Calaveras Enterprise

Now is the time for bass

At Lake Tulloch, William Heinselman catches a nice spotted bass that bit a Senko.

At Lake Tulloch, William Heinselman catches a nice spotted bass that bit a Senko.

It’s time for bass fishing. While I’m not a pure bass guy, many thousands of fishermen and women are, and they clamor to area lakes to reel in the lunkers. Bass tournaments are big-time events across the country because the rewards of enjoying the outdoors, the competition, the act of fishing and anglers’ personal skills all come into play.

One thing about bass fishing, however, is that it is not cheap. Many bass boats sell in the five figures; they’re sleek with beautiful paint jobs and they’re fast. Most bass boat captains have up to 10 rods and reels onboard, coupled with small arsenals of various tackle.

In February I did a column on the Oro Madre Bass Club. After the club meeting, club President Bill Tidwell mentioned that a tournament was coming to Lake Tulloch in March, and he asked if I wanted to fish the lake with him as he did some recognizance before the tournament. I sure did.

Most of my fishing is done with various baits and while trolling, so I am always excited to participate in something that presents new skills. Over a month went by and after a huge rainstorm, Bill and I visited Lake Tulloch.

Bill Tildwell lands a nice largemouth bass at Lake Tulloch.Photos by William Heinselman

Bill Tildwell lands a nice largemouth bass at Lake Tulloch.Photos by William Heinselman

I met Bill at his home near Jenny Lind, and within minutes we were headed toward the lake that straddles Calaveras and Tuolumne counties. Lake Tulloch has its only public launch on the southern side of the lake, accessed from Tuolumne County, which demanded a long drive for us. From Jenny Lind we took Milton Road to Oakdale and then turned east on Highway 108/120 for 30-minutes. We then turned left on Tulloch Road/Tulloch Dam Road. Along the way I learned that Bill works for a school district and as a bass guide on weekends.

In a little over an hour we were at the launch. Bill backed his Champion bass boat with a 225-horsepower engine into the calm water of Lake Tulloch and we were soon on our way.

The storm that caused flooding, washouts, road closures and major damage to the Moccasin Creek Fish Hatchery was the precursor to our outing. Ordinarily I wouldn’t even consider fishing after a rain event like that one, but Lake Tulloch is a kind of after-bay for New Melones Reservoir and it didn’t get the turbid waters of the Stanislaus River fresh from the storm.

Runoff from recent rains makes its way into Lake Tulloch outside Copperopolis.

Runoff from recent rains makes its way into Lake Tulloch outside Copperopolis.

It was 7:30 a.m. and the air was chilly as Bill motored us to our first spot at 35 mph. Lake Tulloch is unique, with tabletop mountains, shoreline homes, peace and quiet and only a little boating pressure (weekends can be a different story!). I brought three rods with fast 6.2-to-1 gear ratios. Bill told me he brought 10 rods and welcomed me to try any if I felt the need. We made cast after cast and tried technique after technique – crankbaits, drop-shots, wacky-rigged Senkos – for the first three hours without a nibble. Parts of the lake had heavily stained brown water, while other areas were fairly clear.

“This brown water means the fish got plenty to eat,” I joked to Bill.

“I agree,” he responded, then called “Fish on!” as a rainbow trout took his deep-diving crankbait.



Bill told me about a lunker bass he caught at Lake Tulloch in 2017 and that we would soon try the same spot where the fish was caught. We both worked the shoreline with crankbaits there. Bill had a deep diver and mine was a shallow diver. Bill was up front on the trolling motor, moving us slowly along the shoreline as we made casts.

Bill made a few cast toward the open lake and caught and released the first bass of the day. “Broke the skunk!” Bill enthused.

We returned to where I thought I had gotten an earlier hit and Bill hooked into a 6-pound-plus largemouth bass with a crankbait. After snapping some photos, Bill released the beast.

The next bass was mine. I threw a Senko close to a private dock and let it sink to the bottom. Ever so slightly, I gave the lure some movement. All at once, the line got heavy and within seconds I raised the rod tip with a fine spotted bass that was 15-inches long.

That was it for the day. We reeled in more than nine pounds of fish from three catches, which isn’t bad. I appreciate Bill taking me to the lake and for teaching me some of his tricks for catching nice bass.

Tip of the week – Bill’s Livin’ the Dream guide service is for those who want to learn about bass fishing. Call him at 786-5897 or 831-595-5897.

On the water:

The bass are the dominant species right now on all of our lakes. Spring is the time the bass move to the shallows to make their beds and spawn. Bass that are not yet spawning are close by in the shallows in pre-spawn mode. Most of the photos in area reports feature shots of bass to 12 pounds. Because the fish are spawning, now is the time to practice catch-and-release to keep our bass numbers strong for the future.

New Melones – The trout bite is slow, but should improve as the weather warms. Angels Cove and Glory Hole are the hot spots. There is a good crappie bite.

Don Pedro – Try the Fleming Meadows and Moccasin recreation areas for the best trout bite.

New Hogan – It’s been slow for striper here.

Pardee – Weekly trout plants keep the recreation area good for bait fishing. Troll for trout in the Mokelumne River arm between 8 and 20 feet deep.

Camanche – The water level has been on a steady rise for two weeks, which has scattered the trout. Troll to 20 feet deep in the Narrows and near the Hat islands. There are also some crappie are in the mix.

Amador – The dam to the spillway is the hot spot for trout from the bank. Weekly plants make this lake a good choice for fishing.

Contact William Heinselman at

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