Fishing Report: Neal’s split-shotting pays off again

Entwined in Saturday’s bass tournament at Nacimiento Lake was a déja vu experience for longtime competitors John White and Richard Neal.

The two men have squared off many times in tournaments over the years. White, 69, of San Luis Obispo, recalled a meeting nearly 30 years ago at Shasta Lake. He was a pro in what he remembered as a U.S. Bass Pro-Am event. On day two, White drew Neal as his amateur partner.

“I had some good fish going the day before, but my bite dried up,” White said. “Richard caught fish all day by split-shotting.”

Fast forward to Saturday during the U. S. Angler’s Choice tournament at Nacimiento Lake. Neal, the man White calls “a premier split-shot fisherman,” and teammate Jerry Waldrip of Bakersfield — Neal’s uncle — zoomed from one end of the angling spectrum to the other.

“We were zonked (blanked) in the first tournament in December,” said Neal, a 62-year-old truck salesman from Clovis. “It’s the first time that has happened in a long time. Last week, Jerry and I fished all day in 18 to 20 feet of water along a wall at the mouth of Las Tablas Cove. All 18 spotted bass we caught were by split-shotting. Fifteen of them were keepers.”

Their 8.57-pound limit meant a tournament win and a check of $2,985. Their margin of victory was 48-hundredths of a pound.

Meanwhile, White and partner Bobby Doss placed fifth with a 7.01-pound limit that paid $415.

“It’s been a while since we’ve been in the money,” White said.

After the tournament, White asked Neal about his split-shot tackle and Neal showed him. “In the realm of split-shotting, he’s as good as they come,” White said.

White had an ulterior motive. This weekend he’ll be back at Nacimiento Lake competing in an American Bass Pacific Coast tournament.

On Tuesday he and partner Steve Bereda practiced following Neal’s advice. “We struggled all day in a light rain and barely got a keeper,” White said. “Years ago when I fished with Conroy Oakley, I learned you’ve got to do your own thing. It’s what I’ll be doing Saturday.”

Angler’s Choice, Central Coast, Number of Fish, Weight, Winnings —1. Richard Neal, Clovis, Jerry Waldrip, Bakersfield, 5, 8.57 pounds, $2,985; 2. Greg Enns, Mike McCrossen, Bakersfield, 5, 8.09 pounds, $1,015; 3. Jason Letterman, Salinas, Ken Restani, King City, 4, 7.23 pounds, $1,180; 4. Darrin Bishop, Paso Robles, Del Bishop, Templeton, 5, 7.07 pounds, $525; 5. Bobby Doss, Santa Maria, John White, San Luis Obispo, 5, 7.01 pounds, $415; 6. Dan Frazier, Arroyo Grande, David Frazier, 3, 6.83 pounds, $1,080; 7. Roger Haas, Morro Bay, Jerry Williams, Porterville, 5, 6.52 pounds, $200 8. Dusty Kahler, Atascadero, 5, 6.28 pounds; 9. Aaron Quarles, San Luis Obispo, Sal Rocha, Arroyo Grande, 5, 5.72 pounds; 10. Jason Newby, Mike Stiles, Bakersfield, 5, 5.57 pounds.1st Big Fish, 3.69 pounds, Frazier & Frazier, $800; 2nd Big Fish, 2.87 pounds, Letterman & Restani, $450. Virg’s Landing

Weather permitting, whale-watching trips are scheduled for Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 9:30 a.m. to noon each day. The fares are adults, $39; children 15 and under, $29. In the planning stage are Humboldt Squid fishing trips. For more information or reservations, call 772-1222. Nacimiento Lake

The American Bass Pacific Coast Region 2010 tournament series begins here Saturday. Tournament Director Bobby Doss may be reached at 973-1056 or 680-3180. Patriot Sportfishing

A whale-watching trip is schedule for Saturday from 10 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Fares are adults, $35; children age 4-12, $15; children 3 and under, $10. Reservations appreciated. Call 595-7200. Combination crab and sanddab fishing trips will be offered at the end of February. Lopez Lake

Smallmouth bass are being caught in the fingers of the lake beyond the dam. Marina manager Jerry Weatherly said crappie limits are being recorded beyond the dam.

In the absence of trout plants, purchases of fishing licenses are way off. “I’ve sold less than 40 licenses. Under ordinary circumstances I would have sold 160 to 180,” Weatherly said. Cachuma Lake

The marina office remains closed. There will be an Angler’s Choice, Southern California Region 2 bass tournament Saturday. For more information, call tournament director Jim Reyes at 933-1271 or 901-4064.