By David A. Brown
REDDING, Calif. — In the competitive fishing world, going wire-to-wire is one of the longest trips an angler will make; but for Nick Salvucci, that journey only required a 75-yard stretch, which delivered a Day-3 limit of 33.29 pounds to win the APEX Pro Tour event on Trinity Lake presented by Bridgford Outdoors.
Hailing from Atascadero, Calif., Salvucci got off to a blistering start by taking the Day-1 lead with 33.30. He anchored that first-round bag with a 7 1/2-pound largemouth and reported culling out a 25-pound bag that day.
Also leading the first day’s Most Scorable Bass standings with 62, Salvucci headed into Day 2 well-positioned for a final-round berth. He likely would have qualified without a second-round catch, but Salvucci fished a couple of hours and then simply guarded his area.
“I got to lay off the fish yesterday and I think that helped me,” Salvucci said. “I didn’t even make a cast on the juice spots.”
Even with that relaxed effort, Salvucci caught 32 scorable bass and added 23.36 pounds to retain his lead. Championship Sunday saw him step on the gas and sack up the event’s heaviest bag — 33.29. Salvucci’s final limit included the tournament’s biggest bass, an 8.19.
“I absolutely wrecked them today,” Salvucci said. “I probably caught 25 fish over 5 pounds and I was culling 6-pounders. It was a good day — I had a blast.
“I probably caught 75 fish today. I caught an 8 and a 7 and another one over 6 on camera today.”
Spending his entire event in Trinity’s north end, Salvucci focused his efforts on one stretch of flat with wood and rock piles. With most of his targets in 10-15 feet, the flat served as a classic prespawn staging area where fish were coming to him. Spot Locking his Minn Kota trolling motor allowed him to thoroughly work each target.
“I looked at the north end and it was less steep; I like flatter stuff where they’re gonna go spawn,” Salvucci said. “How I ended up on that area was, basically, the lack of boats. I don’t like fishing around people.
“On Day 1, I started on one spot and stayed there about 15 minutes until a bunch of boats pulled it. I ran another half mile north just to be by myself. I started seeing fish on my Garmin PanOptix and started catching them (immediately). I landed on them right off the bat and there was no reason to leave.”
The first two days Salvucci used a rotation of 6- and 7-inch Keitech Swing Impact Fat swimbaits in a color that matched the lake’s abundant Kokanee. Day 3 saw him catch fish on the 6-inch Keitech and three on a red SPRO Rock Crawler 55 crankbait.
“I was just watching them on my Garmin Panoptix and cast at them and watch them come up after my bait,” Salvucci said. “It was insane.”
Notably, Salvucci’s only previous Trinity Lake experience was a 2008 1/2-day fun fishing trip. Having come close to winning a couple of APEX events, Salvucci said it feels great to finally lift an APEX Pro Tour trophy.
“I’ve wanted one of these for a long time,” said Salvucci, who won the 2019 U.S. Open on Lake Mead. “I have a place next to my U.S. Open trophy for this one.”
Nick Cloutier of Oakley, Calif. finished second with 29.78. Having qualified through the Most Scorable Bass standings, he also fished the lake’s north end, despite losing an hour to a mechanical issue, he enjoyed a highly productive day. The key, he said, was locating the right seasonal scenario.
“I knew these fish had to be going into their prespawn mode, so I looked on my graph and found a flat way up on the north end of the lake,” Cloutier said. “As soon as I put my trolling motor down, I saw fish everywhere on my Garmin PanOptix.
“On Day 2, I really figured out what these fish were doing. I saw these little rock piles and you’d pan over to them and there would be 50-60 fish sitting on them.”
Same as the first two days, Cloutier caught his final-round fish on a River2Sea TacticalBassin DD crankbait a 1/4-ounce ball head with a 3.3 Keitech Swing Impact Fat in electric shad. He also threw a Yamamoto Hula Grub on 1/2 ounce Football Head, which produced a 5.8-pound fish.
Jeff Michels of Lake Head, Calif. placed third with 28.34. Also fishing prespawn habitat on the lake’s north end, Michels found that staying around the forage was essential for his success.
“I had my boat in 40 feet and I was throwing into 20-25,” Michels said. “The key is Kokanee. If you find the Kokanee, you’re going to find these giant largemouth.
“You especially want the Kokanee that are on the bottom. You’ll see a ton of them that are on the top, but leave those alone. If they’re down deep and you can see them on your graph, that’s where you want to fish.”
Michels caught his fish on a Mother’s Finest Worm 7-inch worm in Mohave oxblood on a 1/16-ounce Frenzy Nail a Shasta Bass Baits 7-inch swimbait in Kokanee on a 1/2-ounce swimbait head and a shad pattern Duo Realis rip bait.
Rounding out the top 5 were Bill O’Shinn of Auburn, Calif. with 26.09 and Joe Uribe, Jr. of Surprise, Ariz. with 25.32.
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 Scorable Bass 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.