California's Lake Oroville is home to a huge population of spotted bass, and they're relatively easy to catch at this time of year. Size is a big issue, though it can seem as if every fish that breaks the surface with a hook in its mouth were churned out from the same 13-inch mold.

Tournaments can be a pure numbers game as anglers go through one clone keeper after another in an attempt to cull up an ounce or 2 at a time, all the while praying for one lucky bite from a 4-pounder that can mean the difference between victory and a mediocre finish. Occasionally such bites come from a Florida-strain largemouth, but the blacks are badly outnumbered by the spots.

Dave Rush lives just 15 minutes from the lake in Palermo and fishes it an average of 30 to 40 times a year. He prepared for

last week's Oroville Western Stren with the thought that it might take as much as 13 pounds a day to win, but by the time practice was over he knew the number would be considerably lower than that.

He averaged just under 10 pounds en route to the victory his 29-08 total over 3 days eclipsed Bassmaster Elite Series pro Ish Monroe by 4 ounces. Two other anglers also finished within half a pound.

He surpassed the 10-pound mark just once when he weighed 10-02 on day 2. The key was that nobody in the Top 10 reached double digits on day 3, and his 9-10 bag (the day's best) was enough to push him from 4th place to the top.

Here's how he did it.

Practice

A series of strong spring storms had raised the lake's level about 12 feet as the tournament approached. Prior to that, the bite had been generally hot.

"That screwed everything up," Rush said. "Before that there were lots of spots spawning and they were real protective, and the blacks had showed up (on the beds) and guys were mugging them around pretty good, too.

"Then we got that influx of cold, high water. The largemouths pulled off and a lot of the spots turned into post-spawn rather than spawn, and the spawners got tough to catch."

His original 13-pounds-a-day idea had been formed with the notion of bags that contained one hefty bed-fish. As day 1 drew near, he realized that such fish would be very difficult to come by.

"I looked around during practice and only found a couple of good-quality fish up. And there weren't a lot locked on they were just up there cruising. That caused me to change gears a little bit.

"You could go down any bank and catch a million fish, and that clued me in that the spots had already done their (spawning) thing. I had to turn around and look outward to try to figure out where the 'posties' were wanting to hang out. I figured they'd be in deeper water or on vertical structure, and that's how I approached the tournament."

Competition

> Day 1: 5, 9-12
> Day 2: 5, 10-02
> Day 3: 5, 9-10
> Total = 15, 29-08

Rush opted to take a conservative gameplan into the event. He was confident he could get 10 pounds a day, and that might hold up unless somebody got onto the bed-fish.

"I knew some guys would go for sight-fish no matter what because a 4- or 5-pounder could win them the tournament," he said. "I really wasn't on the spawners that good, so I played a conservative game and took my chances.

"With everything in flux the way it was and being on the backside of a full moon, I knew there wouldn't be waves of largemouths coming to the bank, and I took some solace that my plan could possibly work. If the weights continually dropped off, then maybe I could do it without getting a big bite."

He came up a quarter-pound shy of his target weight on day 1 and landed in 9th place. He spent the majority of the day dropshotting or throwing a Yum Mega Tube, but under the warm, bright conditions, he couldn't resist the urge to look around for bedding largemouths. He failed to find any that were worth fishing for.

For reasons unknown to him, the bite got tougher on day 2.

"It took a bit to get that 10 pounds and I didn't go for sight-fish at all that day. I had to just grind it out."

His 19-14 total for 2 days put him in 4th place at the cut, but he was just 13 ounces behind leader and fellow local Jason Bubier. Between them lurked the ever-dangerous Monroe and perennial Western Stren Angler of the Year contender Michael Tuck.

"I really had to grind to catch that bag on the last day. I spent an hour and a half to 2 hours looking for sight-fish in the middle of the day, but it wasn't really happening and I went back to the post-spawners.

"It slicked off and got flat, and that's what made me go look for a little bit. If I hadn't burned that time, I probably could have culled another fish and brought in 10 pounds. I really felt bad for my co-angler (Ken Whalen) because I took him out of the game for all that time, and he ended up finishing 2nd by less than a pound."

Prior to the final weigh-in, he assumed that three fish he'd broken off over the first 2 days would prevent him from winning.

