| Welcome to The California Delta. You are in for one heck of an experience on this River system out here. The big thing to keep in mind is the Delta fishes shallow like many of the impoundments we have in the southern portions of the United States. 8-12 feet is considered deep on the Delta. We have very large and power fish on the River. Toss in the wide variety of cover, obstructions, rocks, tulles, barges and such, you need to be prepared and come west with stout equipment.
Under most conditions, you should bring nothing less than 15# test line for plastics, cranks and topwaters and 20#+ test for blades, jigs, froggin and buzzers. I personally only use 20# & 25# Sugoi Fluorocarbon line. The fluorocarbon with it's low stretch, high sensitivity and low abrasion resistance will out perform any line on this river. With the exception, I would highly recommend one reel spooled with heavy braid in the event ya do some froggin. Also the Dropshot has become more popular in use on the delta, so a spinning rod with 17-30 pound braid can be seen in the hands of many Delta anglers all summer.
As for rods, leave the light stuff at home! There truly is no place for light tackle on the Delta. 6'6" & 7' heavy and Medium heavy action rods are required. You'll also wanna bring a couple of glass rods for potential crankin and blade bites. A 7'6" telescopic flippen stick is a must on the river during this time. And to complete your arsenal, a 6'6"- 7' spinning rod..
As for baits, well, many varieties of baits are now working on the River through out the summer. Plastics are always productive. I highly recommend that ya keep it simple, there's no need to carry a wide variety of colors. The most productive colors for plastics are Junebug (All purples, Margurita Mutilator is an old favorite of many anglers, especially those who dropshot), earth tone browns, watermelon reds and a small variety of shad patterns. Both the 5.25" Yamamoto 9 series and the 4" 9S are most productive at this time of year. The Senko bite is not near as good as in the spring, but it does still catch fish at this time of year. Don't overlook "whacky " riggin these baits! You only need a couple of colors 021, 194, 208, 301, 297, and the 925 special. T-rigged plastics are next and you only need a few baits at this time of year. Zooms 4" & 6" brush hogs, a 6" Iovinno Spade worm, 4 & 5" Reapers or a Yamamoto's Kreature. That's it, keep it simple. I prefer to use a little more weight than in the spring. A bullet sinker of 3/16 to 3/8oz is more than enough. Finishing out this rig I use a RED! glass bead (Very important!).
For cranks, Red craw is a MUST! Chrome and fire Tigers are the back ups. Lipless cranks, especially the 1/4 oz Rattle Trap in Shad patterns will draw strikes from large numbers of schooling bass feeding on the ever present shad.
No trip onto this river system can be made without a jig! It is my number one bait out here and will produce the kind of bags in a day that most guys dream of. Again, I can't emphasize enough ta keep it very simple. Black jigs & brown jigs, period. Ya don't need ta git into all the fancy colored jigs. Two trailers are required, either a plastic chunk or frog, or a 5" Yamamoto single tail grub in 164, 209 or 213. I strictly use the grub trailer as it is the perfect bait to imitate the gills and various bream that are swarming the shallows now building their own nests. These gills are primary summer forage for the larger River bass.
Spinnerbaits are simple, 1/2 & 3/4 oz double willows. Either white or chartreuse or a combo of these two colors. Sometimes if'n yer in stained water a few strands of either orange or blue with these two will make a difference. Sometimes at this time of year, tossing a pink or Red blade will produce when no other blade colors will.
And, by far the most productive bite on the River through out this time is TOPWATER! We could write an entire book of topwater fishing on the Delta. Just about any selection of baits will work. Often times, the fish git conditioned, showing them something different on top, can provide that extra special secrete bite that no one else git's on. Prop baits, Jitterbugs, Spooks and Johnson Spoons are a couple of old time favorites that work out here when the typical top water bite shuts off.
