Lopez Lake fishing tournament winners find a little magic

The winners of last Saturday’s American Bass Pacific Coast Region tournament at Lopez Lake labeled it “A Magical Day.”

It was their initial venture as a team into tournament bass fishing and there were some hiccups. For starters they forgot their net, a discovery they realized while launching the boat.

“That omission made things interesting each time we caught a fish,” team captain Tai Martin groaned. They were one of the last boats out in the 26-team field. “Everybody else made a right-hand turn and headed for the Wittenberg and Lopez Arms. “Paul (Douglas) and I made a left-hand turn into the Arroyo Grande Arm where I caught a 4-plus pounder right away on a ripbait,” Martin said.

The duo had three practice sessions spread over a couple of weeks, and found eight areas where they caught fish. But Tai, a Pismo Beach commercial realtor, became concerned after getting just three bites the Wednesday prior to the event.

“We figured it would be a tough bite and it was. The bass were super lethargic and when they bit it was really soft and there wasn’t any fight in them.”

Stop No. 2 was at the other end of the lake deep into the Lopez Arm. Tai employed 3⁄8-ounce Brown Skinny Bear jigs the rest of the day. Douglas worked 1⁄2-ounce jigs that he’d given his personal touch. The team’s 9 a.m. bounty was a 31⁄2-pound bass retrieved from 15 feet of water.

A main lake bank was their next playground. Two fish were slowly cranked up from 25 to 40 feet of water. The catches were an hour apart around noontime. One of them, a 2-pounder, died in the live well. Tournament rules forbid culling dead fish.

Douglas, a 41-year-old Santa Barbara radiologist, caught the team’s last two fish around 2 p.m. Prior to catching the second one, the team culled a 31⁄2-pound largemouth. That made room for the team’s biggest catch of the day, a 4.24-pounder. Only 52 bass were caught in the tournament and it was the sixth heaviest.

Martin, 51, said, “I wanted to break in my new boat right. So far, so good.”

He had purchased a 2004 Champion boat three weeks prior.

After the 0.20-pound penalty for the dead fish had been assessed, their catch weighed 18.67 pounds and was worth $2,355. It was Martin’s second triumph in a little over a month. He placed first in the California Bass Team qualifying tournament at Nacimiento Lake in early November.

Bassmaster Elite pro Jared Lintner and Nick Salvucci placed second, just 2.02 pounds back.

“There are some really good sticks (bass fishermen) hereabouts,” said Martin, who is returning to tournament bass fishing after a hiatus of 18 years while he and his wife were raising an 18-year-old daughter and a son who is a sophomore at Arroyo Grande high school.

Tai reeled off the names of Dale Ball, Darrin Bishop, John White, Steve Bereda, Damon Meeks and Lintner as the “good sticks” he was referring to. “Jared is a class act. He shook our hands and congratulated us after the tournament. That put the capper on a magical day for us.”

ABA Pacific Region (Top 10, No. Fish, Wt., Winnings)

1. Tai Martin, Pismo Beach, Paul Douglas, Santa Barbara, 5, 18.67 pounds, $2,355; 2. Nick Salvucci, San Miguel, Jared Linter, Arroyo Grande, 5, 16.65 pounds, $1,014; 3. Fred Ledesma, Jose Canchola, Soledad, 4, 12.98 pounds, $686; 4. John White, San Luis Obispo, Steve Bereda, Santa Margarita, 3, 10.93 pounds, $375; 5. Doug Chessmore, Andy Joughin, Santa Barbara, 4, 10.91 pounds, $325; 6. Jim Slusher, Atascadero, Ken Sauret, Paso Robles, 2, 9.39 pounds, $705; 7. Stanley Beebe, San Luis Obispo, Andrew Levy, Grover Beach, 3, 8.41 pounds, $225; 8. Scott Lamberton, Santa Maria, John Flynn, Buellton, 3, 8.27 pounds, $225; 9. Brad Shepherd, Clark Endres, Atascadero, 2, 5.51 pounds; 10. John Beckett, Bakersfield, Chris Beckett, Ventura, 2, 5.38 pounds, $125.1st Big Fish, 5.99 pounds, Mark Scribner, Pismo Beach, Graham Grove, Atascadero, $375; 2nd Big Fish, 5.86 pounds, Slusher & Sauret, $225; 3rd Big Fish, 5.01 pounds, Erik Zillig, Cambria, Tim Vaughan, Los Osos, $150.

More gift ideas

And now here are more gift ideas for the outdoors people on your Christmas list and where to get them:

Jim’s Pro Bass Tackle, 1034 17th St., Paso Robles. Store hours are 8 a.m.-6 p.m. Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. They have Viberator chatter or buzz baits, $5.99; Smith Smash swimbaits $15 a package; Mend-It soft bait glue, 1⁄2-ounce $7, 1 oz. $12; Bac Rac rod storage system for back seat anglers, $89; Dobyns fishing rods, $169 and up.

The Outdoorsman, 1618 W. Grand Ave., Grover Beach. Store hours are 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Tuesday-Friday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday. They have turkey, quail and varmint calls, turkey decoys, $12-$50; Browning knife and light combo, $25; personal protection aides, Pepper Spray and Tasers, $10-$250; all gun safes ($100 off) priced from $800 and up.

Lopez Lake Marina. Hours are 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Monday-Thursday, 7 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 7 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday. You can get summer clothing, swim suits, footware, and some fishing tackle, 25 to 50 percent off.

Virg’s Landing, 1215 Embarcadero, Morro Bay. Hours are 8 a.m.-3 p.m. daily. They have 2011 fishing and hunting licenses; Kershaw knives on sale $39.99; gift certificates; wide variety of fishing tackle; rods and reels $39.99-$200; sweatshirts, $38-$40; T- shirts $20-$23; hats, $16. Reel repair service.

Patriot Sportfishing, Pier 3, Port San Luis, Avila Beach. Hours are 9 a.m.-5 p.m. daily. You can buy 2011 fishing and hunting licenses; gift certificates; 2 oz.-6 oz leadhead jigs, $5.75-$9.50; swimbaits $1.25; Jax jigs $5.25-$7; assorted tackle, wide range of rods and reels; shirts, $16; sweatshirts $34; hats, $16. Check out the online store at patriotsportfishing.com.