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Anita Carrier of Bakersfield caught this 4.05-pound smallmouth bass recently while fishing with her husband Richard at Lake Lopez near Arroyo Grande. A few minutes later she hooked and landed a 3.5-pound largemouth.

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Steve Merlo

Excellent fishing greeted 15 two-person Golden Empire Bass Club teams at a recent Lake Lopez bass tournament. With 14 of the 15 teams weighing in five-fish limits, anglers had a field day catching numerous bass all over the Central Coast lake located near Arroyo Grande.

When the scales finally closed, locals Aarron Quarles and Mark Weitting convincingly took home first-place honors with a 20.47-pound limit, anchoring their weight with a 5.09-pound largemouth. They received $570 for their efforts.

In second place, Mike and Sara Maddox recorded a decent 18.14-pound stringer to win $300, besting the third-place team of Dan Barrios and Casey Lang by nearly 1.5 pounds. Barrios and Lang pocketed $200, while Richard Carrier and Kevin Van Dees nailed a beautiful 5.23-pound bucketmouth and $420 for reeling in the biggest bass of the tourney.

The G.E.B.C.'s next tournament will be April 19 at Pyramid Lake. The Golden Empire Bass Club, which meets every month, next will meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday, at Rusty's Pizza at Ming Avenue and Ashe Road. The public is invited to join the oldest fishing club in Bakersfield and have a great time making lasting friendships, having fun and vying against other local fishermen under tournament conditions.

Last week's column, devoted to promoting the outstanding crappie fishing at Lake Isabella, hit a bit of a snag when water temperatures on Wednesday and Thursday suddenly fell several degrees into the mid-50s. The lake level also dropped a foot during the time period, and the combination of both drove the hoards of black crappie in the shallows back out to deep water, at least temporarily. Unfortunately, this killed most of the easy weekend angling I wrote about in my column.

On Thursday, my wife, Candy, and I ventured up to the Kern River Valley impoundment and only caught 10 pre-spawn males over a 3-hour span. On Friday, fishing with two friends, we managed to double that amount during the same total hours on the water, so things seemed to be improving. Still, our success had fallen off by more than 50 percent from the week before, but luckily we didn't give up.

By Tuesday of this week during the brief warming trend, the surface temp began creeping back into the high 50s, and a lot of staging fish began moving back toward the shallows. Two friends and I hit them about right that day, catching 31 giant papermouths on minnows and small Nibble-tipped jigs in the 6- to 7-foot zones. We also caught three nice channel cats to 11 pounds and a single wayward rainbow that must have been lost before committing piscatorial suicide. Shore fishermen were once again loading stringers with the giant slabs while we were there, but the hiccup in this week's cooler, rainy weather may send the fish packing once again.

I've also been hearing that some brazen anglers have been spending the night fishing from shore with lantern lights ablaze, drawing some decent cats and crappie into very shallow water using live minnows about 3 feet beneath a bobber. I'm happy they're being successful, but you ain't gonna catch this old country boy freezing off his behind just to catch a few "sac-o-lait" no matter how good they taste.

Time to start making derby plans

Fred Roach, president of the Kern River Valley Chamber of Commerce, promotional director George Stahl, co-chair Elaine Roach and a host of local volunteers are busy preparing for the 25th Annual Isabella Lake Fishing Derby set for April 12-14.

"Our biggest problem," Fred Roach said in a recent interview "is getting people to understand that we have plenty of water in the lake. For some reason, a lot of people think the lake is dry. Nothing could be further from the truth."

Even at only 10 percent of capacity, Isabella Lake remains one of the largest lakes in Southern and Central California, and there will be plenty of angler elbow room and plenty of trout to tangle with when the Derby begins.

This year, the Chamber did not raise its own fish in lake nets as before, and instead is purchasing the fish from a Northern California-based trout farm. These larger trout, in the 1-1.5-pound range, will be the base for all tagged rainbows to keep predation by birds and other fish down to a manageable figure. Also, the Department of Fish and Wildlife will plant several large loads of very catchable fish just prior to the Derby's start, so the number of fish swimming in the lake will be quite high.

With over $100,000 in cash and prizes on the line, the event is expected to live up to its reputation as the world's largest trout derby. Included in the total is a tagged trout worth $25,000 to some lucky fisherman.