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Western influences

3/30/2007

LAKEPORT, Calif. — To be successful in any occupation, the practitioner must possess the proper tools.

That's why Greg Gutierrez, Day One leader of the Golden State Shootout presented by Evan Williams Bourbon, believes West Coast angling techniques and lures have had such a tremendous influence on bass fishing.

"It's like being a mechanic," Gutierrez said. "If you went down and said, 'Hey, I'm a great mechanic. I've got a 9/16th and a half-inch wrench and I can fix your car.' Everything is good as long as your car is put together with half-inch and 9/16th.

"But that's not the case here. You pull your tools out and you work them."

Several techniques, including flipping, drop-shotting and finesse fishing, have come from the West. While the rest of the country has played catch-up in completing their tool boxes, Gutierrez and several other Elite anglers believe the influences come out of necessity. It's because of what they are working on.

"It mainly because we have such diverse water, yet what we do is so applicable across the country," Gutierrez said. "Now you have guys like Skeet (Reese) and Byron (Velvick) and Ish (Monroe) and Aaron (Martens), who have moved out there and done so well on the tour. Now, if you don't adapt, you don't win in this organization."

Any successful techniques and baits will be copied over and over until they are in everyone's toolbox, they say.

"It just starts in the West and works its way back," Monroe said. "That's how it's always been. I have several friends who are deckhands on boats in the saltwater and they come here in their off-season and fish for bass."

Velvick was one. He said working as a deckhand on a saltwater boat aided his bass career. He threw swimbaits for Calico bass and sand bass off the coast and carried that over to Clear Lake seven years ago when he set a three-day weight record.

"I think we grow up being real versatile as West Coast anglers," he said. "We grew up fishing a lot of different things. Guys are versatile out here."

The waters force thinking outside the box, the anglers say, and coming up with new tricks. Californian Dee Thomas, a 2007 inductee into the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame, is known as the father of flipping. He introduced it while winning the 1975 Bull Shoals BASS Invitational.

"I think the first thing that played a part in bass fishing was Dee Thomas," Reese said. "He revolutionized bass fishing. There's guys who made their careers off flipping, Tommy Biffle, Denny Brauer. They've won so much money in tournaments just flipping."

Gutierrez called it tulle dipping, or taking line in your hand and placing the lure down into the grass in hopes a lunker is hunkered down inside.

"Dee Thomas comes out here and just kills everyone," he said. "Now everybody's a flipper, but it started here."

The clear water of lakes in the Golden State also presented problems, but anglers went out and solved them, finding ways to get the high-pressured bass to bite.

"We clear-water guys have to be a little more creative," Velvick said. "These fish see a lot. The regular crankbait, what they fish all day long back East, doesn't get it out here.

"We had to think of a better way to catch those fish. The big baits for me, and you had to come up with a different technique"

With an assist from Japan, drop-shotting, where a weight tied below the lure allows it to flutter just off the bottom, became a regular bass technique. It was the same for finesse fishing, using light line and spinning rods to better entice the highly pressured fish.

"Drop-shotting and all that finesse stuff, they say it came from Japan, but no one ever used it for bass fishing," Gutierrez said. "Those boys back east didn't know a spinning rod until a couple years ago, and now they're out there buying high-tech spinning rods. It's got to be in their arsenal."

The west's clear water also better allowed anglers to see bass on beds, spawning more sight fishing, Monroe said.

"A lot of things started in Japan," he said. "And we're closer to Japan, and so they started bringing it here to California and it moved back East."

The latest and greatest trend taken from the West is the enormous swimbaits, which often even baffle the westerners.

"Who'd have thunk about throwing a hunk of plastic out there the size of a dad gum tennis shoe? And that's a small one," Gutierrez said. "Throwing a swimbait, they just have to do it now."

Gutierrez said BASS until recently hadn't ventured out west consistently, so some of the influences are just now being recognized and filtering through the ranks.

"The West Coast really has done a lot to grow the sport of fishing," Reese said. "I think western culture as a whole is more open-minded. They're more open. It's not always good. But everything we've learned about fishing out here has rolled over to the whole country."

Just filling out the toolbox.

Editors Note: ESPNOutdoors.com's new and exclusive pre-game show, Hooked Up, will start at 6 p.m. (ET) on Sunday, April 1. It will be hosted by ESPN2 Bassmaster television hosts Tommy Sanders and Jerry McKinnis, and can be seen in the same location on ESPNOutdoors.com where the live video weigh-in is streamed.

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