With hardly a moment to catch their breath after the record-shattering Lone Star Shootout at Falcon Reservoir, the pros head straight up the Rio Grande from Zapata to Del Rio for this week's fourth Bassmaster Elite of 2008, the Battle on the Border.
Before I try to pick six high finishers at Amistad, however, I do have to take my own deep breath and reflect on what I just experienced at Falcon. I had fished this magnificent 83,000-acre impoundment several times over the years, most recently this past January with then soon-to-be Bassmaster Classic champion Alton Jones. While it was primarily a photography mission, we caught enough fish — all quality fish over five pounds — for me to guess what might happen during the tournament.
I didn't guess high enough. Nobody did.
Catching more than 45 pounds of bass in one day or 120 pounds in four days can only happen on a handful of lakes in America, and conditions have to be perfect. Remember, that's a nine-pound per bass weight for one day, or 30 pounds for four consecutive days.
Conditions at Falcon included high wind and rough water followed by bright sun, and Terry Scroggins came in with 44-4 the last day of the tournament (Dean Rojas has the record at 45-2) and the top six pros all broke Steve Kennedy's Clear Lake weight record of 122-14. All 12 finalists broke 100 pounds, too.
Without a doubt, Falcon Reservoir today has to rate as the best overall bass fishery in the United States.
This week at Amistad should be good, too, but it will be a different type of tournament because it's a different type of lake. Falcon's bass were primarily in postspawn and feeding heavily, while Amistad's clear water bass are now on spawning beds in 70-degree water.
There will also be a lot of prespawners still in deeper water waiting to move shallow, giving other pros opportunities to use swimbaits and other big plastics and jigs in deeper water.
Dean Rojas, Kelly Jordon, Alton Jones and Ish Monroe are all excellent sight fishermen and could/should do very well here. Monroe won here in 2006 with 104-8, and, of course, Rojas still holds the one day weight record of 45-2, which he caught by sight fishing.
At the same time, however, a very familiar face, Mark Davis, is fishing very well right now — he took over the Angler of the Year points lead by virtue of his 5th place finish at Falcon — and he's really good at catching deeper fish with crankbaits and Carolina rigs. Davis has another characteristic, as well: he pushes the envelope in trying to find places or patterns his competition misses.
Two other fisherman worth watching at Amistad are Aaron Martens and Kevin VanDam, both of whom are comfortable sight fishing or going deep. Martens probably should have won at Falcon. He led three days even while sharing the water with Byron Velvick and then leaving that spot the last day. VanDam, of course, is only the best all-around angler in the sport today. Because he'll have different depth and pattern choices at Amistad, KVD could easily unlock the vault a second time this season, and, besides, he was pretty upset at his decision-making at Falcon so he's going to fish even harder.
Who's the long-shot this week? Probably anybody not named above, because any of the 109 Elite pros are capable of winning, but I would look at Rick Morris, Scott Rook and Preston Clark to do well if they get on a strong bite the first day. Morris likes to fish jigs, which are always excellent choices at Amistad, Rook is just plain good (6th at Falcon) anywhere you put him and Clark is a superb shallow water angler.