ZAPATA, TEXAS -- As every seasoned angler knows, there are quite possibly dozens of variables that go into mastering a bass fishery.
Where to start?
There is tide, wind, depth of water (or lack of any of the three). There's the spawning cycle and there's fishing pressure. And then, there is cloud cover and temperature.
Not to say those final two are the most important things one has to keep in mind, but when it comes to how the big bass fished on the Elite Series Rigid Industries Falcon Slam's opening day, that could prove to be the case.
And it looks like a continued change in the cloud coverage and temperature will continue throughout this event.
Case in point: Thursday morning's launch featured temperatures that hovered in the low 60s and there was a steady breeze, with some gusts. Skies were very overcast, and from reports, it even drizzled in some areas. But as the day progressed, the sun roared through the clouds and the Mercury climbed to as high as 85 degrees by 6 p.m. It's going to keep getting hotter, and more "bluebird" the next two days, it appears, with temperatures expected to reach nearly 100 degrees by Friday's weigh-in at 3:15 p.m.
So what does all this mean for the anglers?
Well, for starters, it means they'll probably have to be extremely versatile. Some say today they fished near shore earlier and headed to deeper water as the sun climbed. That will almost surely be the case again on Friday for many, but the question is, "Can the pros find the bites they need in such wildly fluctuating climes?" And also, "Will it be enough to make the cut to 50 after Friday's weigh-in?"
Take Day One leader Keith Combs, for instance, who bagged a whopping 34 pounds, 13 ounces on Thursday. His bite came from offshore and he's almost certainly going back to deeper water tomorrow. But then there's second-place man Cliff Prince who, with 30 pounds, 13 ounces, caught his bag in a variety of "shallow, deep, and shallow again" water.
That could be key, many anglers said.
Prince was in a 30 feet of water Carolina rigging to get his deep bite. He had 60-pound braid, a 1/2-ounce weight and a "big heavy stick," he said.
"That's my kind of fishing," Prince said.
But Prince, from Palatka, Florida, also bagged some of those seven-pounders in shallow water. Can he (and everyone else, for that matter) get to that water early enough tomorrow? It's a question that has to be on anglers' minds.
Combs, who has guided on Falcon for nine years, said he didn't think his experience would be a factor. He's fishing offshore, but he too, had two very early, quality bites that helped launch him ahead of the field.
Cliff Crochet, who sits in 50th place after Thursday, said he tries to not pay attention to the changing weather. It can be daunting, he admits.
"I go by the morning water temperature," he said. "If it's 72 in the morning, I'm going to fish them at 72 throughout the day."
Jason Christie is in fourth place with 28 pounds, 5 ounces. He said if the weather forces him to adapt, not a problem.
"If it's sunny, I'll just fish offshore more," he said. "That's my theory. If the wind would lay down, too, that might help."
Ah, the wind. Will there be any to even be a factor?
Christie, at least from what he's saying, might be in luck. The highest winds predicted for Friday on Falcon Lake, you ask? How about seven miles per hour. That's way slow compared to what some of the pros experienced on Thursday.