By far, the most exciting and popular topwater bite is the "Frog" bite. The delta is full of grass and "Cheese" as we call it, that form great canopies and mats that these bass love ta hang under and bust through for an easy meal. Open water frogging around the tulles and vast cover and docks work well later during the heat of the day. Buzzbaits will catch fish al day long. Stick with black! Sometimes adding red to the bait is helpful, as well as a buzzbait with some flashy mylar strands in the skirt. Ya want a buzzer that has a high pitch squeak and or a clacker prop. Have a red buzzer as a back up! And last is the popper! This bait can and does produce fish all day long. Look for calmer waters and the shad cruising along the weedlines. Short subtle bloops are best. Do not fish this bait fast! When you see the small shad, take note of the smallish bass that are feeding on them. You will very small ripples and rings around the bait, with the occasional "bloop" sound made by these fish as they chase and suck down the shad. This is what you're trying to imitate with that popper. All shad patterns will work. My three favorite baits are the Rico, Iovino Splashit and Yamamoto's Sugoi Slash. I only use one color, a white bottom with a chartreuse back. I will change out the rear tail at certain times to different color patterns to draw strikes when I think the fish are getting accustomed to one color. Tail feathers in white, chartreuse, Fire Tiger and orange/green are my choices.
You will have fish during the period of June through September, in a variety of post spawn/Summer patterns. Most of the really giant bass, those over 9 pounds, will be very difficult to catch. They are deep or buried under the thickest of mats. It's not uncommon to stick a post spawn double-digit male or female on topwater. The water color of the Delta will be greatly affected by the afternoon winds and the vast presence of recreation users. The far back protected areas of the large flooded islands will remain clear. As well as some of the cleaner water will be found in the central portion of the Delta from Franks to the train trestel at Orwood. The fish will be all over the shallows, especially those small bucks under two pounds. 15-25 fish days are normal, catching them above 2 pounds is the biggest challenge for most anglers. So don't git disapointed by the smaller size, this is all too typical at this time of year. Hang in there and enjoy the numbers!
Many times you will find fish off the bank in the big flooded islands, look for the pepper grass and cheese clumps out in the middle of nowhere. These areas may be as shallow as 2-3 feet on the low tide and 6-8 feet on a high tide. The topwater, blades, Senkos and T-rigged plastics are good with this pattern.
The rock levees with their mushroom clumped grass beds and deep water access, can be a strong pattern for that 3-5 pound class fish. Also in these rocky areas, look for the trough! This is the area between were the weed lines begin and the water line ends on the levee. The vast majority of the delta bass can be found and caught here all summer long, just don't expect to catch too many big fish, this is where most anglers fish all summer long. Also don't overlook the pipe/pump pattern on the rock levees. There are times when the fish will stack up on this cover during the summer.
Another great pattern are the deeper ledges and structure found off the banks. These can be points of islands where rock piles support a pylon, stair step like ledges along the rocky levees, edges or drops on tulle berms. And last, Tulle creek channels. These are the washed out openings found through out the system leading to and from a flooded island. These are basically just like a creek channel we'd find in our lakes. Water comes in and out of these paths to and from the flooded areas. The jig-n-grub or heavy T-rigged plastics excel here.
Docks! The Delta is full of them. I never met a bass that didn't like to hang around a dock. All summer long, the delta bass will use the cool shade and protection of the docks to lie in wait for an easy meal. It also gives them great comfort out of the current and a break from the bright light of the summer sun. Buzzbaits and Senkos fished along the outer edges and inside the slips work best early in the day. As the day wears on, flip jigs and plastics to the backs around the walk ways.
And last but not least, the weed lines. All summer long you will begin to find the shad moving in and about the outer edges of the weeds. It is here that they spawn right on the edges. Massive school of shad can be seen swimming around the edges of weeds. The bass are generally right below them. Poppers and buzzbaits early will draw strikes. The weightless 9S senko in 150 or on a Dropshot, allows you to put that bait below the school where the better fish are lying in wait for easy meals. And dropping a jig and grub down these weed lines will give those fish something different to look at drawing strikes from the real aggressive bigger fish.
Summer on the Delta is long and generally hot. Be prepared with sunscreen, protective eye wear and head gear. Stick to light colored clothing to keep your body temperature a cool as possible. Take lots of fluids, preferable water, or drinks such as Gatorade & Teas lacking heavy sugar. Be aware of your location, especially in the event you have a combined later afternoon turn of the tide from high to low and the north or west winds kick up. Put this in combination of the ever presence of large cruiser type yachts out there, getting back to your starting point can be dangerous and wet! If ya take yer kids, keep the life vest on em! I wanna see you take em fishing tomorrow too! And last but not least, for you tournament guys, take care of our fish! Make sure your live wells are running properly, check on those fish often, take some ice with ya ta help settl them down. The water temperature is gonna be above 75 degrees till September, these shallow fish will stress very easily.
Most of all, Enjoy the River folks & Keep a Tight Line!