Catching keepers will be a challenge


James Overstreet
This week's judges test out the scales they will be using on the water.

JONESTOWN, Texas — There are plenty of bass in Lake Travis, so many that some Elite Series anglers will catch 100 a day at the Toyota Bassmaster Texas Fest benefiting Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. The four-day tournament begins Thursday.

“You can catch a hundred without catching a keeper, yes you can,” said Wesley Strader, one of the few Elite Series anglers who has recent tournament experience on this 18,622-acre impoundment on the Colorado River. “That’s what’s crazy. You can catch a hundred 13-inchers.”

It’s not like Lake Travis doesn’t have any big bass in it. The TPWD has stocked almost 2 million Florida strain largemouth bass here since 1988. The lake record caught in 1993 weighed 14.2 pounds.

“I’ve seen some 7-, 8-, 9-pounders,” said Fred Roumbanis. “So if a guy can figure out how to get a couple of those bites, he’ll have a big advantage. I think 14 pounds a day will be right there for winning this thing.”

Strader thinks it will take even less, saying, “I think it will take 52 pounds to win the whole thing. That’s 13 pounds a day.”

Strader competed in an FLW Tour event here last year in February. The winning weight was 59 pounds, 2 ounces. Strader finished 22nd with a two-day total of 22-4.

“The first day I weighed-in five 14-inchers that weighed 5-13,” Strader said. “The second day I had 16-7. I think you’ll see a lot of that during this tournament. Guys won’t have anything one day, and they’ll have a good stringer the next.”

Strader is the hottest man in pro bass fishing right now, having won an Elite Series event at Kentucky Lake two weeks ago, then took a Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Open on North Carolina’s Lake Norman last Saturday. He’s not particularly confident that streak will continue this week, but he’s curious to see how it plays out.

“I think it’s going to be interesting,” Strader said. “I’m excited to see if the deep, clear-water guys catch ‘em as good as I think they will, or if they struggle too.”

Brett Hite is one of those deep, clear-water specialists. He fished an FLW event here in 2007, so he’s got some experience on Lake Travis.

“I made a check,” he said. “It was in February and it was real cold. I remember it was 18 degrees when we launched the first day. The conditions now are completely different. But still it was tough fishing then and it’s tough fishing now. You catch a lot of fish. It’s just tough to catch quality fish.

“It sets up like a Western reservoir. You can catch ‘em from the surface to 40 feet right now, and everywhere in between. You can catch ‘em on moving baits, twitch baits, drop baits, stick baits – it doesn’t really matter.

“There are some good fish here. It’s the guy who figures out how to catch one or two of those a day that will win this tournament.”

That’s a summary of what’s expected when this tournament begins Thursday with a 6:15 a.m. takeoff at Jones Brothers Park. But Hite offered this as well, saying, “These guys always surprise you.”