FORT WORTH, Texas — For some of the top Bassmaster anglers, the year's first Major tournament could end up being a major triumph, or a major letdown.
The Bassmaster Memorial begins Thursday and Friday with 56 pros trying to figure out Eagle Mountain Lake near Fort Worth, Texas. Bassmaster.com asked local tournament anglers Mark Perry and Chad Tregellas what to expect from the qualifiers-only event that will award the winner $250,000.
Both said versatility is crucial, as is getting off to a good start.
"Eagle Mountain is the hardest lake I know to fish," Tregellas, 32, said. "The pattern is so hard to figure out. It changes daily. Any angler around here will tell you, it's the hardest lake to pattern.
"Those guys who go out with a preconceived notion that they're hitting a crankbait, they're toast. You have to hit this lake with an open mind."
Perry, 36, said Eagle Mountain has plenty of bass, it is just an undependable fishery. "The fish in Eagle Mountain are psychotic," he said. "You can find them one day and go back to the same spot the next day, and they are nowhere to be found.
"I don't know what it is, but it's been that way for years. You have to make a lot of adjustments on the fly. You can't try to do the same thing twice in two days."
Both expect the power anglers like Gerald Swindle, Kevin VanDam and Mike Iaconelli to excel. Tregellas said the lake level was down 5.5 feet but recent rains have brought it back up 2 feet. With only shoreline vegetation, he said heading to the north end and fishing boat docks and other structure is the best method to get the post-spawn bite.
"You'll have a bunch of vegetation in the water with the lake coming up, and that should really just turn the power fishing," he said. "The finesse guys, you can catch fish, but nobody does it out here. Year-round you can fish shallow.
"Eagle Mountain is loaded with boat docks. That's where the fish are going to go. There hasn't been much water up under them, and now they'll go back under there," Tregellas added.
Tregellas said anglers need to flip big jigs, throw big crankbaits and big spinnerbaits in a number of locations. Perry said to use shallow running crankbaits and smaller finesse jigs.
"The guys who want to sit still and milk a spot, they won't do well," he said. "That's why I think a lot of VanDam, Iaconnelli. They throw everything and cover a ton of water. Those are guys that will do well out there."
Perry said not to discount anglers who can fish shallow as Eagle Mountain is silted in. "The guys who like dirty water, like Greg Hackney, are the guys who like to pitch," Perry said. "Aaron Martens also has done his homework here, and George Cochran and Martens liked it last year in the Top Gun."
Tregellas and Perry said there will be a number of 15-pound bags and it will take nearly 30-pounds to advance.
"Some of the top guys can bring in around 20-pounds." Tregellas said. "It will take at least 26 to get to the top 12. It could take 30. It depends on how many guys go up north and figure out the big fish."
Tregellas won a one-day tournament on Eagle Mountain last year with 17-plus pounds, including a 9.39 "post-spawn skinny" bass. "There are big bass, but being in the shadow of Fort Worth, they have been pressured."