"It was a case of not being smart I'd catch a couple of rats and I wouldn't re-tie, and it was nobody's fault by my own. I slapped myself around a little after I lost the one on the second day and decided I was going to re-tie, and I never lost another fish after that."



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Photo: BassFan Store

Prizm Krawler is one of three colors of Roboworms that Rush used at Oroville.

Winning Gear Notes

> Dropshot gear: 7'1" medium-light Powell 701 rod, Shimano Chronarch casting reel (7:1), 6-pound P-Line fluorocarbon line, 3/16-ounce Bite-Me Jigs lead dropshot weight, size 1 Gamakatsu dropshot hook, 4" or 6" Roboworm Straight Tail worm (krawler, prizm krawler or prizm perch).

> Tube gear: 7'3" medium-action Powell 732 rod, Shimano Stradic spinning reel, same line, 3/16-ounce unnamed jighead, 4" Yum Garrett Mega Tube (natural shad or green-pumpkin).

> Most of his bites came from depths between 15 and 30 feet. He focused on points that were between the spawning areas and the main body of the lake.

> He fished the dropshot rig in areas with vegetation (to keep the bait above the weeds) and the tube in places that were devoid of plant life.

> A Yum Dinger (natural shad or green-pumpkin) produced a few fish for him from the backs of creeks, where the water had some color.

> He fished the bigger worm under the low-light conditions of early morning and switched to the smaller one at mid-day when the sun got high. He said his selection of worm colors covered both crayfish and sculpin.

> "I tried a jig, hoping the bulkier look would draw a bigger bite, but those post-spawners were finicky and it didn't happen. I also threw reaction baits and topwaters, but nothing happened there, either."

> He went through 20 to 40 keepers per day and caught about the same number of short fish.

The Bottom Line

> Main factor in his success "Coming to the realization that the majority of the spots had already spawned."

> Performance edge "My Humminbird 788. I could literally mark those fish on the bottom, and then fall back and catch them. I'd swing out wide on a point, maybe 50 to 100 yards off the bank, and I could see just blankets of fish. Then it was just a waiting game until they'd go toward the bank to feed."

Notable

> Rush is sponsored by Team North American (a marketing group), Ranger, Mercury, Capitol City Marine, Humminbird, Minn Kota, Powell Rods, Robbie Gordon Off-Road Racing, Power-Pole, Roboworm, P-Line and Gamakatsu.

> The win was his second in an FLW Outdoors event the first came at a BFL at Lake Shasta in 2000.

