By Jody Only
FOLSOM, Calif. – The APEX Pro Tour Championship, Presented by Bridgford Foods and Visit Folsom, is slated for a Folsom Lake blast-off February 17-19. Qualifying APEX anglers will compete in the three-day bass battle on the Northern California fishery by invite only. The televised event brings camera crews and media for an enhanced APEX opportunity and atmosphere with a limited field that includes only half of the original 2022 APEX anglers – determined by the Angler of the Year (AOY) points race.
Mick Karshner is excited to debut as the APEX Pro Tour emcee at the Championship event.
“There are some big largemouth in Folsom, but the bite could be tough with the guys weighing in a lot of spotted bass on Day One and Two,” said Karshner. “I feel like the winner will have to find a couple of those big largemouth on that final day.”
Two of the competing APEX Pro tour anglers call Folsom Lake their home water.
“It’s up in the air how the lake will fish with the water management strategies that have fluctuated the lake after the large influx of water from the storms,” said Folsom local Luke Johns. “If the level is going up or steady, the fish are okay; if the water is dropping, that will shut ‘em down.
“Even with all those crazy factors involved, there is the potential for a solid early spring bite; but then there is also a chance for a curveball that this is will be one of the toughest APEX tournaments.”
Fellow APEX Pro Tour angler Austin Wilson of Citrus Heights, Calif., has similar thoughts about a stabilized water level enhancing the fish-catching potential. “With how it is now, I don’t think it will be wide-open, but I definitely think there will be some big bass caught,” said Wilson.
Johns believes the ability to track fish will be the most significant factor and anticipates a mix of reaction and finesse techniques to play a part. “Typically, it is a finesse lake; but there is always the potential for reaction fish to be caught on Folsom,” he explained.
Wilson agreed, saying, “Folsom is all about a person’s style and how they want to fish it.”
Deep and shallow bass factor into both of the angler’s expectations. “There are a lot of trees that are blooming, the days are getting longer and warmer, so there will be some fish pushing to the bank and others out in 40- to 50-feet,” said Wilson.
Johns’ depth mixture was deep fish in 25 to 35 and the big ones in 10 or less.
Wilson would like to see some wind; Johns would not. “My ideal setup would be for the lake to fish as tough as it can because I know the lake, and the tougher it gets, the harder it will be for the guys that don’t know the lake,” Johns shared. “Normally, I would like a little wind, but in this tournament, I want flat calm, and bluebird skies, making it as hard as possible for the others to catch ‘em.”
The two shared the sentiment of Folsom being a “tricky fishery.”
“It’s one of those places where you catch ‘em, and the next day you can fish the same thing in the same conditions, and they disappear – 20-pounds one day and only two fish the next,” explained Wilson.
“Folsom is in its own category like that,” agreed Johns.
Planning for the final day field cut, Johns is looking for 28- to 30-pounds to lead, with 23.5 to make the top-five, “I think keeper count will have to be in the high 20s,” he added.
Wilson thinks it will take more. “Fourteen-pounds and 12 to 15 keepers per day just to make the top-five, but it could be really good and take even more than that,” he concluded.
For the win, Johns predicted 14-pounds and Wilson 17.
To ready himself, Johns is tying up Yamamoto Baits, and Picasso Lures with Sunline on Owner Hooks. Wilson is P-Line contingent ready with a Wicked Willow Underspin and other undisclosed baits rigged with Wicked Weights Tungsten.
With the Championship only days away, Johns expressed his excitement. “We’re finally going to Folsom Lake. It’s a fun place. More tournaments should go there, and I get to fish, then sleep in my own bed.”
Wilson advised all anglers of the floating debris present from the recent rainfall and thanked his community sponsor Folsom Lake Asphalt. “They are making this possible for me,” he said.”
The APEX Pro Tour Championship will weigh in on the APEX stage all three days beginning at 3:00 p.m. Friends, family, and fans are invited to attend. SuperClean, and Duo Realis will provide product giveaways. A Garmin booth will be onsite.
The full qualifying roster of APEX Pro Tour competitors is:
- Austin Bonjour
- Austin Wilson
- Bill O’Shinn
- David Swenseid
- Earl Dalton III
- Gregory Troughton
- Hayden Lee
- Ish Monroe
- Jason Austin
- John Pearl
- Ken Mah
- Kevin Johnson
- Luke Johns
- Mark Lassagne
- Marty Lawrence
- Matthew Nadeau
- Nick Cloutier
- Nick Salvucci
- Nick Wood
- Randy Mcabee
- Ryan White
- Scott Hellesen
- Stan Lafever
- Thomas Kanemoto
- Tony Franceschi
- William Ponting
- Zack Thompson
With the Wild West Bass Trail (WWBT) entering its 8th year in 2023, the formidable circuit attracts the highest-level anglers to compete in Pro/Am, Teams, Kayak, and Youth Series events.
WWBT also operates the APEX Pro Tour, the highest-qualified level of professional bass competition on the West Coast. The televised events are broadcast on the Pursuit Channel, capable of reaching 47 million households nationwide.
Truly unique from the traditional five-fish limit, the APEX Pro Tour format includes the following:
- A Hybrid top -10 Format with the top-five most scorable bass and the top-five highest weight after two days
- A final day field cut to advance to the top-10 with weights zeroed-out
- 30 Days Off Limits
- No Information Rule
- No Practice Periods
- Live leaderboard During Event via TourneyX
In 2023 APEX Pro tour regular season stops, anglers will compete to qualify for the 2024 APEX Pro Tour Championship, which will award the winning angler a Bass Cat boat and a Mercury Marine Outboard engine valued at $60,000.00.