Top 5 Waters: The best bass destinations for 2001

California Delta

In central California, the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers merge in a delta area that is a maze of man-made canals, cross channels, and sloughs. Altogether, there are 1,600 miles of navigable waters in a triangle bounded by Sacramento to the north, Stockton to the southeast, and Antioch to the southwest. Within these parameters lies some of the best bass fishing anywhere. Florida bass were stocked here in the mid-1980s. Now, these fish are both numerous and large. The average size of bass boated in local tournaments is over 2 pounds, and it usually takes a 10-pounder or larger to win the big-bass pot. A 171/2-pounder was caught during a tournament two years ago. Several boat ramps are available throughout the delta. Newcomers should obtain a map to avoid getting lost. (A good California Delta map is available through West Marine, 916-422-1904; www.westmarine.com.) Best times to fish: March for big bass, and August through early September for a red-hot matted-vegetation bite. For more information, contact the California Department of Fish and Game in Sacramento (916-653-7664; www.dfg.ca.gov).