By David A. Brown
PLUMAS PINES, Calif. — For two days, Matthew Nadeau had seen the picture taking shape and when Championship Saturday found all the pieces in place, it did not take him long to sack up a limit of 15.37 pounds and win the APEX Pro Tour season opener on Lake Almanor presented by Bridgford Foods.
Having qualified through the Most Scorable Bass division with a 2-day total of 15, the pro from Nevada City, Calif. notched his first APEX Pro Tour victory.
“Dude, I’m so pumped up; this is my first major win,” Nadeau said. “I’ve been after this for a long time and to have a major win against the best anglers on the West Coast, it solidifies the angler I am.
“My family has supported me every step of the way. It’s their win as much as mine. This is an amazing moment.”
Fishing Almanor’s east shore, Nadeau spent his tournament in one area with three points and a big spawning bay. On Day 1, he fished a 2.8 and 3.3 Keitech Swing Impact Fat in electric shad on a 3/16-ounce Gamakatsu ball head jig and caught 10 keepers on 25 bites.
Day 2 saw Nadeau use the same swimbaits, along with a Strike King 6XD, which produced his two biggest fish. He caught five keepers on seven bites.
“The fish were chasing and moving around more on Day 1 than they were days 2 and 3,” Nadeau said. “I think the sun helped the fish get into their bedding mode, so by day 2 and 3, they started moving to their spawning zone.”
Nadeau said he had seen the fish swimming around the right areas for two days and when he arrived on the final morning, he found them locked onto beds.
“The wind was blowing today, so I wasn’t seeing the fish in 8-10 feet of water, but I was seeing the dark spots (where they were bedding),” Nadeau said. “I was pitching the 2.8 Keitech Swing Impact Fat on the ball head to the beds and when I’d see the tick, I’d set the hook.”
Idling through the likely areas, Nadeau would spot a bed, circle back around and make precise casts. Once the morning conditions got right, he got the job done in short order.
“It all happened in about a 45-minute period; about 9:30-10:15,” Nadeau said. “I was working the Keitech kinda like a worm the first two days. For the bed fish I’d pitch it and shake it a couple times. I wasn’t keeping it down there very long.
“This past year, I’ve been throwing a Keitech for bed fish. It seems like those smallmouth like it. I actually threw a craw bait today, but they wouldn’t bite it. They wanted that little swimbait.”
Finishing less than a quarter pound behind Nadeau, Austin Bonjour of Atascadero, Calif. placed second with 15.15. Qualifying through the Total Weight division with a 2-day total of 29.23, Bonjour spent days 1 and 2 on the lake’s southeast region and then fished the whole eastern shore on Day 3.
“I picked that area based on (Internet) research and tournament results research,” Bonjour said. “I kept looking for bed fish because we’re in May and today I found a bunch of bed fish and I did that all day.”
The first two days, he caught his fish on a Megabass 110 and 3-inch Keitech Easy Shiner on a 1/8-ounce Keitech tungsten ball head. Bonjour did his Day-3 bed fishing with a Basstrix Flash-Trix on a dropshot and a 3-inch Keitech Easy Shiner on a 1/8-ounce Keitech tungsten ball head.
“Most of the time, I would see the bed first from a ways away before I saw the fish and I would throw the Easy Shiner first,” Bonjour said. “Normally, I’d let it sit on the bottom and they’d eat it and if they didn’t, I’d get closer to them and throw the drop shot in there.
“I worked 30-40 bed fish and I caught 12. My biggest one was a 4-pounder 30 minutes before weigh ins. It was a pound and a half cull.”
John Pearl of Upper Lake, Calif. finished in third place with 13.46. Qualifying through the Most Scorable Bass division with 15, Pearl focused his efforts on the lake’s lower east section, near the dam.
“I was targeting pockets just inside the points,” Pearl said. “I was going off what I learned when we went here two years ago. I had some knowledge of how the lake fishes, so I felt like the fish should be pushing into the same areas.
“My thought was I might as well check those places first because I know how they should set up. I just ran straight to where I fished when we were here before and I caught them. I pretty much ran history after that — spots where I had caught them prior.”
Pearl caught his fish on a G-Ratt Baits GB-100 SP rip bait in 6-8 feet and a Megabass Vision 110+1 Jr in 8-15. Chasing wind pockets, he said, was key.
“If it looked like the wind was blowing on the other side of the lake, I would run over there,” Pearl said. “When you’re throwing that reaction bait, you need some ripple on the water. It’s really hard to get them to bite when it’s slick calm.”
Rounding out the top 5 were Ryan Friend with 13.18 and Mason McAbee with 12.82.
After two days of full-field competition, the top-10 anglers advanced to Saturday’s Championship round. The final field comprised the top-5 anglers with the Most Scorable Bass and the top-5 anglers with the highest Total Weight. Total days weight and Scorable Bass count from days 1 and 2 were cumulative. In the final round, weights and keeper count were zeroed.