By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor

Last week's victory at the Lake Oroville Western EverStart was particularly satisfying for Ryan Friend. Not only was it easily the most significant triumph of his career to date, but he also made some of the equipment that helped him achieve it.

The 34-year-old service manager for a family-owned RV dealership lives in Oroville, Calif. and is on the lake for 80-plus days a year. He made the right adjustments when weather and water conditions changed dramatically just prior to the event and won by nearly 4 pounds – an immense margin on the foothill impoundment best known for harboring millions of similar-sized spotted bass.



He entered the final day in 2nd place – 4 ounces out of the lead – and then caught a 13-pound sack topped by a 4 1/4-pounder that he enticed in the closing minutes. His 3-day total of 37-05 topped runner-up and two-time Western EverStart winner Jeff Michels by 3-15.

Here's how he did it.

Practice

Friend said he started catching quality fish at Oroville just about the same time that the New Year was ushered in.

"We had a lot of storms come through and the lake rose 40-plus feet in December," he said. "The water got real dirty, and then things started to stabilize and it cleared up quite a bit.

"I think those fish got shell-shocked. When it got so dirty, they had to get shallow and just hold onto something – they didn't know which way was up. Then when things cleared up they could continue on with their winter migration routes and do what they usually do."

The bite was red-hot for a couple of weeks prior to tournament week, but then a spate of extremely cold weather arrived, followed by some unseasonably warm days that persisted throughout the tournament. Connecting with quality fish was anything but easy by the time the event got under way.

"I think a lot of what happened was those fish that had moved up pushed back into the creek channels and they were pretty easy to catch for awhile. Then the pressure and boat traffic took its toll over a week or two and they shut down. Historically, (Oroville) is a lake that just can't handle a lot of pressure like that.

"There were some decent fish shallow (down to 15 feet) and some that were deep (40 feet and below), but not much in between. You had to pick one or the other, and the first thing I did was I decided I was going to fish shallow."

Competition

> Day 1: 5, 12-08
> Day 2: 5, 11-13
> Day 3: 5, 13-00
> Total = 15, 37-05

Friend focused on an area known as "the slot" – a narrow stretch between the lake's main body and the West Branch, and also on the West Branch itself. Much of the field disdained the latter option because of the long idle required to pass through a major marina that's laden with dozens of moored houseboats.

He worked steep rock walls during the early portion of each day, and then moved to boulder-strewn flats once the sun got high. Most of his weigh-in fish came from 10 o'clock on and he brought one to the scale each day that was 3 1/2 pounds or better.

"I caught fish in a lot of the same places I'd been catching them (earlier in the month)," he said. "I had enough confidence in those spots to really slow down and work them thoroughly, and that can be hard to do when you're not getting bit.

"You couldn't catch them like you could 2 or 3 weeks ago, but they were still there and there were times in the day when they would turn on for 10 or 15 minutes and you could catch them real good."

FLW/Gary Mortensen
Photo: FLW/Gary Mortensen

Friend weighed one fish each day that went 3 1/2 pounds or better.

He would've won even without the biggest fish he caught on the final day, which bit about 20 minutes prior to weigh-in. It was the third time that day he'd visited that locale.

"I found that spot in practice and I fished it multiple times, but I never could get bit until the afternoon hours. It was just a point and there was really nothing special about it. But for whatever reason, the fish didn’t move up on it until later in the day.

"That fish took me from 10 3/4 pounds to 13, and when I had 10 3/4 I didn't think I had a chance. As it turned out I would've barely won, but I would've had no confidence going to the scales.

"I fish that lake a lot, and I don't get 3 1/2-pounders to bite every time I go," he continued. "To do it 3 days in a row in a tournament was unbelievable."

Gear Notes

> Jig gear: 7'6" medium-action homemade spinning rod (St. Croix blank), Pflueger President spinning reel, 6-pound Sunline FC Sniper fluorocarbon line, 1/8- or 3/16-ounce homemade finesse jig (green).

> He fished the jig without a trailer. "I opted not to use one because that water was cold enough (43 to 45 degrees) that I didn't want a lot of movement," he said.

