ZAPATA, Texas — Paul Elias doesn't expect the 2008 Falcon Lake fireworks to be repeated at the Bassmaster Elites Series' return visit, which begins Thursday. Yes, there is still some 40- and 30-pound-per-day potential swimming in this lake.
But a two-weeks-earlier date and tons of fishing pressure here since 2008 have combined to make the records set then unlikely to be repeated, according to Elias, the defending champion at Falcon Lake.
"It was so easy to find schools of fish, which is totally different now," Elias said. "You'd pass up 3- to 5-pound schools in order to find the 5s to 8s.
"We're here two weeks earlier [than in '08] and that's a lot of what's going on now. I just don't think as many fish have moved out of the shallow water. I don't think there's as good a population of fish anyway, but I think the fish are scattered."
With the high temperatures here having already been over 100 degrees, you'd think bass had finished their shallow-water spawning activity and gone back into deep schools. But that's not the case. Water surface temperatures are in the low 70s in many places.
Add in the facts that Falcon is six feet lower than it was five years ago and has had enormous fishing pressure since it became the hottest bass fishing lake in the country, well, it only makes common sense that Elias' record-setting 132-pound, 8-ounce four-day total won't be repeated.
"I think you're going to see some 40-pound bags and some 30-pound bags," Elias said. "But a lot less of those 30-pound bags. It took 25 pounds a day to get a check the last time here.
"I'm hoping that's going to fall off, because I'm not doing that [in practice]."
Todd Faircloth took the final top 50 spot after two days in '08 with 49-7. Of the 109 Elite Series anglers in that event, only four failed to catch a five-bass limit the first two days.
"I think there will be some zeroes," said long-time Falcon Lake fishing guide Carlos Olivares, who will serve as a camera-boat driver during this year's event. Olivares is basing that on his almost daily experience guiding anglers at Falcon.
Elias disagrees, but not by much.
"I think there are so many people fishing shallow that everybody is going to catch some," Elias said. "I just don't feel like the [overall] weight is going to be there like last time."
Elias was asked if there was one key moment in his '08 victory. A key moment might appear unlikely when you weigh-in 20 bass averaging over 6 ½ pounds in four days. Elias' largest was a 9-11, in a tournament when big bass honors were taken by a 13-2.
"The last day I caught an 8 ½-pounder that took the bait real deep," he recalled. "She was bleeding profusely. I put her in a livewell by herself and added a bunch of ice, Catch-N-Release and Please Release Me."
Despite his best efforts to keep the fish alive, Elias didn't have high hopes.
"When I checked on her 30 minutes later, I expected her to be dead," he said. "I opened that livewell lid and there she was, looking up at me."
The B.A.S.S. penalty for weighing-in a dead fish is four ounces per fish. Terry Scroggins finished second to Elias in '08 with 132-4.
"If she would have died, I would have been tied," Elias said.