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By STEVE MERLO, Contributing columnist
Each year, Bob's Bait Bucket, a local tackle shop, offers anglers a chance to win a few bucks by catching a good-sized fish. Each month during the summer, the shop holds a different derby: June is striped bass month; July is for catfish and August for carp. By simply signing up at the store before you fish and adding a dollar to an always-growing pot, anglers can then vie for the largest striper, catfish or carp in a winner-take-all game for that month. Bob's then adds a $100 to the kitty, spicing the winnings to make it even more lucrative for the fishermen.
Now, we're not talking thousands of dollars here, but more like several hundred for the lucky fisherman catching the month's winner, but still enough to garner bragging rights for the year, along with some decent cash. For instance, June's striper derby was won by Mike Luna with a 9.9-pound fish and $364. Not bad for a less-than- 10-pound catch.
Of course, when it comes to fishing, there's always an exception. Ask local fisherman Victor Jacquez, a die-hard catfish angler who basically creates his own luck by studying his prey. When he tired of catching aqueduct and Isabella catfish that usually weighed less than 10 pounds apiece, he started checking around for lakes that harbored some truly giant brute whiskerfish. He finally settled on the Buena Vista Aquatic recreation Area, where records indicate that some impressive blue catfish to nearly 80 pounds had been caught.
Jacquez wasn't disappointed, catching several fish to over 30 pounds before entering Bob's derby earlier this month. On Sunday, Jacquez, using cut bait, had one heckuva strike and, after a 25-minute fight, finally reeled in a 40-pound blue cat, a true monster in anyone's book. That's a bragging-size fish that immediately went right to the top of the derby and led to his winning the $307 pot Thursday. The next largest was a 14-pound aqueduct fish.
In a recent interview, Victor stated he normally uses 30-pound Power-Pro line and a shock leader of 40-pound Cajun Red monofilament along with a circle hook to catch his lunkers. While he prefers mackerel, he used cut sardine to entice the big one.
The blue catfish, once scattered over North America's eastern and southern states, has been transplanted at several locations in California, including most of the famed San Diego Lakes. Growing to weights in excess of 125 pounds and unlike his bottom-feeding cousins the channel, flathead and white catfishes, the blue prefers mid-lake depths, often suspending above the bottom and feeding on schools of live fish to survive. Planted into the Buena Vista complex in the mid-1970s before the lake opened, the fish has thrived, providing excellent table fare and sport for anglers willing to lean how to catch them.
Ron Petracek, an old fishing buddy, wrote to tell me about a neat little web page and forum he started for surf fishing nuts. Go to socalsurfrats.com to keep up with the latest in fishing from the state's sand and beaches.
Billed as a chance for shooters to get out and practice their shotgun skills for the opening day of dove season on Sept. 1, the Arvin Lions Club has put on a very successful sporting clay shoot over the past four years to raise money for its club's philanthropic activities. This year's fifth annual event will be Aug. 30 at the Kern County Gun Club. Cost for the event is $75 per shooter and includes refreshments and a tri-tip lunch. Winners can take home some great cash and prizes and a giant raffle will also be held for some incredible outdoor gear. Contact Kent Stenderup (661) 619-6260; Mark Newton (661) 213-6295; or the Kern County Gun Club for more information.
Tickets are still available for the 2nd annual Friends of the NRA fundraising banquet at 5 p.m. Sept. 13 at the Shafter Veteran's Hall. Live and silent auctions, special drawings, firearms, knives, art, ladies merchandise and even Charlie Daniels and Ted Nugent autographed guitars will be up for bid or raffle. Tickets are $50 and, since the event is limited in size, expect the event to sell out sooner than later. Contact Dennis (661) 809-7510; Mike (661) 319-7050; or Coleen (661) 331-5273 for more information.
It's definitely early, but since the event usually sells out more than a month in advance, the American Petroleum Institute has sponsorship and individual tickets now available for its huge fundraising sporting clay shoot to be held Oct. 3. The event will include lunch and raffles for guns and other fine prizes. Contact Jim Roberts (661) 805-5755; Debbie Caywood (661) 330-8740; or Dan Sliter (661) 343-2808 for more information.