The Bottom Line

> Main factor in his success – "Honestly, I'd say a lot of it had to do with local knowledge – there were a fair number of locals who did well. When the fishing got tough, it really helped me out because I felt like I didn't have to waste a lot of time. Other guys burned up half a day trying to figure something out."

> Performance edge – "Probably the most important thing was the jig I was using. I've tweaked it and dinked around with it a little bit and it seems to be something the fish haven't seen much of."

Much of the tackle referenced above is available at the BassFan Store. To browse the selection, click here..

Final Standings

1. Ryan Friend -- Oroville, Ca -- 12-08 (5) -- 11-13 (5) -- 24-05 (10) -- 13-00 (5) -- 37-05 (15) -- $32,841 + Boat

2. Jeff Michels -- Lakehead, Ca -- 13-05 (5) -- 10-10 (5) -- 23-15 (10) -- 9-07 (5) -- 33-06 (15) -- $12,315

3. Brett Leber -- Dixon, Ca -- 10-05 (5) -- 10-08 (5) -- 20-13 (10) -- 12-03 (5) -- 33-00 (15) -- $8,210

4. Wayne Breazeale -- Kelseyville, Ca -- 12-05 (5) -- 12-04 (5) -- 24-09 (10) -- 7-12 (5) -- 32-05 (15) -- $7,389

5. Richard Dobyns -- Yuba City, Ca -- 12-08 (5) -- 10-05 (5) -- 22-13 (10) -- 9-06 (5) -- 32-03 (15) -- $6,568

6. John Maes -- Roseville, Ca -- 10-06 (5) -- 10-06 (5) -- 20-12 (10) -- 11-00 (5) -- 31-12 (15) -- $5,747

7. Cody Meyer -- Auburn, Ca -- 10-15 (5) -- 11-05 (5) -- 22-04 (10) -- 7-15 (5) -- 30-03 (15) -- $4,926

8. Alax Parker -- Oroville, Ca -- 11-04 (5) -- 10-00 (5) -- 21-04 (10) -- 8-15 (5) -- 30-03 (15) -- $4,105

9. Jason Borofka -- Salinas, Ca -- 11-00 (5) -- 9-09 (5) -- 20-09 (10) -- 9-08 (5) -- 30-01 (15) -- $3,284

10. Glen Lockhart -- Biggs, Ca -- 13-00 (5) -- 7-08 (5) -- 20-08 (10) -- 7-13 (5) -- 28-05 (15) -- $2,463

The following anglers did not make the cut and did not fish on day 3.

