California, here we come

California Delta, 2007 Gerald Crawford

The 2010 Bassmaster Elite Series gets going March 11 in Stockton, Calif., with one of the top challenges of the season for Elite pros: the four-day TroKar™ Duel in the Delta.

Elite anglers will compete on the California Delta for a $100,000 first-place prize, points toward qualifying for the Bassmaster Elite Series postseason and 2011 Bassmaster Classic, and the title to the first of eight tournaments of the Elite Series' fifth regular season.

Bassmaster.com will cover the event with daily analysis, photo galleries, standings and a real-time leaderboard. ESPN360.com will offer live, streaming video, and ESPN2 will recap the entire competition on the Sunday, March 28, edition of The Bassmasters at 10:30 a.m. ET. The episode will air again Saturday, April 17, at 10 a.m. ET.

Stockton, the state's 13th largest city and seat of San Joaquin County, is situated on the San Joaquin Delta Waterway — also known as the California Delta because the area forms a triangle with the three points being Sacramento, Stockton and Pittsburg, Calif. The Delta encompasses 1,000 miles of navigable, fishable water in a labyrinth of sloughs, canals, channels and islands, one factor that makes tournament fishing there so tough — and so good.

Spring fishing on the Delta always promises a show. In March 2007, a haul of 85 pounds, 12 ounces, was the total weight Aaron Martens of Leeds, Ala., brought to the scales to win when the Elite Series last stopped in Stockton. In April 1999, before Mark Tyler of Vian, Okla., became an Elite pro, he set a record that still stands today: the largest bass caught in a BASS competition, a 14-pound, 9-ounce Delta lunker.

BASS has been back to the Delta five times since 1999, but no one has duplicated Tyler's catch. Could this be the year?

"I believe it's going to be broken when we show up," said Ish Monroe of Hughson, Calif., a town in the Delta's backyard. "They actually had a 14-6 in a tournament here and a 14-9 caught the following week. This was in the last three weeks."

By tournament time of March 11-14, the water temperature is expected to heat up and the fishing with it.

"It's going to be prespawn and a little bit of spawn if the weather continues to be good," he said. "California's been getting a lot of rain, but it's been halfway decent warm weather, so the water is warming. When the water temperature gets to around 52, they start biting. When it's 54 to 56, they really start biting. When it gets to 58, it's going nuts.

"We're going to hit it perfect, conditions are going to be perfect," said Monroe, host of the ESPN2 minishow, Yo Ish!

He said a four-day weight above 80 pounds will be needed to take the win.

"I believe it's going to be a slugfest, most definitely" Monroe said.

The full Elite field will compete Thursday and Friday, with the top 47 advancing to Saturday's competition. Only the Top 12 will still be in the game the final day, Sunday, for the $100,000 top prize.

The public is invited to the daily launches at Morelli Park Boat Launch, 828 W. Weber Ave., Stockton, CA 95203. Times are 6:20 a.m. PT, Thursday-Saturday, and 7 a.m. PT Sunday, and there's no admission fee.

Also free and open to the public, the daily weigh-ins are set for 3:30 p.m. PT at Weber Point Events Center, 221 N. Center St., in downtown Stockton. Click here for more details on attending the event.

A special event at Weber Point, The Bassmaster Shamrock 5K Run & Walk, is slated to begin at 5 p.m. PT after the Saturday weigh-in. Following the run-walk will be the Downtown Stockton Alliance pub crawl. For the kids, cabbage bowling is on tap.

Click here to register for the run-walk.

The city of Stockton is no stranger to big sporting events, thanks to the Stockton Sports Commission (SSC), the local host for the TroKar™ Duel in the Delta. Stockton is home to a professional soccer team, the California Cougars; the Stockton Thunder hockey team; Stockton Ports, a minor league baseball team; and arena football team, Stockton Lightning.

Things to do in Stockton include events at the historic Bob Hope Theatre and Stockton Arena. The area abounds in restaurants and myriad recreational choices.

More information is available at stocktongov.com/sportscommission.