DEL RIO, Texas — Four-time BASS Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam took one look up at the heavy cloud cover and drizzling rain falling on Lake Amistad on Sunday morning, and he made an uncharacteristically bold prediction.
"This is going to be the greatest TV show of all time," said VanDam of the ESPN production documenting the final day of the Bassmaster Elite Series Battle on the Border tournament.
It's already been quite a show, with two 36-pound-plus bags, a 12-pound, 7-ounce big bass and rookie Derek Rimitz leading with 80 pounds, 1 ounce after three days. But VanDam guaranteed the best is yet to come.
"One of these 12 guys is going to get into an unreal situation today," VanDam said of the 12 finalists competing for the $100,000 first prize. "The guys that want to finish in the top six are really going to have to catch 'em today."
As usual with someone as accomplished as VanDam, there was sound reasoning behind his prediction.
"The key is cloud cover on a real clear lake like this," said VanDam of the 67,000-acre reservoir on the Texas-Mexico border. "The bass feel much more secure. They are a low-light predator, so they are going to be in the shallows today.
"This is when they go on the feed. They have an advantage over all their prey species on days like today, so they're on the prowl. The strike zone expands. You're going to have to catch them today."
VanDam, who is from Kalamazoo, Mich., is in seventh place after three days with 68-4, almost 12 pounds behind Remitz.
"I sure didn't want to be 12 pounds behind going into the last day," VanDam said. "But if I was, this is the lake I'd want it to be on and these are the right weather conditions."
Remitz, who lives in Huntsville, Ala., claimed he got a good night's sleep. But as someone who is fishing his first Elite Series tournament and has accomplished pros like VanDam, 2006 Elite Series Toyota Rookie of the Year Steve Kennedy and 2006 Bassmaster Angler of the Year Mike Iaconelli on his tail, Remitz understands he's got to have another good day.
"With all these guys behind me, I think I need to catch another 30 pounds to have a chance to win," said Remitz, who managed a smile and added, "Some of these guys can catch them pretty good."
The week at Lake Amistad has been filled with tales of big ones that got away, in addition to the big ones that were weighed in, and predictions of a 40-pound bag. If anyone brings a five-bass limit averaging 8 pounds per fish to the weigh-in stand today, VanDam's prediction will have been right on the money.