11. Tony Rainey -- Yuba City, Ca -- 11-15 (5) -- 8-09 (5) -- 20-08 (10) -- $2,053

12. Joe Uribe Jr. -- Lake Forest, Ca -- 9-10 (5) -- 10-11 (5) -- 20-05 (10) -- $2,053

13. Keith Rakoncza -- La Grange, Ca -- 10-09 (5) -- 9-12 (5) -- 20-05 (10) -- $2,053

14. Keith Kitchen -- Bend, Or -- 10-06 (5) -- 9-11 (5) -- 20-01 (10) -- $2,053

15. Robert Lee -- Angels Camp, Ca -- 10-01 (5) -- 9-15 (5) -- 20-00 (10) -- $2,053

16. John McClellan -- Oroville, Ca -- 9-09 (5) -- 10-06 (5) -- 19-15 (10) -- $1,642

17. Mike Folkestad -- Orange, Ca -- 11-00 (5) -- 8-14 (5) -- 19-14 (10) -- $1,642

18. Robert Wysong -- Hauser, Id -- 10-04 (5) -- 9-10 (5) -- 19-14 (10) -- $1,642

19. Brian Carnahan -- Flagstaff, Az -- 9-10 (5) -- 10-01 (5) -- 19-11 (10) -- $1,642

20. Ricky Shabazz -- Rialto, Ca -- 9-08 (5) -- 9-15 (5) -- 19-07 (10) -- $1,642

21. Dugan McIntosh -- Palermo, Ca -- 8-02 (5) -- 11-04 (5) -- 19-06 (10) -- $1,232

22. Phil Strader -- Glide, Or -- 8-15 (5) -- 10-06 (5) -- 19-05 (10) -- $1,232

23. Mike Saso -- Elk Grove, Ca -- 8-01 (5) -- 11-02 (5) -- 19-03 (10) -- $1,232

24. Brand Little -- Grass Valley, Ca -- 8-07 (5) -- 10-08 (5) -- 18-15 (10)

25. Chris Laskowski -- Antelope, Ca -- 10-00 (5) -- 8-15 (5) -- 18-15 (10)

26. Michael Wright -- Grass Valley, Ca -- 9-10 (5) -- 9-03 (5) -- 18-13 (10)

27. Jim Hawkes -- Apache Junction, Az -- 7-14 (5) -- 10-14 (5) -- 18-12 (10)

28. John Fuqua -- Oxnard, Ca -- 10-01 (5) -- 8-09 (5) -- 18-10 (10)

29. Stephen Tosh Jr -- Turlock, Ca -- 8-13 (5) -- 9-12 (5) -- 18-09 (10)

30. Eric Norlin -- Corona, Ca -- 9-06 (5) -- 9-00 (5) -- 18-06 (10)

31. Miles Howe -- San Clemente, Ca -- 9-01 (5) -- 9-02 (5) -- 18-03 (10)

32. Jim Novotny -- Shingle Springs, Ca -- 9-07 (5) -- 8-10 (5) -- 18-01 (10)

33. Jimmy Reese -- Witter Springs, Ca -- 9-04 (5) -- 8-13 (5) -- 18-01 (10)

34. Jason Milligan -- Shasta Lake, Ca -- 10-01 (5) -- 7-13 (5) -- 17-14 (10)

35. Randy Doyle -- Redding, Ca -- 9-02 (5) -- 8-10 (5) -- 17-12 (10)

36. Mike Menne -- Cottonwood, Ca -- 8-13 (5) -- 8-14 (5) -- 17-11 (10)

37. Gary Dobyns -- Yuba City, Ca -- 8-06 (5) -- 9-04 (5) -- 17-10 (10)

38. Mark Borges -- Lodi, Ca -- 8-08 (5) -- 9-02 (5) -- 17-10 (10)

39. Nick Welton -- Galt, Ca -- 6-15 (5) -- 10-07 (5) -- 17-06 (10)

40. Mike Nichelini -- Napa, Ca -- 6-15 (5) -- 10-06 (5) -- 17-05 (10)

41. Owen Thatcher -- Yuba City, Ca -- 10-15 (5) -- 6-05 (5) -- 17-04 (10)

42. Phil Burgess -- Kerman, Ca -- 9-01 (5) -- 8-03 (5) -- 17-04 (10)

43. Bill Spence -- Livermore, Ca -- 9-09 (5) -- 7-10 (5) -- 17-03 (10)

44. Mark Mendez -- Brentwood, Ca -- 9-11 (5) -- 7-07 (5) -- 17-02 (10)