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

Final Standings

Field = 109 boats

1. David Rush -- Palermo, Ca -- 5, 9-12 -- 5, 10-02 -- 10, 19-14 -- 5, 9-10 -- 15, 29-08 -- $16,716 + boat

2. Ishama Monroe -- Hughson, Ca -- 5, 11-10 -- 5, 8-12 -- 10, 20-06 -- 5, 8-14 -- 15, 29-04 -- $6,687

3. Jason Bubier -- Oroville, Ca -- 5, 10-10 -- 5, 10-01 -- 10, 20-11 -- 5, 8-07 -- 15, 29-02 -- $5,349

4. Michael Tuck -- Antelope, Ca -- 5, 10-15 -- 5, 9-10 -- 10, 20-09 -- 5, 8-08 -- 15, 29-01 -- $4,681

5. Jeff Michels -- Lakehead, Ca -- 5, 10-07 -- 5, 8-12 -- 10, 19-03 -- 5, 9-03 -- 15, 28-06 -- $4,012

6. Dusty Kahler -- Atascadero, Ca -- 5, 11-00 -- 5, 8-04 -- 10, 19-04 -- 5, 8-11 -- 15, 27-15 -- $3,678

7. Charlie Weyer -- West Hills, Ca -- 5, 9-09 -- 5, 9-13 -- 10, 19-06 -- 5, 7-15 -- 15, 27-05 -- $3,343

8. Cody Meyer -- Redding, Ca -- 5, 9-05 -- 5, 9-13 -- 10, 19-02 -- 5, 7-15 -- 15, 27-01 -- $3,009

9. Duane Dunstone -- Reno, Nv -- 5, 8-01 -- 5, 11-11 -- 10, 19-12 -- 5, 7-00 -- 15, 26-12 -- $2,675

10. Kurt Walters -- Grand Junction, Co -- 5, 8-06 -- 5, 10-12 -- 10, 19-02 -- 5, 7-02 -- 15, 26-04 -- $2,340

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

11. Garrett Charter -- Arbuckle, Ca -- 5, 8-10 -- 5, 10-00 -- 10, 18-10 -- $2,006

12. Ricky Shabazz -- Rialto, Ca -- 5, 8-10 -- 5, 9-14 -- 10, 18-08 -- $2,006

13. Brody Bramlett -- Kelseyville, Ca -- 5, 10-10 -- 5, 7-11 -- 10, 18-05 -- $2,006

14. John Fuqua -- Port Hueneme, Ca -- 5, 9-00 -- 5, 9-05 -- 10, 18-05 -- $2,006

15. Robert Lee -- Angels Camp, Ca -- 5, 9-07 -- 5, 8-10 -- 10, 18-01 -- $2,006

16. David Valdivia -- Norwalk, Ca -- 5, 9-03 -- 5, 8-14 -- 10, 18-01 -- $1,672

17. RJ Bennett -- Roseville, Ca -- 5, 9-02 -- 5, 8-14 -- 10, 18-00 -- $1,672

18. Dugan McIntosh -- Palermo, Ca -- 5, 9-11 -- 5, 8-04 -- 10, 17-15 -- $1,672

19. Rob Dearmond -- Redding, Ca -- 5, 9-03 -- 5, 8-12 -- 10, 17-15 -- $1,672

20. Shawn Milligan -- Roseville, Ca -- 5, 8-10 -- 5, 9-04 -- 10, 17-14 -- $1,672

21. Jason Milligan -- Anderson, Ca -- 5, 7-11 -- 5, 10-02 -- 10, 17-13 -- $1,337

22. Richard Forhan -- Oroville, Ca -- 5, 9-11 -- 5, 8-02 -- 10, 17-13 -- $1,337

23. Zach Heitz -- Yuba City, Ca -- 5, 9-03 -- 5, 8-08 -- 10, 17-11 -- $1,337

24. Howard Hughes -- Redding, Ca -- 5, 8-05 -- 5, 9-05 -- 10, 17-10 -- $1,337

25. Keith Bryan -- Novato, Ca -- 5, 9-06 -- 5, 8-03 -- 10, 17-09 -- $1,337

26. Jim Davis -- Plumas Lake, Ca -- 5, 9-00 -- 5, 8-08 -- 10, 17-08 -- $1,003

27. Michael Wright -- Grass Valley, Ca -- 5, 8-09 -- 5, 8-15 -- 10, 17-08 -- $1,003

28. George Galletti -- Martinez, Ca -- 5, 9-08 -- 5, 7-15 -- 10, 17-07

29. Russ Barger -- Boise, Id -- 5, 7-15 -- 5, 9-07 -- 10, 17-06

30. Clay Lippincott -- Goodyear, Az -- 5, 8-03 -- 5, 9-03 -- 10, 17-06

31. Jeff Billings -- Clearlake, Ca -- 5, 8-11 -- 5, 8-11 -- 10, 17-06

