Love of bass fishing spawns teen’s business on Clear Lake

Josh Adams is a senior at Cloverdale High School, but he’s already running his own business as a bass fishing guide on Clear Lake in Lake County, sharing his considerable experience and immeasurable enthusiasm with anglers of all ages.

The 18-year-old has been fishing since he was a kid, picking up tips and techniques from his dad, Jerod, during their many adventures together. Lake Sonoma is 15 minutes from their home; Clear Lake is within an hour’s drive.

The pair fish year-round, making early-morning weekend or summertime treks or finding time after work and school to cast a line until it’s dark. “Fishing is my passion and what I love to do,” said Adams, who has maintained a grade point average between 4.2 and 4.3 throughout high school.

When the coronavirus pandemic closed schools and interrupted social activities last year, Adams began to weigh the option of becoming a fishing guide. He was laid off from his job at a hamburger eatery in Cloverdale, another loss from the pandemic.

“Before then I never thought about being a guide. Once COVID started I didn’t have lots to do,” he said. Adams has a truck and a 19-foot fiberglass Bass Cat boat, along with hands-on fishing experience that belies his age. He’s also trained in CPR.

By mid-summer he was operating his licensed and bonded Josh Adams Guide Service on Clear Lake, “rated number one in the nation for bass fishing,” he said. He created his own webpage and secured several sponsors, including Cotati’s Outdoor Pro Shop (and its online subsidiary, Lateral Vision Brand and Buck ’n’ Bass.

Adams has spent countless hours fishing at the natural freshwater lake. He’s taken friends and relatives out on Clear Lake numerous times. Since starting his business, he’s chartered a dozen paid excursions.

“I hope to share the fun of bass fishing that Clear Lake has to offer people,” he said. He loves being out in nature, with the region’s beautiful scenery and sunsets. Plus there’s the excitement of catching bass, from getting a bite to reeling and landing the fish.

“The whole battle and adventure of catching each fish is a lot of fun,” Adams said. “I guide because I want to share that experience with other people.”

Clear Lake typically offers year-round catch-and-release bass fishing, with large populations of the largemouth species. Adams often chronicles his clients’ experiences, taking photos or videos of them and their catches. His boat is equipped with a live well where he can stock the numerous fish caught during an outing. Clients can review all their catches before the fish are released back to the lake.

Adams said Clear Lake has a “good amount” of largemouth bass in the 5- to 10-pound range, bigger than average. Catching a 10-pounder “is like the fish of a lifetime,” he said. His largest was a 10.38-pound largemouth he reeled in from Clear Lake more than a year ago.

So far, the largest a client has brought in was a 6-pound largemouth. “I’ve had a lot of clients catch the biggest of their lives,” he said. Those moments often are celebratory, with the captain and his clients “super pumped about it.”

About half his anglers are novices; others don’t have their own boats. Adams provides all the necessary fishing gear, plus life jackets, but encourages experienced fishers to bring their own rods and reels. Clients need fishing licenses and bring their own refreshments (Adams provides bottled water). Excursions range from full-day, eight-hour charters ($600 for two people) to shorter trips. Departures vary from points around the massive lake most convenient to clients.

“It’s a day of instruction,” Adams said. Plus, “I teach them about the history of the lake,” regarded as the oldest lake in North America at 2.5 million years old.

Adams said springtime is optimal, when fish are spawning. “Summer is really good, and so is fall, and winter can be, too,” he said. “Pretty much any day on Clear Lake is going to be a pretty good day.”

He prepares for each charter trip by going out and fishing on the lake, researching wind levels and night temperatures to determine areas for best results. First thing in the morning — often 5 a.m. — is “prime fishing time,” he said.

Occasional triple-digit heat or frigid air doesn’t deter Adams. “If it was going to be super cold and windy, I might not go out,” he said. “It makes for a less fun day, and it can be dangerous, too.”

While he wants his clients to catch as many fish as they can — the bigger the better — Adams hopes the overall experience is what they’ll remember: being out in nature, taking in the picturesque sights and experiencing the challenges and joys of catching fish.

Bass, some extending 25 inches long, aren’t known for being a particularly easy catch. “These fish really do so many different things,” he said. “Bass definitely fight pretty good.”

Plus, he noted, “they are predators on the lake,” known for eating crawdads, frogs, lizards, other fish (including fellow bass), and even small aquatic birds and snakes. “They aren’t really fish people like to eat.”

Rather than provide the live minnows typically used to catch bass, Adams enjoys the greater challenge of artificial lures but is open to clients’ preferences.

Although he has years of experience as an angler, he continues to educate himself and improve his techniques. He finds the Internet rich with information, studying YouTube videos and forums and gaining insights by following fishing tournaments in the same way football or baseball or other sports fanatics follow their favorite teams.

“It’s just what I love,” he said. “I’m always taking it on and learning every chance you get. You just get addicted to that learning curve.”

Adams has competed in fishing tournaments on Clear Lake, Lake Berryessa and the Sacramento Delta, sometimes with his dad or fishing buddies. He’s won a few and has placed in top brackets, earning numerous plaques and, in 2017, was awarded an “Angler of the Year” distinction.

He’s interested in collegiate fishing tournaments with handsome payouts but hasn’t yet decided on a specific college or career path. He hopes to compete at a professional level and is looking forward to the Western Outdoor News California Open bass tournament next month on Clear Lake, which attracts more than 200 boats. It will mark his first pro effort in the WON BASS event.

Adams said his dad taught him to persevere, never give up and enjoy the moment, while waiting for a bite.

His guide service hasn’t hit its first-year mark yet, and he’s had to negotiate around the pandemic, but he’s already seen youngsters developing a love for fishing. One boy, an 11-year-old, was with his father on one of Adams’ excursions, getting instruction but managing everything himself.

“He was getting the hang of it. He was doing it himself,” Adams said. “He was having a great time.”

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