ZAPATA, Texas — Remember, it was just one year ago when California's Clear Lake was being proclaimed as the best bass fishing lake in the country by the Bassmaster Elite Series pros.
And why wouldn't they?
Steve Kennedy had set the new BASS four-day, total-weight record for a five-bass-per-day limit of 122 pounds, 14 ounces. Six other anglers entered the Century Club for surpassing the 100-pound mark there.
But after two days of competition in the Lone Star Shootout at Falcon Lake, it's obvious a new king is about to be crowned. You got an inkling this might happen, after listening to the fish tales coming from the practice sessions here early this week. But the numbers have backed that up.
Check them out:
|Clear Lake, March 29-30, 2007||Falcon Lake, April 3-4, 2008|
|Leader: 66-10, Greg Gutierrez||Leader: 79-13, Aaron Martens|
|Over 60 lbs.: 1 angler||Over 60 lbs.: 8 anglers|
|Over 50 lbs.: 11 anglers||Over 50 lbs.: 44 anglers|
|Cut weight (top 50): 41-11 lbs.-oz.||Cut weight: 49-7 lbs.-oz.|
|Purolator Big Bass: 12-11 lbs.-oz.||Purolator Big Bass: 13-2 lbs.-oz.|
|Berkley Heavyweight Bag: 33-13 lbs.-oz.||Berkley Heavyweight Bag: 42-0 lbs.-oz.|
|Total weight: 4,456-3 lbs.-oz||Total weight: 5,146-0 lbs.-oz.|
But to put those numbers in perspective, you need to compare them with more "normal" Bassmaster Elite Series events. Florida's Harris Chain of Lakes and the Kissimmee Chain are noted big bass lakes. The Kissimmee Chain includes Lake Toho, where Dean Rojas set the single-day, five-bass record of 45-2 on Jan. 17, 2001. However, the Elite Series schedule didn't put the pros in prime time sight-fishing season, when Rojas' record was set. So that brought the Florida lakes, which are noted for producing 10-pound largemouth bass, back into the normal range.
Check out the numbers:
|Harris Chain, March 6-7, 2008||Kissimmee Chain, March 13-14, 2008|
|Leader: 37-13, Brian Snowden||Leader: 44-3, Kelly Jordon|
|Over 60 lbs.: 0 anglers||Over 60 lbs.: 0 anglers|
|Over 50 lbs.: 0 anglers||Over 50 lbs.: 0 anglers|
|Cut weight: 21-7 lbs.-oz.||Cut weight: 19-10 lbs.-oz.|
|Purolator Big Bass: 10-6 lbs.-oz.||Purolator Big Bass: 10-3 lbs.-oz.|
|Berkley Heavyweight Bag: 26-9 lbs.-oz.||Berkley Heavyweight Bag: 25-0 lbs.-oz.|
|Total weight: 2,185-8 lbs.-oz.||Total weight: 2,138-9 lbs.-oz.|
Maybe the statistic that stands out most in showing how good the bass fishing is at Falcon is that the two-day leaders' weights in the two Florida tournaments wouldn't have made the cut here. (And Jordon's 44-3 at Kissimmee would have barely made the cut at Clear Lake.)
Classic post-spawn fishing
Mark Davis is considered one of the best post-spawn professional bass fishermen, if not THE best. Davis, who is the only pro to earn both the Bassmaster Classic title and the BASS Angler of the Year title in the same year, is certainly in his element at Falcon Lake.
The Mt. Ida, Ark., angler practically gave a seminar on post-spawn fishing during his interview with the media after producing his second-straight 30-plus-pound bag on Friday.
"I stayed in the same area I fished yesterday, and I figured out some more things about it," said Davis, who followed 35-4 Thursday with 33-9, putting him in 3rd place with 68-13. "Usually when you do good in one of these things, that's what you do. You just pick a big area and keep picking it apart more and more each day."
Davis found a spot Friday that he'd already fished twice that day with little success. But on the third try, it produced a bass on every cast for awhile.
"Post-spawn fishing is always about location and figuring out all the little subtleties that are in there. You can be all around these fish, and you can miss them real easily.
"I actually found a school of fish today that I missed. I knew they were there, but I fished that area and didn't get a bite, didn't slow down enough. That's how easy in the post-spawn period it is to miss fish. Or your timing may be off. You can fish right through them when they're not active, and you won't get a bite.
"I've said it over and over and over again in seminars all across this country, during post-spawn when you see a piece of structure that looks right, you've got to check it more than once. You can't just fish it one time and forget about it.
"That was the case today."
Could have, Wood have
After weighing in a disappointing 14-9 on Day Two, John Crews said he might hit the lake again Saturday despite missing the 50-angler cut.
"I got my ass kicked," he said. "What do you think Tiger Woods does when he shoots an 80? He goes to the driving range."
Crews said he may have figured something out, but it was too late to keep him from finishing better than 96th.
"Aaron's on a 160-pound pace. He can't miss."
— Steve Kennedy, who holds the BASS four-day tournament record (for now) with 122-14
"I put it to him early. But we got rid of all them little guys."
— Co-angler Larry Triplett, who had a 12-pound limit on Day Two before his pro, Rick Morris, even had a fish
"This is unreal. When you weigh in a 24-pound sack and nobody claps? That's amazing."
— Kenyon Hill, who did receive some applause for that line on Day Two
"I'm probably going to finish in the 90s with this bag, but I've never had so much fun finishing in the 90s."
— Jeremy Starks, who finished 95th with 37-7
"I've always heard the saying, 'Everything's bigger in Texas.' They didn't lie about the bass, I can tell you that."
— Paul Elias, after catching 39-1 on Day Two
"It was insane. I've never had a day like this."
— Kevin Langill, after catching 34-7 on Day Two
"I figured out something late in the day that I should have been doing all along. I hope I get to fish again tomorrow."
— Todd Faircloth, before sweating out the remainder of the Day Two weigh-in and securing the 50th and final spot for Day Three