We've been tracking big bass all day and the Elite Series field didn't disappoint on Day 1 at Lake Fork. Mike Huff's late-day 6-pound, 5-ounce largemouth was the 100th bass over 4 pounds.
Chris Zaldain has this season treated us to some fantastic bonus coverage on Bassmaster LIVE. In an on-water, realtime seminar from Lake Lanier he demonstrated to viewers how blueback herring set up on windblown points for the spotted bass bite, pointing out underwater features on his Humminbird electronics. This morning he pointed to the 6- and 9-inch Megabass Magdraft that he is fishing on a rod specifically designed for the swimbait. That is the Megabass Destroyer USA.
First released in Japan in 1996, the Destroyer rod series is now available in the U.S. Zaldain is using the Destroyer 7’ 8” Mark 48, which fundamentally is a flipping rod. Another key part of his swimbait package is the 20-pound Seaguar InvizX Flourocarbon. “It’s supple and is perfect for making long casts.”
Zaldain is using precision matched tackle and maximizing it’s potential with his pattern. That is targeting windblown points. Coincidentally, he did that at Lake Lanier. In retrospect, he talked about how the wind prolonged the shad spawn. What is more, his presentation style maximized the swimbait’s natural effectiveness in the strike zone.
With all of the monsters caught during the Bassmaster Elite Series season opener on the St. Johns River, 6-pounders weren't even turning heads by the final day.
We seem to be headed in that direction for the second time in five events.
We're only four hours into Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest Benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife Department on Lake Fork, and the Top 5 largest bass caught have all weighed 7 pounds or more. Chad Pipkens, Brandon Cobb, Carl Jocumsen and Chris Zaldain have all caught bass that pushed the scales to 7 or better.
Zaldain has two in the 7-pound category — a 7-4 and a 7-6 — which is the biggest reason he's currently leading the event with a five-bass total of 30-10.
Considering we're on Lake Fork, the question is...Will a 7-pounder still be a head-turner by tournament's end?
Keith Combs just caught five keepers in four casts. Two were caught at the same time on both ends of a crank bait. Combs’ fish are not showing up in BASStrakk currently, but he has 19-13, which would put him in fourth place.
Combs is doing his damage in an area he fished earlier in the day. “It’s weird there was nothing here earlier,” he said.
More than 65 percent of the people playing Fantasy Fishing chose Combs in Bucket C. That confidence is paying off.
Texas pro Frank "The Tank" Talley just landed his second fish of the day, a largemouth bass that weighed 4 pounds, 6 ounces.
As the fish was being release, he said, "That one's for you Colton." Colton is his new grandson, who was born between the Bassmaster Elite Series events on Lake Hartwell and Winyah Bay.
Talley actually made a quick trip home from South Carolina to Texas to be there for Colton's first moments and then high-tailed it back for the event on Winyah Bay.
He's split most of his time lately between holding that grand baby and fishing for bass — and he's obviously thinking of one while doing the other.
All season Chris Zaldain has swung for the fence with nothing else in mind but catching big bass. He did it at Lake Lanier where he used a big Megabass Magdraft Swimbait fished deep on a drop shot rig. He tried it again at the Classic and went bust, but you’ve got to give him credit for the gutsy move to keep on swinging for the big bite. Eventually it will swing in Zaldain’s favor and so far, it looks like Lake Fork might be the place. BASSTrakk shows his score right now at 29-5.
Here is what he had to say yesterday.
"Practice was fun. I know we talk about the cliché all the time about a lake fishing small it’ll be a factor this week. Our guys are dispersing evenly throughout the lake, but you’ve also got to add the licensed guides and then the recreational fishermen coming in this weekend. As for me, I am going for five big bites a day, nothing more, nothing less. I’m not throwing anything shorter than six inches, mostly nine. If the fish are in front of your lure, they eat it. There is no finessing to it."
Photo by Texas Fest Judge Jeremy Copher
This morning Steve Bowman and I are covering Keith Combs. It has been a slow start for the tall Texan. Nary a bite for the first two hours. At least we got a nice tour of the lake. Combs has fished six or seven spots already. But he just hooked up and landed a 4 pound 4 ounce bass. That lightened the mood, and brought about a pleasant exchange. Bowman, “Keith it’s about time.” Combs, “I’m already tired of you.” Both said with brotherly love.
In the short time we’ve been out today Steve Bowman and I have seen anglers taking three different approaches to catching bass: 1) out deeper searching for post spawners, 2) in the middle, in about 6 feet of water, trying to catch bass moving out, and 3) in shallow looking for spawning bass. We’re clearly in a time of transition.
With the deluge of rain that cam overnight I wanted to know just how much that would influence the early morning strategies. That screen grab from my phone is what it looked like this morning around 4:00 a.m.
This morning when it was announced the takeoff would be delayed until 7:25 a.m. I posed this question to the anglers while shooting BASSCam videos.
What will the delay do to the early bite?
The reason why is the shad spawn that is underway. Judging the wide assortment of big swimbaits on the front decks of the boats the answers were predictable. You can watch those comments on the video page.
One angler said the lake had come up at least 7 inches overnight and there is more runoff to come. Today and even more tomorrow. Pressure comes next. You can bet that most, if not all the field headed to the shorelines this morning to make the best of what remained of that shad spawn. Plus, there are bass guarding fry, and some have not yet spawned.
Mark Menendez said it best about the merry go round rotation of anglers cycling through the shoreline.
"In practice I caught a ten pounder and it was as arbitrary as anything. There is a big luck factor involved this week, because there is so much pressure on the shorelines. Get on the right rotation in front of someone and you can come in with 35 pounds. Get in the wrong rotation, behind someone, and you can come up with 15 pounds. If a big fish comes into shallow water it’s going to get caught, and you never know who that might be.”
This just sent in from photographer Andy Crawford, who is on Hunter Shryock. He just logged a 6-pound, 4-ounce largemouth with these comments.
“The water clarity is getting worse in a good way. The fish are getting dumber. I could tell the last three I caught hit the bait out of aggression, a reaction bite, and not a finesse bite.”
If Shryock wants dirty he’s going to get it. Crawford said the trolling motor is barely visible at their location, which is about 6 inches below the surface.