After enjoying a quick adult beverage, we moved our luggage into our rooms and assembled our tackle on the back patio where Dean was already hard at work providing topshots for anyone interested. Next, Jonah broke out a cachet of lures for everyone to try consisting of cranks to topwater baits to paddletail swimbaits. And we thought Cal brought a lot of gear!
Dean helps Bill load his reel with some Toray braided line.
Bill and Bob took this opportunity to give us a lay of the land and how the operation works. They collected our information so one of them could run out to get our fishing licenses while the other explained who would be riding with whom the next day. The plan was to rise for breakfast at 5:00am, leave the house by 6:00am for the five minute drive to the ramp and then return to the house at 6:00pm for dinner. Lunch would be packed and ready for us on the boats along with a cooler of water and Gatorade for during the day. The weather forecast was for temperatures into the mid and upper 90’s for each day we were to be on the water.
Bob takes a breather from hosting to enjoy the tackle feeding fest on the patio.
The bite in recent weeks had been on plastics and baits had to be presented tight into cover with the predominate cover type being submerged trees and shrubs. “Watch out for the alligator brush,” warned Bob, referring to a native plant most likely a species of the genus Lycium which are characterized by a tangled web of spiny branches. “It’ll tear up your line,” he continued.
Bob and Bill planned a steak dinner for us on the first night.
Day 1: Boat pairings for the first day would find Jonah and Justin fishing with Bob, Dean fishing with Bill, and JIP and Cal flying solo in their own boat. Packed and ready to go, we departed for the launch ramp where there was a line – all of two boats in front of us. The ramp on El Novillo is operated by one man who is granted the responsibility for the period of one year after which the operation is transferred to someone else. It is run like a valet service where you get in line, hop in your boat, and you’re driven down the ramp and launched onto the lake. Upon your return, your truck and trailer are driven back down the ramp where you drive onto the trailer with your boat, and the operator hooks you up and takes you back to the top of the ramp.
We launch at grey light.
Once launched, the three of us took off in the same direction to an area of the lake known better for the size of the fish than numbers. We discussed strategies for the day and took off in different directions staying within eyesight of one another. Cal quickly discovered Bob’s “alligator bush” as one such submerged shrub snapped up his Deps DC-400. JIP had better luck starting off the day with a nice two pounder on his third cast a lipless crank by Excalibur. It was game on.
All loaded and ready to go!
Or so we thought. Throughout the day, just as we thought we had the bite figured out, it would change. Hard baits were certainly not the answer today, and the only consistency we could find was with plastics – worms and Senkos. For us, however, it wasn’t just about catching the fish, it was about catching them our way so we could put our collection of gear to the test.
On day one, JIP and Cal fly solo on El Novillo Lake.
Speaking of gear, joining us on this trip were rods from E21, Airrus, Phenix, Dobyns Rods, Lucky Craft, Damiki, Mattlures, and Quantum. Reels were represented by products from Shimano, Daiwa, Quantum, and Abu Garcia, and our list of product from crankbait manufacturers included Damiki, Deps, Rapala, Norman, CLU, Excalibur, Lucky Craft, Megabass, Luhr Jensen, Jackall, and more. We carried with us no shortage of product for testing at El Novillo Lake.
Sunrise over the mountains.
Day one ended with a little over twenty fish in the boat for JIP and Cal, and better numbers for the other two boats, but reports were that it was an unusually slow day all around. The weather forecast called for a warming trend the next two days, so we were hopeful things would pick up.
Locals refer to this as alligator brush... we called it dragon bush!
Back at the house, Dean asked again if anyone wanted topshots and after seeing and losing some baits those alligator bushes (renamed dragon bushes by Jonah), Cal asked Dean to set him up relinquishing his Shimano Chronarch D, 50th Anniversary Zillion, Revo SX, and Quantum Tour Edition PT reels (all members of the developing, high speed reel shootout) to Dean for some superTTuned leaders.
Fernando puts us on fish on Day 2 and doubles were common.
Day 2, time to bring out the Cranks