif. is in second place in the Most Keepers standings with 11. After fishing mostly offshore grass on Day 1, he found the thicker tules were most productive, as temperature-sensitive Florida-strain largemouths pulled tighter into cover.
O’Shinn flipped a Yamamoto Cowboy and Reaction Innovations Kinky Beaver, both in green pumpkin, with 1- and a 1 1/2-ounce weights. He also caught fish on a 1/2-ounce white ZMan ChatterBait JackHammer with a shad color Yamamoto Zako.
“I was fishing the outside tule edges most of the day and once I figured out that the water temperature had them inside, I positioned my boat right against the tules,” O’Shinn said. “The key was fishing right on top of them.”
Rounding out the top-5 in the Most Keepers standings are Acosta with 10, Gutierrez with 10 and Wilson with nine.
Travis Huckaby of Modesto, Calif. leads the Yamamoto Toad of the Tournament standings with a 6.23-pounder.
After two days of full-field competition, the top-10 anglers advance to Sunday’s Championship round. The final field will comprise the top-5 anglers with the Most Keepers and the top-5 anglers with the highest Total Weight. Total days weight and keeper count from days 1 and 2 are accumulated. In the final round, weights and keeper count are zeroed.
Sunday’s takeoff is scheduled for 6:15 a.m. at Monument Hill Launching Facility. The weigh-in will be held at the ramp at 1 p.m.