The 2013 Bassmaster Elite Series season has been feast or famine. It started in famine mode.
That was the Sabine River. Bass were few and far between there. For much of the field, including many of the sport's acknowledged stars, the tournament was like Hobbes' description of life in nature, "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."
This week, on Falcon Lake, we're seeing the feast. Basically, everyone is catching fish, though — as is always true — some are doing it significantly better than others.
Like Keith Combs. His first round lead was four pounds. That might not seem like a lot, but it was tied for the fourth biggest Day 1 lead in Elite history. Now he leads by 7-7, which is the 10th biggest lead in Elite history after two rounds. If he can pad the margin by another three pounds or so on Saturday, he'll all but wrap this thing up. A double-digit lead should be safe from anything but a complete collapse in the finals.
The fishing on Falcon got noticeably better on Day 2. Catch rates were up (bassing average increased from 4.45 to 4.79, and 90 percent of the anglers limited as compared to 76 percent on Day 1), and the average bass brought to the scales gained an ounce from the first day (4-1 to 4-2). Things should improve again on Day 3 — they almost always do — if only because the bottom 50 anglers will be hitting the road and we're left with the guys who have been catching them best.
Everyone who made the top 50 cut limited on Day 2. It's a good bet that all or nearly all of them will do it again on Day 3.
The big bass of Day 2 was bigger than the first day's lunker by more than a pound. Maybe it's the weather, maybe the pros are getting dialed in just a little better or maybe their expectations have been adjusted. Sixty-four of the 100 anglers on the water this week were also there in 2008, and they got an attitude adjustment as they watched so many big fish come to the scales. It might have skewed their expectations and plans for this week. Then, after Day 1 was strong but not "2008 strong," they adjusted, adapted and are now more on track.
Of the 12 anglers who broke the century mark in 2008, three are not fishing this event (Byron Velvick was third, Scott Campbell was seventh and Ben Matsubu was ninth) and four missed the cut (Paul Elias won in 2008, but was 51st this year, Mark Davis 5/89, Casey Ashley 10/58 and Michael Iaconelli 11/52).
Of the five who are still alive going into Day 3 this year, Rick Morris is having the best of it. He was 12th in 2008 and currently sits in eighth place. Aaron Martens was fourth and is now 25th. Scott Rook was sixth and is now 26th. Jason Williamson was eighth and is now 28th. Terry Scroggins was second and is now 36th.
What's downright shocking is that five of the top six this year did not fish the 2008 event on Falcon; only Edwin Evers — currently in second — was there. Three of the current top six are Elite rookies (Jason Christie, Josh Bertrand and Clifford Pirch). If they can hang on, it'll be the best performance by a trio of rookies in Elite history.
All of the top 12 are on a pace to crack 100 pounds; Pirch sits on the bubble with exactly 50 pounds despite weighing in just three bass on Day 1. His fish are averaging better than six pounds apiece — both days. Even tournament leader Keith Combs can't say that. His average bass dropped by more than a pound on Day 2. If Pirch can keep it up and if Combs' quality continues to slip, Pirch could make a run at this one.
Meanwhile, after Falcon, I think the feast or famine roller coaster ride is over. The Elites should settle into more normal tournaments — there's no slugfest on the horizon and, absent some truly aberrant weather conditions, no venue where they won't catch them a lot better than they did at the Sabine.
Usually, the Elite season breaks up the feast and the famine, but in 2013 they were back-to-back and right up front ... and now almost behind us.