OROVILLE, Calif. — Leveraging the tournament waters’ dynamic nature, Greg
Gutierrez of Red Bluff, Calif. caught a limit of 18.08 pounds to lead Day 1 of the APEX
Cup on Thermalito Afterbay presented by Garmin Fish & Hunt and DUO International.
Located about six miles southwest of the city of Oroville, Thermalito Afterbay is an off-
stream reservoir of the Feather River, which feeds Lake Oroville. This shallow body is
primarily used to warm the cold water flowing out of the lake before it’s sent downstream
for agricultural use.
“When I came here (prior to the 30-day off limits period) I got to see the lake when the
water was a foot and a half low,” Gutierrez said. “I got to see what was out there,
underneath the water and where the fish positioned to.
“I had a couple of ideas; I had a couple of stretches where I had seen giant fish. My
Torch sunglasses penetrated the water so well, I could see these big fish in this area. I
think the key for me was having those days on (the reservoir) when the water fell out.
Now, it’s almost full pool.”
Working off this insight Gutierrez returned to his big-fish areas and fished a mix of
“I hit all the major food groups,” he said. “I hit the riprap, I hit tule berms, I hit the grass,
the weed beds. I cycled through each of those and there were little key areas that held
While the grass produced more numbers, the riprap yielded the better quality, including
a 4 1/2-pounder that bit about 10-10:30.
Gutierrez caught most of his fish on a 3/16-ounce Frenzy Nail with a 6.95-inch
Reaction Innovations Flirt Worm in green pumpkin magic. He also caught fish on a
dropshot with a 6-inch Roboworm in green pumpkin and margarita mutilator.
Noting that the reservoir’s water temperature was a little lower than the level it usually
reaches before being sent downriver, Gutierrez said he noticed this had an effect on his
bite. Essentially, the water conditions had the fish more particular in their feeding.
“When I got bit, the fish really were not aggressively eating the bait; they were just
picking it up,” Gutierrez said. “Once I realized that was the deal, I figured out how the
bite was. To be honest, I probably missed a few before I figured it out.
“I’d throw a Frenzy Nail out there and I was watching it. My line just kind of moved to the
side and I never felt a bite. I pulled into it and hooked a fish. Then I said ‘Okay.’ The fish
gave up what they’re doing and how they’re doing it.”
Carrying a 2 1/2-pound lead into Day 2 on a tough fishery that saw most of the field
struggling, Gutierrez said he’ll probably give his main deal a rest. With more than double
the 10th-place weight, he’s in solid position for a final-round berth.
“I think I’m going to take a different game plan; I think my (lead) is enough to get into the
top-10 for Championship Sunday,” Gutierrez said. “Once you get in the top-10 you’re in,
so I’d rather not beat up those fish.
“I caught another limit in a different area, so I’ll probably go there and work on a 12- to
13-pound limit tomorrow.”
Ken Mah of Elk Grove, Calif. is in second place in the Total Weight standings with 15.61
pounds. Making his first appearance on this fishery, Mah fished what he described as a
high-risk, high-reward pattern.
“I’m using four rods, all with Sunline braid: I’m throwing a Jackall Gavacho frog, a
custom 1/2-ounce vibrating jig with a 3.3 Big Bite Baits Tour Swimmer, a topwater and
I’m flipping a Big Bite Baits College Craw in the spicy craw color,” Mah said. “I have
the craw rigged with three different weights up to 2 ounces.
“There’s a specific thing I’m flipping that if you hook them, you’re not sure if you’re going
to land them. I had seven bites and I only boated four — but they’re the right ones. I feel
like I’m around the right ones. I’m actually happy it’s tough because that allows me to
continue fishing in my comfort zone.”
Rounding out the top-5 in the Total Weight standings are Austin Wilson of Citrus
Heights, Calif. with 14.91, Nick Wood of Little Shasta, Calif. with 12.52 and Mark Lasagne of Dixon, Calif. with 12.08.
Lasagne leads the Most Keepers standings with 12. Starting on the topwater bite he’d
found in pre-practice, Lasagne caught only one keeper in two hours. Switching to a
dropshot with a Yamamoto Shad Shape Worm, he caught the rest of his fish around
“I used the baby bass color (for the dropshot bait) and marked the tails black because
(juvenile bass) have black tails,” Lasagne said. “The water in this lake is cooler, so they
spawn later. I thought ‘There are a lot of baby bass in here,’ so that seemed to work.”
Lasagne noted that downsizing to 6-pound Seaguar Tatsu fluorocarbon was essential
to getting his bites.
Wilson is in second place in the Most Keepers standings with 7. He started his day
fishing the lake’s north end, as the 5-mph speed zones keep the waters relatively calm.
After his bite dwindled, he ran south and concluded his day in the Afterbay’s lower end.
“I caught most of my fish on a Spro Bronzeye Popping Frog and a Koppers
LIVETARGET frog around tules, offshore grass and one off a brush pile,” Wilson said.
“I also caught fish on unweighed 6- and 4-inch Senkos.
“Toward the end of the day, I got on a little pattern. When that water warmed up, they
started biting better.”
Rounding out the top-5 in the Most Keepers standings are Gutierrez with 6, Bill O’Shinn
of Auburn, Calif. with 5 and Mah with 4.
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.
Saturday’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.