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The Fishing Report: Bass biting just fine for Lipanovich

Courtesy of the

Napa Valley Register

  • Two Hands Luke? … Yep, local angler Luke Lipanovich with his two fists full of fish caused me to flash on the 1969 film, “Cool Hands Luke,” that produced an Academy Award for Paul Newman.Luke is my favorite young fisherman. He is an accomplished angler – but more than that, he has been a fishing ambassador for local teen youth. One of his projects, back in 2015, was demonstrating casting methods at the “Day at the Farm” event at Napa Valley Expo. I like his versatility – tops at a one-man sport as well as a very good high school baseball and football teammate when he starred for Vintage High School.

    Testaments to his angling skills are clear in these two photos – two hands full of chunky bass from Berryessa plus a 7-pound brute he fooled with a jig at Hennessey. Just to sharpen this focus, the word around the docks is that “bass fishing ain’t very good right now.” Guess Luke didn’t get the word.

    Local Lakes … Well, I can’t tell you Luke’s top secret spots – or else he’ll kill me with a 36-inch H&B, right in the dugout. But I can tell you the lures he likes to throw right now: find a deep rock pile and drag a jig through it. That’s how Luke caught the 7-pound beauty. Drop shots will work in this situation too. Gotta have a moving bait in shallow water, like swim baits, ’Bama rigs, and LV 500 Cranks.

    Napa River … has gotten a fair amount of muddy water in the past week. I’m hoping to hear of a solid sturgeon bite developing – post me at Remember, right now you want to rig for both sturgeon and stripers when you fish on the river. Best to learn the right baits and a “secret” honey hole or two from the guys at Sweeney’s Sports on Imola (255-5544).

    California Delta … Look at these nice results from the 12th Annual Diamond Classic Catch and Release Sturgeon Derby out of Martinez Marina last weekend: 152 youth anglers joined 460 adult participants. Kids have always been a key component of this “no kill” derby. The 40 spots for kids on the pier were almost always full. Raffles of rod/reel combos and loaded tackle boxes kept their energy up. One future star caught and released 11 fish by himself, then helped others get hooked up.

    Meanwhile on the adults’ side, Tim Bowman won $4,025 for first place, Matt Johnson scored $2,875 for second, and Scott Morris pocketed $2,300 for third. See for more.

    North Coast Rivers … steelheading can get good fast as waters drop into the “steely green” depths where those silver bullets won’t be scared of your line. This is a give and take with Mother Nature that old-time steelhead anglers know so well. Big rains taketh away, but short, rocky streams like the Smith can giveth back the next day as they clear quickly – and move back into shape. For the Smith that’s a stage (depth) of 9 to 11 feet with a flow of 8,000-10,000 cubic feet per second.

    Dave Hurley’s Monday Hot Sheet said some guides were scoring three steelies a trip. Those are solid numbers – and when added to the absolute beauty of that river channel drift, tell me it is God’s Country. Try it; call my river guide of 24 years, Kevin Brock at 800 995-5543. Tell him Ryan sent you. Don’t wait too long; you’ll want to try for a February booking for prime action.

    Fish Don’t Like surprises … In my more that 50 years of fishing, it has seemed evident to me that fish like their lives to be predictable – without surprises. Mother Nature is disrupting them right now. This unseasonably warm weather and water temperatures in January and February are already confusing them. For example, some black bass seem to be staging for a spawn – weeks before the typical time for this region.

    Ella Fitzgerald sang it best in her show-stopping rendition of “Too Darn Hot” from Cole Porter’s “Kiss Me Kate.” Forecasts of 79 degrees here this weekend tell the story – it‘s too darn hot. We need a quick cool-down with some seasonal temperatures and two 2-inch rainfalls by the end of February.

    Meanwhile, readers, please pass on your own observations of an early spring and changes it makes to normal animal behaviors. Send them, along with pix, to

    Wish List … from Field and Stream? I have been a keen reader of F&S ever since my Uncle Joe passed on his well-thumbed copies to me back in Rhode Island when I was 10. Their February/March 2018 issue tells us of some neat new fishing gear that they liked best from the latest 2018 collections.

    In case you missed someone’s holiday list and need to catch up, here are the ones I would pick to get started on a happy fishing career: St. Croix Legend Glass rods (, Shimano Exsence spinning reel (, Trapper Tackle Treble Hooks (, Gerber Magnipliers (, Live Target Baitball Spinner Rig (, Terminator Walking Frog Jr (, Optimum Baby Boom Swim bait (, Columbia PFG Force 12 Insulated Jacket (, Filson Duffle Pack (, and last but not least, a cool portable sonar, Humminbird Helix G2 PT (

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