Clearly, another sort of California challenge

The March 18-21 Golden State Shootout will be on Clear Lake, the largest natural lake to lie entirely within California's borders. James Overstreet

As soon as Bassmaster Elite Series pros compete March 11-14 in the season opener on the California Delta, they'll hit the road to travel about 175 miles north to Lakeport, Calif., to prep for another northern California tournament, but one of an entirely different nature.

The March 18-21 Golden State Shootout will be on Clear Lake, the largest natural lake to lie entirely within California's borders. In sharp contrast to the sprawling, shallow system of canals and sloughs that comprise the Delta, Clear Lake is 19 miles long, measures 8 miles wide at its widest point, and has an average depth of 27 feet.

Elite pros will compete on Clear Lake for four days to claim the $100,000 first-place prize. They'll also be striving to earn points that count toward qualifying for the Bassmaster Elite Series postseason in July, as well as for next year's Bassmaster Classic and Elite season.

Bassmaster.com will cover the 2010 Golden State Shootout with daily analysis, photo galleries, standings and a real-time leaderboard. ESPN360.com will offer live, streaming video. ESPN2 will recap the competition on The Bassmasters at 9 a.m. ET, Sunday, April 4, and again at 11 a.m. ET, Saturday, April 17.

The 2010 Shootout will mark the eighth time a BASS tournament has been on Clear Lake. The most recent winners were Elite pros Jared Lintner of Arroyo Grande, Calif., in a 2005 Bassmaster Open event; and Steve Kennedy of Auburn, Ala., in 2007, when the Elite Series last stopped at Clear Lake.

Kennedy's winning weight of 122 pounds, 14 ounces, stood as the BASS four-day catch record for more than a year. It slid to seventh place only when the Elite Series visited another lunker haven, Texas' Falcon Lake, in 2008.

One reason Clear Lake harbors such a robust bass population is that the state Department of Fish and Game plants Florida-strain largemouth. The lake is healthy and has been for some time; the lake record largemouth of 17.5 pounds was set in 1990.

Elite pro Fred Roumbanis grew up fishing Clear Lake. He now lives in Bixby, Okla., but he will tap into his California roots for the Golden State Shootout — as he is dong this week on the California Delta.

"I believe Clear Lake is going to be a phenomenal tournament," Roumbanis said. "What's really nice about it right now is that California's had a lot of rain, so the lake will fish a lot bigger, the fish will be spread out. Although a lot of the guys will go with a swimbait bite, there will be a lot of other ways to catch them."

At the 2007 Shootout — when not only Kennedy bagged 122-14 over four days, but also when fellow pro Skeet Reese of Auburn, Calif., brought in 117-06 — the water was lower, so the fish were more concentrated, Roumbanis said.

"It's going to be hard to match 2007," he said. "There's going to be some giant bags caught over the four days, but doing it four days in a row will be hard because the water's up so high."

Conditions are prespawn, he said.

"The fish want to come up," he said. "We could hit it just right — or it could be a tough bite. It really will depend on the weather leading up to it. If the weather warms, then 20 pounds a day will be only a top 40. If it's tough, 20 pounds a day will make the Top 12 on the final day."

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.

Fans are invited to the Thursday-Sunday launches and weigh-ins at Library Park, located at 3rd and 5th streets in Lakeport. Boats launch at 7 a.m. PT; weigh-ins will begin at 3:30 p.m. PT. All events are free and open to the public. Click here for more event information.

The local host of the 2010 Golden State Shootout is the Lake County Chamber of Commerce. Information about Lakeport and Lake County is available at www.lakeportchamber.com.

Bassmaster Elite Series Official Sponsors: Toyota, Berkley, Evan Williams Bourbon, Humminbird, Mercury, Minn Kota, Skeeter and Yamaha.

Bassmaster Elite Series Supporting Sponsors: Lowrance and Triton Boats