Outdoor / Fishing

Thursday, Jul 03 2014 04:04 PM

STEVE MERLO: Locals Graddy, Gohr prevail in Isabella bass tournament

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    Rick Gohr, left, and Jim Graddy, proudly display part of their second-day catch, a 19-pounder, that propelled them to victory at a recent two-day Golden Empire Bass Club event ay Lake Isabella. The team weighed in 32.33-pounds to to take the victory.

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By STEVE MERLO, Contributing columnist

Great weather and good fishing provided Bakersfield's Golden Empire Bass Club with some decent stringers of bass at its two-day tournament over the weekend. When the smoke had cleared, Shafter's Jim Graddy and Bakersfield's Rick Gohr made the most of their final day stringer of nearly 19 pounds. With a two-day total weight of 32.33 pounds, the duo just edged the second place father-son team of Roy and Justin Neal by barely a pound.

Clayton Rogerson and Grant Byers, leading after Day 1, had to settle with 24.55-pounds and third place. However, the team managed to land the event's largest bass, an 8.36-pound beauty.

Bret Jordon and Troy Larsen finished fourth with 22.35-pounds and Duane Dalke and Kyle King finished fifth.

The Golden Empire Bass Club meets at Rusty's Pizza at Ming and Ashe on the first Tuesday of each month at 7 p.m. Anglers wanting to join and compete in a friendly bass tournament atmosphere are welcome to attend and get involved with Bakersfield's oldest fishing club.

Basic rifle class

Here's some great news for potential women and youth rifle shooting enthusiasts: Kern Shooting Sports will be offering a basic rifle Class for juniors 12 and older and women beginning in September. The class will meet the first Saturday of the month from September through March and the fees are only $50 per student to cover the costs.

Contact George Stillwill (661) 589-2348 or 319-2589. Kern Shooting Sports is expecting the classes to fill up early, so get registered now and get set to enjoy the wonderful, fun world of rifle shooting.

Rabbits galore?

Not this year, anyway. Along with other wildlife, the extended drought has also kept cottontail rabbits in check. When the season opened on July 1, I expected to see at least a decent crop of bunnies running around my old hunting haunts, but I was disappointed, to say the least, when two of us could only muster four rabbits with our air rifles on that first evening.

We eventually decided to just drive around and see what we could see and found the few we did see running like they had been shot at all year. Usually, the animals are very trusting on opening day, but that did not happen.

Most of them scampered and hopped away like they had been targeted day after day for a whole year. I'd like to think that most sportsmen understand that cottontail rabbits do have a season and cannot be shot from the end of January through June.

A current California hunting license is required to hunt them.

Isabella remains hot

Despite hot weather and occasional gusting winds, our little gem in the Kern River Valley, Isabella Lake, remains probably the best fishing lake in the state. I've been spending a lot of time up there and have found nothing but incredible action on whatever species I want to target. Catfish, crappie and bass have been in a real biting mood lately at most locations in and around the lake proper. With the lake already dropping back down from this year's 15- to 17-percent capacity to a 13 or 14, the fish remain congregated on any structure they can find.

The lake is far from empty, however, with deep water access for the gamefish found all over the lake. My friends and I have been catching lots of white catfish around shore cover and rocks in the 5-to- 9-foot levels using a slip bobber and live minnows to entice them.

The few channels we have caught lately are much deeper, with the whites spawning wherever there are rocks or riprap. Our catches have run from a low of 40 for three people on a bad day, to a high of 75 for the same number of fishermen on a good one.

Another fun surprise is the return of crappies to our livewells, with the papermouths hanging in the 10- to 15-foot ranges with some even shallower. Black-and-white jigs seem to work well, but we've had our best success using live minnows.

What's nice about the live bait is that one never knows what will bite his or her offering nest. For instance, I lucked into a 7-plus and a 5-plus largemouth in consecutive casts a few days back then followed it up with a 4-pound channel on the next. Yes, the fishing is that good, but one has to get an early start before the heat becomes unbearable.

Yearning for trout?

The Kern River remains an easy spot to catch a limit of rainbow trout as long as one stays above the lake. Bait and lure fishermen are catching a ton of planted trout from the Johnsondale Bridge down to Kernville, providing some non-stop action for trout-minded anglers.

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