The weights coming out of Falcon Lake, site of the third 2008 Elite Series tournament, were almost beyond belief. Consider that six anglers broke the previous four-day, all time weight record and the top three finishers weighed 60 bass that averaged over 6 1/2 pounds apiece.
Here's how the first, second and third place finishers did it.
(132 pounds, 8 ounces)
"I caught almost all of my fish out of Tiger Creek," said the elated winner. "And in fact almost all of them came off one point. I'm really not sure what was so special about it other than it was a natural type area that holds bass.
"It was long and narrow, with steep drops and deep water on both sides. It ran way out into the lake and there was a large, spawning flat behind it. I think I was getting bass traveling in both directions, to their spawning grounds and away from them. It was a bass highway."
Elias reports he used a two-prong attack strategy. His primary weapon was a Mann's 20+ crankbait in a greenback-chartreuse pattern. "I threw it on Berkley Trilene 100% Fluorocarbon Line, and it was exactly what they wanted.
"You had to run it into the rocks and bang them hard. And, it had to dig into the bottom and stir them up. That was the only way I could get them to bite. The lure and line combination was really important, too. It was the only way I could fish effectively below 15 feet and that's where the big fish were on my point."
His secondary weapon — used mostly on the final day — was a Carolina rigged, 12-inch Mann's Jelly Worm, watermelon red, held down with a 1-ounce tungsten sinker and armed with a 6/0 Gamakatsu hook.
"The trick was to drag it along real slow and just barely pull it across the rocks. The fish weren't very aggressive as the tournament progressed — that was true with the crankbait, too — so you had to pay close attention and set the hook immediately, otherwise they'd spit it out."
(132 pounds, 4 ounces including a Day 4 bag that weighed 44 pounds, 4 ounces)
"I think I was fishing a little deeper than most of the guys," he said. "I was setting the boat in 35 feet of water and throwing into 20 feet or so. Most of my bass came out of water between 20 and 25 feet."
Interestingly, every big bass Scroggins caught bit the same bait — a 10-inch ribbontail worm, in a plumb hue. Sometimes he rigged it Carolina style with a one-ounce egg sinker; other times he rigged it Texas style with a 3/8-ounce tungsten sinker and a EWG plastics hook. Either way the bass liked it.
"I caught them all on that worm in about 15 different spots. They were all pretty much the same though. They were extended points with lots of rock and old house foundations on them. One spot had an old roadbed running across it. The hard areas seemed to be my best producers.
"But I really think the important thing was the presentation — even more than the bait or the exact location. You had to fish real slowly. I mostly just let it sit on the bottom and then moved it a little bit every so often.
"The bites were light, just little pecks, so you had to set the hook real quick or they'd be gone. Considering all the fish we caught, it was a strange bite."
Scroggins says timing was important as well. He reports catching most of his fish in the first hour of each day. He says after that the fish got progressively smaller as the day went along — "only 4 or 5 pounds" in his words.
(131 pounds, 15 ounces)
"It was crazy out there. I couldn't get to my best spots — other guys were on them — and I still caught over 130 pounds of bass," Byron Velvick said. "My fish came in 20 to 35 feet of water out of a popular bay full of long, rocky points that were covered with old foundations."
His best fish were caught on two baits: A 10-inch, motor oil/red fleck Berkley Power Worm, and a River2Sea Bottom Walker Swimbait in a baby bass pattern.
"The bass were a little tentative, and it got worse as the tournament went along. I used a Carolina rig with the worm. The thing I found worked best was to let it fall all the way to the bottom, and then not get in a hurry.
"I just barely moved it along, never letting it lose contact with the bottom, and made sure it crawled over the rocks and foundations. You wanted it to act like something alive and never move it very fast."
He handled the swimbait a little differently, however. First, he modified its baby bass pattern with a dark marker to make it look like a tilapia. "I put bars on it with a black marker and messed with it so it would look kind of green. I wanted a tilapia finish. It took some time to get it right but I think that was important and worth the effort. It seemed to help a lot."
He fished his modified swimbait with a subtle lift and drop action. But again, contact with the bottom, and especially the old foundations, was the key to his success. "They'd take it if you worked it up and down real soft and made a lot of contact with the bottom structure and cover. But as soon as you tried to speed it up, the bites disappeared."