45. Kevin Moore -- Reno, Nv -- 8-12 (5) -- 8-06 (5) -- 17-02 (10)

46. Shane Peirson -- Citrus Heights, Ca -- 7-13 (5) -- 9-04 (5) -- 17-01 (10)

47. Andy Scholz -- Reno, Nv -- 8-15 (5) -- 8-00 (5) -- 16-15 (10)

48. Dan Wells -- Elk Grove, Ca -- 8-10 (5) -- 8-03 (5) -- 16-13 (10)

49. Steve Klein -- Oroville, Ca -- 9-07 (5) -- 7-04 (5) -- 16-11 (10)

50. Greg Gutierrez -- Red Bluff, Ca -- 7-15 (5) -- 8-12 (5) -- 16-11 (10)

51. Duane Dunstone -- Reno, Nv -- 8-01 (5) -- 8-10 (5) -- 16-11 (10)

52. Aaron Lesieur -- Rancho Murieta, Ca -- 7-08 (5) -- 9-02 (5) -- 16-10 (10)

53. David Valdivia -- Norwalk, Ca -- 9-00 (5) -- 7-10 (5) -- 16-10 (10)

54. Howard Hughes -- Redding, Ca -- 7-07 (5) -- 9-02 (5) -- 16-09 (10)

55. Tuan Nguyen -- Woodland, Ca -- 8-03 (5) -- 8-05 (5) -- 16-08 (10)

56. Chad Martin -- Nicolaus, Ca -- 8-14 (5) -- 7-09 (5) -- 16-07 (10)

57. Russ Barger -- Boise, Id -- 8-10 (5) -- 7-13 (5) -- 16-07 (10)

58. Clay Lippincott -- Goodear, Az -- 7-12 (5) -- 8-10 (5) -- 16-06 (10)

59. Sean Kimble -- San Ramon, Ca -- 8-08 (5) -- 7-13 (5) -- 16-05 (10)

60. Roy Hawk -- Salt Lake City, Ut -- 8-01 (5) -- 8-02 (5) -- 16-03 (10)

61. Dean McDaniel -- Sacramento, Ca -- 7-07 (5) -- 8-11 (5) -- 16-02 (10)

62. Keith Beever -- Mission Viejo, Ca -- 6-10 (4) -- 9-06 (5) -- 16-00 (9)

63. Kevin Cornwell -- Sacramento, Ca -- 9-02 (5) -- 6-14 (5) -- 16-00 (10)

64. Michael Tuck -- Granite Bay, Ca -- 7-00 (5) -- 9-00 (5) -- 16-00 (10)

65. Nick Wood -- Yreka, Ca -- 7-13 (5) -- 8-01 (5) -- 15-14 (10)

66. Steve Consalvi -- Eureka, Ca -- 9-09 (5) -- 6-04 (5) -- 15-13 (10)

67. Jerred Jennings -- Stockton, Ca -- 8-05 (5) -- 7-08 (5) -- 15-13 (10)

67. Kazuki Kodama -- Torrance, Ca -- 8-05 (5) -- 7-08 (5) -- 15-13 (10)

69. Bret Gouvea -- Redding, Ca -- 8-03 (5) -- 7-08 (5) -- 15-11 (10)

70. Kent Brown -- Roseville, Ca -- 7-14 (5) -- 7-13 (5) -- 15-11 (10)

71. Jonathon Bradford -- Sacramento, Ca -- 7-03 (5) -- 8-07 (5) -- 15-10 (10)

72. Garrett Charter -- Arbuckle, Ca -- 7-00 (5) -- 8-09 (5) -- 15-09 (10)

73. Jesse Martin -- Auburn, Ca -- 7-15 (5) -- 7-09 (5) -- 15-08 (10)

74. Steven Cook -- Phoenix, Az -- 8-11 (5) -- 6-11 (5) -- 15-06 (10)

74. Oscar Delgadillo -- Whittier, Ca -- 8-11 (5) -- 6-11 (5) -- 15-06 (10)

76. Roy Jones -- Henderson, Nv -- 8-05 (5) -- 6-13 (5) -- 15-02 (10)

77. Willie Church -- Cottonwood, Ca -- 8-04 (5) -- 6-14 (5) -- 15-02 (10)

78. Preston Henson -- Vacaville, Ca -- 7-06 (5) -- 7-12 (5) -- 15-02 (10)

79. Zack Thompson -- Alameda, Ca -- 7-11 (5) -- 7-07 (5) -- 15-02 (10)

80. JR Wright -- Truckee, Ca -- 7-10 (5) -- 7-07 (5) -- 15-01 (10)

