ZAPATA, Texas — Carolina-rigging would probably rank dead last, if you polled the Bassmaster Elite Series anglers on their favorite bass fishing methods. But when you're trying to win a $100,000 first place check, you do what you've got to do.
If you read through the "Formulas for Falcon" story that details how the 12 Sunday finalists in the Lone Star Shootout are catching fish, you'll notice there's a whole lot more Carolina-rigging than Texas-rigging going on here in Texas this week.
It didn't start that way Monday, during the first day of practice for the tournament on Falcon Lake.
"Most everybody was flipping bushes, shallow," Paul Elias said. "But everybody figured it out. That second day (of practice), it was just a constant flow of people looking at their GPS units."
You don't have to own any fancy electronics to take advantage of the bass bunched up offshore at Falcon Lake, according to Elias, the 56-year-old Laurel, Miss., native, who is known for fishing deep structure. All you need is a good lake map that shows depths in varying shades of blue. The A.I.D. map of Falcon Lake is an example: Depths of 0 to 25 feet are colored light blue; depths of 25 to 65 feet are medium blue and depths of 65 to 85 feet (the old river channel) are dark blue.
"Just fish where the light blue meets the (medium) blue," Elias said.
Elias is known for "kneeling and reeling" deep-diving crankbaits to probe that deep structure. By kneeling on the boat deck and sticking his fishing rod in the water, he can get some extra depth on long-billed crankbaits. But even Elias was doing some Carolina-rigging this week to slowly work a lure across the 20- to 30-feet depths where many of Falcon Lake's bass are bunched.
Elias has been bass fishing professionally for over 30 years. He admitted Aaron Martens had surprised him this week with his ability to read a sonar graph and find structure holding big groups of bass.
Martens has always been a "graph person." But he admits he has a not-so-secret weapon now — Humminbird's 1197c SI Combo, which puts full-color side imaging and traditional downward-facing sonar images, plus GPS chartplotting on a 10.4-inch diagonal screen.
(It looks like a small TV set, mounted on Martens' boat dashboard.)
"I don't want to say much about it," Martens said with a smile. "I don't want the other guys to have it."
Then he continued to talk about it.
"Me being a graph person, it's nice," Martens said. "That's how I found all my spots. In one day, I found every spot in Tiger Creek. I know every spot in there."
On Monday, he found the sweet spot he and Byron Velvick sat on for two days and took first and second place in the tournament. His electronics showed him it was a good spot. Then he caught two 7-pound bass off of it and left it until the tournament started.
Scott Rook, who was fourth, with 95-9 after Day Three at Falcon, grew up fishing the Arkansas River near his hometown of Little Rock. He admits deep structure isn't his strongpoint. But he has adapted.
"I've learned, no, I've been forced to learn how to do that," Rook said. "I wasn't catching them shallow in practice, so I started looking out (off-shore). It didn't take long. I found them quick."
Totals for the sweet spot
A lot of numbers have been thrown around this week about just how many bass were caught off that quarter-mile stretch in Tiger Creek where Martens and Velvick fished two days.
No one will ever know the exact amount, because so many 4-, 5- and 6-pounders were caught and culled, while Martens totalled a five-bass 42-pound stringer Thursday and Velvick followed it with 41-11 Friday. Those are the second- and third-biggest five-bass bags in BASS history.
Here's what can be documented precisely: the weigh-in totals from Martens, Velvick and their co-anglers on Thursday and Friday. And that total is 266 pounds, 3 ounces.
Falcon Lake vs. Clear Lake, Day Three
In our daily tabulation to determine the best bass fishing lake in Bassmaster Elite Series history, here are the Day Three comparisons of California's Clear Lake on March 31, 2007, and Texas' Falcon Lake on April 6, 2008:
|Clear Lake, March 31, 2007||Falcon Lake, April 6, 2008|
|1st place: 91-14, Greg Gutierrez||1st place: 109-8, Aaron Martens|
|100-plus lbs.: 0||100-plus lbs.: 3|
|90-plus lbs.: 2||90-plus lbs.: 8|
|80-plus lbs.: 3||80-plus lbs.: 29|
|Top 12 cut: 74-11||Top 12 cut: 88-0|
|Purolator Big Bass: 12-11||Purolator Big Bass: 13-2|
|Berkley Heavyweight Bag: 40-7||Berkley Big Bag: 42-0|
|Limits caught: 264||Limits caught: 262|
|Bass caught: 1,324||Bass caught: 1,326|
|Total weight: 5,537-3||Total weight: 6,475.6|
|Average weight: 4.18 lbs./bass||Average weight: 4.88 lbs./bass|
"I wouldn't change a thing. It took me 45 years to have a day of fishing like that. You never know when it's going to happen again."
— Matt Reed, on whether he'd do anything different after setting the hook, landing and releasing a five-bass limit, conservatively estimated at 48 pounds during practice Monday
"This is the best lake I've ever fished. You've got something very special here. Take care of it."
— Skeet Reese, to the audience at Saturday's Lone Star Shootout weigh-in
"This is truly the bass fishing capital of the world."
— Shaw Grigsby, on Falcon Lake at Saturday's weigh-in
"I know I'm good for another 10 or 15 years, after it held up from all the abuse this week."
— Dustin Wilks, about his elbow, which was surgically repaired, causing him to miss a year of competition on the Elite Series
"These are the most volatile fish I've ever hooked in my life."
— Paul Elias, on the fighting ability of Falcon Lake's largemouth bass
"I've never in my life seen fish that are so mean."
— Marty Stone, on the bass in Falcon Lake
"You can say what you want about California. You can say what you want about Florida. But southern Texas and Falcon Lake has the best bass fishing in America."
— Scott Rook
"I've never seen anything like it. This is the best in the world."
— Mark Davis, on Falcon Lake