32. Russell Schmidt -- Martinez, Ca -- 5, 8-15 -- 5, 8-06 -- 10, 17-05

33. Wayne Hinrichs -- Novato, Ca -- 5, 8-14 -- 5, 8-06 -- 10, 17-04

34. Tony Rainey -- Yuba City, Ca -- 5, 9-01 -- 5, 8-01 -- 10, 17-02

35. Colby Knowles -- Magalia, Ca -- 5, 8-14 -- 5, 8-01 -- 10, 16-15

36. Chad Hulbert -- Gilroy, Ca -- 5, 8-13 -- 5, 8-02 -- 10, 16-15

37. Ken Sauret -- Paso Robles, Ca -- 5, 8-07 -- 5, 8-06 -- 10, 16-13

38. Mike Folkestad -- Orange, Ca -- 5, 8-12 -- 5, 8-00 -- 10, 16-12

39. Mark Lassagne -- Martinez, Ca -- 5, 7-13 -- 5, 8-14 -- 10, 16-11

40. John Maes -- Roseville, Ca -- 5, 8-08 -- 5, 8-03 -- 10, 16-11

41. Steve Biechman -- Redding, Ca -- 5, 8-06 -- 5, 8-05 -- 10, 16-11

42. Chad Martin -- Plumas Lake, Ca -- 5, 8-02 -- 5, 8-08 -- 10, 16-10

43. Ryan German -- Fairfield, Ca -- 5, 8-10 -- 5, 7-15 -- 10, 16-09

44. Troy Lindner -- Los Angeles, Ca -- 5, 8-15 -- 5, 7-08 -- 10, 16-07

45. Richard Smith -- Discovery Bay, Ca -- 5, 7-15 -- 5, 8-07 -- 10, 16-06

46. Steve Adams -- Discovery Bay, Ca -- 5, 7-15 -- 5, 8-07 -- 10, 16-06

47. Sean Minderman -- Spokane, Wa -- 5, 8-02 -- 5, 8-04 -- 10, 16-06

48. Ken Phillips -- Antioch, Ca -- 5, 8-06 -- 5, 7-15 -- 10, 16-05

49. Aaron Coleman -- Oakland, Ca -- 5, 8-05 -- 5, 8-00 -- 10, 16-05

50. Tony Peterson -- Livermore, Ca -- 5, 9-00 -- 5, 7-04 -- 10, 16-04

51. James Miller -- Tucson, Az -- 5, 7-09 -- 5, 8-11 -- 10, 16-04

52. Vince Hurtado -- Modesto, Ca -- 5, 8-04 -- 5, 7-15 -- 10, 16-03

53. Taylor Thompson -- Half Moon Bay, Ca -- 5, 6-14 -- 5, 9-03 -- 10, 16-01

54. Mathew Saavedra -- Redding, Ca -- 5, 7-04 -- 5, 8-11 -- 10, 15-15

55. Dave Russell -- Cottonwood, Ca -- 5, 7-13 -- 5, 8-02 -- 10, 15-15

56. Robert Faaborg -- Ramona, Ca -- 5, 8-01 -- 5, 7-14 -- 10, 15-15

57. Steve Klein -- Oroville, Ca -- 5, 7-07 -- 5, 8-06 -- 10, 15-13

58. Philip Garcia -- Yuba City, Ca -- 5, 7-08 -- 5, 8-05 -- 10, 15-13

59. Rick Kendrick -- Sacramento, Ca -- 5, 7-11 -- 5, 8-02 -- 10, 15-13

60. Steve Ericksen -- San Jose, Ca -- 5, 8-06 -- 5, 7-06 -- 10, 15-12

61. Ron Bettiga -- Windsor, Ca -- 5, 8-00 -- 5, 7-12 -- 10, 15-12

62. Oscar Delgadillo -- Whittier, Ca -- 5, 6-10 -- 5, 8-15 -- 10, 15-09

63. Steve Lowe -- Norwalk, Ca -- 5, 7-05 -- 5, 8-04 -- 10, 15-09

64. Richard Dobyns -- Yuba City, Ca -- 5, 7-13 -- 5, 7-12 -- 10, 15-09

65. Rick Hillis -- Cave Creek, Az -- 5, 8-01 -- 5, 7-07 -- 10, 15-08

66. Glen Lockhart -- Biggs, Ca -- 5, 7-12 -- 5, 7-12 -- 10, 15-08

67. Ron Johnson -- Chandler, Az -- 5, 6-10 -- 5, 8-13 -- 10, 15-07

68. Zack Thompson -- Orinda, Ca -- 5, 6-13 -- 5, 8-10 -- 10, 15-07

69. Scott Mackenzie -- Hercules, Ca -- 5, 8-07 -- 5, 7-00 -- 10, 15-07

70. Mike O'Shea -- Livermore, Ca -- 5, 8-02 -- 5, 7-05 -- 10, 15-07

