ARLINGTON, Ore. — Ken Mah usually keeps an open mind during tournament
competition, but he really loves it when he can put on the blinders. Doing so enabled the
pro from Elk Grove, Calif. to amass a 2-day total of 35.77 pounds and take over the lead
at the APEX Pro Tour on the Columbia River presented by RomanMade Japan and A1
Mah, who won last year’s APEX Pro Tour event on Thermalito Afterbay and the APEX
Pro Tour Championship on Lake Berryessa, along with the Wild West Bass Trail Pro/Am
Championship on the Cal Delta, caught 14.59 on Day 1. His Day-2 bag weighed 21.18.
Focusing on the lower part of the John Day/Umatilla Pool, Mah targeted largemouth
bass in a mix of shallow rock and grass. While smallmouth typically dominate Columbia
River events, Mah prefers the green fish. Sticking to his strength, he fished a prespawn
area and turned in the event’s only bag over 20 pounds.
“When I find something I want to do, I get pretty stubborn on it,” Mah said. “I’m definitely
not a smallmouth bass guru, but I’m comfortable fishing for largemouth, so I’m going to
seek out grass in dirtier water. If I can find that, I feel like I’m very effective at fishing that
Mah said he knew his strategy would be heavier on quality than quantity, but he was
willing to follow that course.
“I caught fewer scorable bass today — I had nine yesterday and today, I had seven,”
Mah said. “I’m fishing for fewer bites, but they’re quality bites.
“I’m around them and I’m generating the right quality of bites to make a run at this. I’m
not catching any groups of fish; I’m head hunting loners.”
Mah’s strategy served him well as he began his day with a pair of fish in the 3-pound
class. Adding a 4 gave him a strategic mental advantage.
“I had good quality fish that I didn’t need to cull, so it allowed me to continue fishing big,”
Finishing his limit with one in the 5-pound class and one around 6, Mah caught his fish
on a mix of presentations. He threw a topwater walking bait, a SPRO Rock Crawler
and a 5/8-ounce spinnerbait. He also punched a Big Bite Baits Yo Mama in the
confusion color with a G-Money punch skirt.
“One of the keys for me was throwing my spinnerbait on 20-pound Sunline Shooter
Fluorocarbon,” Mah said. “That abrasion resistance was important around (harsh
Austin Bonjour of Atascadero, Calif. held steady in the second-place spot in the Total
Weight standings with 35.44. After coming within 1/100-ounce of the Day-1 lead with
17.65, he added 17.79 and trails Mah by 1/3-pound.
“Consistency two days in a row came down to locking into a general area and fishing it,”
Bonjour said. “I’ve never been to this (fishery), so I guess I just got lucky. I figured out
something late on Day 1 and I was able to expand on it today.”
After anchoring his Day-1 bag with a pair of 4-pound smallmouth, Bonjour mirrored that
effort in the second round. Overall, Day 2 produced more fish and while, Bonjour said
he did a lot of junk fishing, he ultimately did most of his work with one reaction bait and
one finesse bait.
“I fished my reaction bait on an iRod 703 Gabe’s Riprap Special rod with Seaguar
fluorocarbon and I used an iRod Air for the finesse bait,” Bonjour said.
Rounding out the top-5 are Ish Monroe with 33.33, Matthew Nadeau with 32.83 and
Day-1 leader Hayden Lee with 32.18.
Christian Ostrander of Turlock, Calif. leads the Most Scorable Bass Division with 138.
After catching 16 on Day 1, he recorded an astounding second-round total of 122.
“I got lucky and found a spot that was productive,” Ostrander said. “It was a bend in the
river with a big flat and some small patches of grass. The current was flying around the
edge and formed a little eddy. It was an ideal feeding scenario for prespawners.”
Ostrander, who won the Wild West Bass Trail’s Clear Lake event in March, caught his
fish on a Megabass Vision 110 jerkbait in a purple back shad color and a Norman
Deep Little N. The latter also produced on Day 1, but Ostrander had to switch colors for
the second day.
“Day 1, they liked the bright red craw color and today they only bit the brown craw,” he
said. “That actually made a difference because it was sunnier and calmer today.
“Yesterday, it was cloudy and windy, so they could pick up that red better in the lower
visibility. Today, maybe they were shying away from the red, but that brown was just
sliding through the rocks and sneaking up on them.”
Colby Pearson of Rogue River, Oregon remained in second place in the Most Scorable
Bass standings with 74. Taking this position on Day 1 with 40 keepers, he added 34 in
the second round.
After catching most of his Day-1 fish on a perch color 4.3 Keitech Swing Impact Fat on
a 1/4-ounce ball head, Pearson realized the fish needed a different look today. He found
the right looks with a 4-inch Megabass Hazedong in the ghost color and a 3-inch
Scottsboro swimbait in a minnow color.
“I fished the same area but, with the calmer conditions, the big school of perch that were
bunched up Day 1 were more spread out today,” Pearson explained. “I didn’t get as
many (multi-fish) spurts; it was more like three or four, then a little bit of a doldrum, then
three or four, then a little bit of a doldrum and then three or four.”
Pearson noted a key strategy point: “I only fished half of my cast. Halfway through my
cast, I’d reel in, because if I pulled that wolf pack of smallmouth all the way to the boat,
I’d only be able to catch one, but if I could keep them pinpointed where they were, I
could catch four or five at a time.”
Rounding out the top-5 are Scott Hellesen with 72, Ish Monroe with 65 and Thomas
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.
Anglers take off from the Port of Arlington on Saturday at safe light. Weigh ins are set
for 3 p.m. PST at the port.