Southern CA Freshwater

Diamond Valley Lake regulars getting into numbers and quality

Up-and-coming swimbaiter steals spotlight

BY MIKE STEVENS/WON Staff Writer Published: Sep 13, 2018

Bluegill imitations the common thread among successful bassers

HEMET — Next-level swimbait fishing requires insane dedication and a willingness to make a million casts, shrug off skunk days, learn from established big baiters and endlessly tinker and experiment with presentations and gear. The latest member of Diamond Valley Lakes double-digit largemouth club may already be there at 21 years of age.

A HOMEMADE WAKE bait produced this 11.59-pound fish-of-a-lifetime for Michael Johnston who was working the shore at Diamond Valley Lake.

Menifee angler Michael Johnston could not have chosen a better path to reaching his goal, recently checked off the to-do list via an 11.59-pound bucketmouth popped from shore on a homemade wake bait.

“Matt Magnone at Last Chance Bait and Tackle mentored me the whole way through,” Johnston told WON. “He has spent hours on all aspects of fishing and bait building. He even gifted me a scroll saw and belt sander for making baits more efficiently, and without him, I would have never made the bait or caught the fish.”

The lure was a bluegill wakebait Johntston made out of necessity when he couldn’t find one on the market large enough for his liking, and this catch was made in a pretty small fishing window. Johnston hit DVL at around 4 p.m, and his first hour and a half was plagued by wind before moving on to a spot he noticed that seemed to be sheltered from it.

“I made what was going to be my last cast, and I saw her swallow my bait about 4 feet off the bank,” said Johnston. I kept the rod tip high, and within seconds the fight was over.”

The bass came unbuttoned after being swung on to the bank, and he had to “dive” for her to keep her from flopping back into the lake. Johnston took quickly some photos and video, and released his prize back into the lake. He also credited Last Chance staffers Anthony Driscoll, owners Megan and Dan Merchant and another DVL big-bait local, Aaron Copado, for their hands in this fish of a lifetime.

“I’m extremely happy watching his progression,” said Magnone. “In this day and age when everyone believes they own the water on DVL, Michael is one of the most humble anglers I know. It’s more to him than just a big fish. Mad respect for the little Jedi Master.”

THIS 9.6-POUND bass ate a Black Dog Baits Bubba Cracker tossed by Hemet angler Aaron Copado in DVL’s East End.

Speaking of Copado, he did his own big-bass work with a 9.6 that ate a Black Dog Bubba Cracker worked along a bluff wall on DVL’s East End. This went down two years to the day of when he popped a 10.8 at Lake Skinner.

“Bass are biting like crazy, and stripers are biting in 40 feet of water,” said Copado. “It’s best in the mornings and afternoons, but they’ll bite all day if you know what you’re doing.

He’s been getting his striped bass on Producer Plugs and L.A. Slider swimbaits.

So Cal guide Rusty Brown also reached out to WON with some intel, and as usual, he as a productive battery of patterns on deck for his clients. He’s putting his people on numbers and quality by-dropshotting 6-inch Roboworms in Blue Crawler, Oxblood and Blod Bluegill along main-lake points in 25 to 45 feet of water. Brown’s also seeing some buzzbait- and bluegill-swimbait fish along grass beds, and those have been quality models.

“Rawson Cove and the areas around the Saddle Dam and Quarry are best areas,” said Brown. “Water is 80 degrees, and visibility is about 12 feet.

Another guide, Art Hill was out there with a client, and they got into a little something after a slow morning. A 4-pounder at a Marten’s Madness Roboworm on a drop-shot, then they found a large concentration of green ones in 36 feet of water along the South Shore that were willing to take both that worm and the Morning Dawn Roboworm at a furious pace. They also stuck a nice smallmouth off a point, and Hill said there were also fish busting on the surface and eating small bluegill that he was able to fool with an Ima Foxy Fry jerkbait in the bluegill pattern.

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