A little lost on this different kind of tournament? Let Dave Mercer lay it out for you.
The fish are plentiful in east Texas, the cell phone service — not so much. We are working to bring Bassmaster viewers the latest from the lake. However, because of limited cell service on Sam Rayburn you may see some zeros in BASSTrakk for anglers who have their 5-fish limit.
With the new scoring format, adopted from the former TTBC, BASSTrakk should represent more of a real-time leaderboard. Each fish is weighed, released, and written-in on an official scorecard that will be brought to the weigh-in by the judge and angler.
With a GEICO Bassmaster Classic bid on the line and a new Toyota truck, this one is sure to keep you on your toes.
We started our morning on Jason Christie, the current leader of the Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year race.
We had to search a bit. But we caught up with him at the most opportune moment. He was moving and as we were behind him, he threw an ear on his prop. This can happen in these lakes where you spend the day bouncing around in stumpy environments.
It did not bother Christie too much. He worked like he was on pit row at a NASCAR race and in less than 2 minutes (I timed him) he was back up and running.
In that two minutes we had a moment to catch up with him on his morning. He's caught a 4-pounder and another keeper. He didn't mention the weight but a good guess is 5 1/2 to 6 pounds.
He did say the 4-pounder was a surprise and a blessing. Given that fish hit in an area he didn't think those size fish lived in and he was able to quickly swap out what could have been a disaster, things are going well for Christie.
Those are the type things that happen for guys who eventually win the AOY title.
Local favorite Todd Faircloth made a substantial run to start his day. This is an expansive area, but only one other boat has showed up so far. This could be the kind of place that's far enough out of the way that most of the field might overlook it.
It's worth noting that the fish are still in transition between spawn and postspawn, which means the deep-water game will be a factor, but so will the shallow-water stuff.
In general, it's a bit wet in East Texas and the lake is about 18 inches below full pool. And that's about 2 to 3 feet above normal for Sam Rayburn at this time of year.
What's all of this mean? Lots of patterns will play making it anybody's game--especially Faircloth.
He was hardly the only angler to express this thought after practice, but Keith Combs may have said it best in describing Sam Rayburn Reservoir at present: "It's real easy to get bit, and a lot of them are 2-, 2 1/2-pound fish. Everybody will have five fish, and they'll come easy."
You could say that every bass tournament, no matter where it is, comes down to who catches those one or two "kicker fish" that make all the difference. But you're going to hear a lot about them this week.
"Probably the biggest concern you'll hear from everybody is, 'Am I going to catch a big one or two?'" Combs said. "It's going to take good weight."
Bill Lowen, who finished fourth here in 2006, the only other time the Elite Series has come to Rayburn, put a little different spin on this week, while basically saying the same thing as Combs.
"It's so hard to say what's going to happen this week because the lake has been fishing so good," Lowen said. "I don't want to say it's easy to get 3-pound bites, but there are a lot of 3-pounders in this lake. So that tells me 15 pounds a day is probably going to get you a kick in the butt."
The Judges are getting their final instructions before the start of Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
Davy Hite and Chris Lane discuss Classic implications at Texas Fest.