81. Corey Fenske -- Granite Bay, Ca -- 8-07 (5) -- 6-09 (5) -- 15-00 (10)

82. Keith Tripp -- Cottonwood, Ca -- 7-04 (5) -- 7-12 (5) -- 15-00 (10)

83. Matt Newman -- Agoura Hills, Ca -- 7-04 (5) -- 7-09 (5) -- 14-13 (10)

84. Dan Frost -- Shasta Lake, Ca -- 8-15 (5) -- 5-11 (4) -- 14-10 (9)

85. James Avalos -- Yuba City, Ca -- 6-15 (5) -- 7-09 (5) -- 14-08 (10)

86. Aaron Britt -- Yuba City, Ca -- 6-12 (5) -- 7-11 (5) -- 14-07 (10)

87. Doug McKa -- Olivehurst, Ca -- 7-05 (5) -- 7-02 (5) -- 14-07 (10)

88. Klayton Belden -- El Cajon, Ca -- 7-15 (5) -- 6-07 (5) -- 14-06 (10)

89. David Kemper -- Tempe, Az -- 9-03 (5) -- 5-01 (4) -- 14-04 (9)

90. Jon Griffith -- Mesa, Az -- 7-03 (5) -- 7-01 (5) -- 14-04 (10)

91. Jason Fookes -- Redding, Ca -- 7-10 (5) -- 6-07 (5) -- 14-01 (10)

92. Jim Moulton -- Merced, Ca -- 8-10 (5) -- 5-06 (4) -- 14-00 (9)

93. Robert Chikasawa -- Sacramento, Ca -- 6-08 (5) -- 7-05 (5) -- 13-13 (10)

94. Dave Nollar -- Redlands, Ca -- 7-14 (5) -- 5-13 (4) -- 13-11 (9)

95. Troy Lindner -- Los Angeles, Ca -- 6-05 (5) -- 7-05 (5) -- 13-10 (10)

96. Roger Fischer -- Castaic, Ca -- 7-02 (5) -- 6-01 (5) -- 13-03 (10)

97. Ed Arledge -- San Diego, Ca -- 7-04 (5) -- 5-14 (5) -- 13-02 (10)

98. Ronald Hammett -- La Mesa, Ca -- 6-12 (5) -- 6-03 (5) -- 12-15 (10)

99. Billy Hines -- Vacaville, Ca -- 6-12 (5) -- 5-11 (5) -- 12-07 (10)

100. Nicholas Fitzsimmons -- Lyle, Wa -- 6-01 (4) -- 6-02 (4) -- 12-03 (8)

101. Steve Mellow -- Cottonwood, Ca -- 8-10 (5) -- 3-07 (3) -- 12-01 (8)

102. Joshua Rhodes -- Lakeside, Ca -- 6-03 (5) -- 5-10 (5) -- 11-13 (10)

103. Aaron Cole -- Salida, Ca -- 4-02 (3) -- 7-06 (5) -- 11-08 (8)

104. Donald Gage -- Brent Wood, Ca -- 6-06 (5) -- 4-14 (5) -- 11-04 (10)

105. Brian Nollar -- Homer, Ak -- 6-01 (5) -- 5-02 (4) -- 11-03 (9)

106. Chester Baxter -- Glendale, Az -- 2-06 (2) -- 7-01 (5) -- 9-07 (7)

107. Bryant Smith -- Castro Valley, Ca -- 8-12 (5) -- 0-00 (0) -- 8-12 (5)

108. Mike Stiles -- Bakersfield, Ca -- 8-03 (5) -- 0-00 (0) -- 8-03 (5)

109. Melvin Williams -- Chula Vista, Ca -- 2-11 (2) -- 5-08 (4) -- 8-03 (6)

110. Justin Kerr -- Simi Valley, Ca -- 7-11 (5) -- 0-00 (0) -- 7-11 (5)

111. Aaron P. Leon -- Henderson, Nv -- 6-12 (5) -- 0-00 (0) -- 6-12 (5)

112. Maurice Miller II -- Cerritos, Ca -- 5-15 (4) -- 0-00 (0) -- 5-15 (4)

113. Jeff Erickson -- Phoenix, Az -- 4-13 (3) -- 0-00 (0) -- 4-13 (3)

114. Paul Durbin -- Mendocino, Ca -- 3-02 (2) -- 0-00 (0) -- 3-02 (2)

115. Garrett Dixon -- Durham, Ca -- 1-02 (1) -- 0-00 (0) -- 1-02 (1)

Big Bass

> Day 1: Glen Lockhart -- 4-08 -- $230
> Day 2: Dugan McIntosh -- 4-15 -- $230