ZAPATA, Texas — Saturday's weigh-in resembled a scene from Afghanistan, with people donning facemasks to keep the blowing sand out of their eyes, mouth and ears while temperatures reached 100 degrees. Sunday promised to be worse, much worse: A combination of "The Perfect Storm" and "Lawrence of Arabia" — high seas on Falcon Lake and a desert dust storm surrounding it.
With the options to: a) end the tournament after three days, or b) postpone the Day Four Top 12 finale until Monday, B.A.S.S. chose the latter. And the 12 finalists seemed to be unanimously in agreement with the decision.
High winds create chaos everywhere, but particularly at Zapata, situated on the Rio Grande River near the northern border of the Chihuahan Desert. Sunday dawned with the scream of high winds that were reportedly creating 8-foot waves at Falcon Dam before the 7:15 takeoff.
In a lake that runs almost due north to south – from its headwaters to the dam – a 30-mph north wind is more than an inconvenience, it's dangerous. The wind is predicted to top 40 and possibly hit 50 mph today.
If Rick Clunn didn't have a problem with Sunday's announced postponement, no one else in the Day Four finals of the Rigid Industries Falcon Slam was likely to be griping either. And that was exactly the case.
"I had a 90 percent chance to win this tournament, if we had fished today," said the 66-year-old four-time Bassmaster Classic champion. "If we fish tomorrow, I've got a 50 percent chance. But I still thought it would have been a poor choice to fish today.
"There's no easy way to run this lake (in high winds). I'm not running, but the rest of them are. Everybody knows I'm fishing a half-mile from (the Zapata County Public Boat Ramp takeoff site). Today I might have been the only guy who could fish his stuff.
"I just hope we can fish tomorrow. I know it gives everybody else a better chance to win it."
With 82 pounds, 3 ounces over three days, Clunn trails leader Keith Combs (83-3) by exactly 1 pound. Eight of the 12 finalists have caught single-day, five-bass limits weighing 30-pounds-plus. Clunn is the only man to have done it twice – his 36-14 total Saturday is the best so far.
But the field is separated from first to 12th by only 11 pounds, 3 ounces. As everyone knows now, that's just one big bite on Falcon Lake. Matt Greenblatt has big bass of the event so far with a 10-13 on Day Two. Finalist Cliff Crochet landed a 10-1 the same day. And almost everyone has a story about bigger ones that got away.
There's also another goal working here, other than the obvious one of winning an Elite Series event. B.A.S.S. awards much-coveted 100-pound heavyweight belts, designed like pro wrestling championship belts. Earning one of those belts is a big deal to these guys. All 12 finalists are within a 30-pound bag of getting a B.A.S.S. heavyweight belt, no matter where they finish in the final standings.
To put it in perspective, of all the honors Kevin VanDam has compiled, he hasn't earned a B.A.S.S. heavyweight belt.
Clunn doesn't have one either and mentioned it as one of the reasons he looked forward to this tournament.
If the Falcon Slam had simply been concluded after three days, due to the weather, chances of hitting the century mark would have been blown away in the wind – for everyone.
"From my perspective, that was the best call," said Gary Klein, who is fourth with 78-13. "All these guys have worked really hard to get here. We're fishing the finest lake in the country. For us not to have a shot at the title and not have one more day to fish Falcon would have been sad.
"Plus there are a bunch of us that are looking for a 100-pound-weight belt."
Cliff Crochet, the "Cajun Baby" from Pierre Part, La., summed up Sunday's decision best, saying, "It would have been extremely disappointing if this would have been a three-day tournament.
"Pats on the back to the tournament staff. Tough decision. I think they made a good decision."