71. David Erwin -- San Jose, Ca -- 5, 7-06 -- 5, 8-01 -- 10, 15-07

72. Kenneth Mee -- Madera, Ca -- 5, 8-05 -- 5, 7-00 -- 10, 15-05

73. Chad Leblanc -- Sutter, Ca -- 5, 7-07 -- 5, 7-14 -- 10, 15-05

74. Louis Fernandes -- Nipomo, Ca -- 5, 8-06 -- 5, 6-13 -- 10, 15-03

75. Jim Elsea -- Clovis, Ca -- 5, 7-13 -- 5, 7-06 -- 10, 15-03

76. Jim Novotny -- Shingle Springs, Ca -- 5, 7-08 -- 5, 7-11 -- 10, 15-03

77. Gino Campiotti -- Manteca, Ca -- 5, 7-09 -- 5, 7-10 -- 10, 15-03

78. Murph McBride -- Pioche, Nv -- 5, 7-12 -- 5, 7-05 -- 10, 15-01

79. Benjamin Byrd -- Moab, Ut -- 5, 6-15 -- 5, 7-14 -- 10, 14-13

80. Mike Tobey -- Vacaville, Ca -- 5, 6-08 -- 5, 8-03 -- 10, 14-11

81. Edward J Schneider Jr -- Stockton, Ca -- 5, 7-15 -- 5, 6-12 -- 10, 14-11

82. Edward Cummings -- Oro Valley, Az -- 5, 7-07 -- 5, 7-04 -- 10, 14-11

83. JR Taylor -- Madera, Ca -- 5, 7-06 -- 5, 7-04 -- 10, 14-10

84. Roy J. Jones -- Henderson, Nv -- 5, 7-13 -- 5, 6-12 -- 10, 14-09

85. Gregory Halliman -- Littlerock, Ca -- 5, 7-02 -- 5, 7-06 -- 10, 14-08

86. Kent Brown -- Roseville, Ca -- 5, 7-04 -- 5, 7-03 -- 10, 14-07

87. Mark Casey -- Fairfield, Ca -- 5, 7-01 -- 5, 7-05 -- 10, 14-06

88. Matt Newman -- Agoura Hills, Ca -- 5, 6-10 -- 5, 7-10 -- 10, 14-04

89. Roy Hawk -- Salt Lake City, Ut -- 5, 7-03 -- 5, 7-01 -- 10, 14-04

90. Don Welch -- Morgan Hill, Ca -- 5, 7-08 -- 5, 6-11 -- 10, 14-03

91. Gene Gray -- Atascadero, Ca -- 5, 7-01 -- 5, 6-14 -- 10, 13-15

92. Leroy Bertolero -- El Macero, Ca -- 5, 6-10 -- 5, 7-04 -- 10, 13-14

93. Mike Lavallee -- Sandy, Ut -- 5, 6-06 -- 5, 7-04 -- 10, 13-10

94. Keith Kitchen -- Bend, Or -- 5, 6-04 -- 5, 7-04 -- 10, 13-08

95. Joel Marshall -- Los Banos, Ca -- 5, 6-12 -- 5, 6-12 -- 10, 13-08

96. Tommy Cardoza -- Lakeport, Ca -- 5, 6-15 -- 5, 6-07 -- 10, 13-06

97. Albert Azevedo -- Turlock, Ca -- 5, 7-06 -- 5, 5-15 -- 10, 13-05

98. Don Gage -- Brentwood, Ca -- 5, 6-08 -- 5, 6-12 -- 10, 13-04

99. Frank Ono -- Roseville, Ca -- 5, 7-14 -- 4, 5-03 -- 9, 13-01

100. Don McBride -- Phoenix, Az -- 5, 6-08 -- 5, 6-09 -- 10, 13-01

101. Dewey Auten Jr -- Fresno, Ca -- 5, 6-13 -- 5, 6-00 -- 10, 12-13

102. Nick Salvucci -- San Miguel, Ca -- 3, 4-11 -- 5, 8-00 -- 8, 12-11

103. Jim Giancola -- San Juan Bautista, Ca -- 5, 6-04 -- 5, 5-11 -- 10, 11-15

104. Kenneth Roa -- Antioch, Ca -- 4, 5-09 -- 4, 5-11 -- 8, 11-04

105. Tony Marsh -- Chino Valley, Az -- 5, 6-09 -- 3, 4-04 -- 8, 10-13

106. Neil Campbell -- Fallbrook, Ca -- 5, 7-04 -- 2, 3-01 -- 7, 10-05

107. Wade Curtiss -- Lincoln, Ca -- 5, 7-13 -- 5, 1-12 -- 10, 9-09

108. Corey Fenske -- Granite Bay, Ca -- 5, 7-02 -- 0, 0-00 -- 5, 7-02

109. Eugene Hooker -- Kennewick, Wa -- 3, 5-07 -- 1, 1-09 -- 4, 7-00

Big Bass

Day 2: Duane Dunstone -- Reno, Nv -- 5-11 -- $245
Day 1: Brody Bramlett -- Kelseyville, Ca -- 4-01 -- $245