DEL RIO, Texas — For all the talk about Lake Amistad possibly being down from the past two years, the results from Day One of the Bassmaster Elite Series Battle on the Border presented by Mahindra Tractors looked remarkably like they have before.
Kurt Dove topped the leaderboard with a five-bass limit weighing 30 pounds, 8 ounces. Three-time Elite Series champion Mike McClelland is second with 29-5.
"Obviously, Falcon (Lake) set a new standard (last week)," said four-time Bassmaster Classic champion Rick Clunn. "But this lake is still one of the top three in the country as far as I'm concerned."
Amistad produced four bags over 30 pounds last year. But the rest of the numbers from Day One were similar: Twelfth place was 26-12 last year and 25-12 this year; 50th place was 18-2 last year and 17-1 this year; 95 limits were caught last year and 107 this year.
Day One of this year's event was originally scheduled for Thursday, but it was canceled because of expected winds of 35 to 40 miles per hour. This is now a three-day tournament. Saturday's results will determine who gets in the top 12 for Sunday's final and a shot at the $100,000 first prize.
"I think there's more big fish here than in Falcon," Fred Roumbanis said. "I saw probably 10 fish over 8 pounds today."
But catching them was definitely more difficult than in last week's event at Falcon Lake, where Paul Elias set the new four-day total-weight record of 132-8.
Dove's big bag came from a pattern he noticed in the last few hours of practice Wednesday.
"I've had a really tough year this year, so this feels good," said the 35-year-old Fairfax, Va., pro. "I found this pattern Wednesday, and I'm still working it out. I didn't get a lot of bites today, probably 12 or 13 fish. But I got quality bites.
"The type of structure and cover is very particular. I'm running around building on it. When I can find that exact same style of structure and cover, I caught one on every one of those places."
McClelland caught a lot more fish than Dove in sacking his 29-5.
"We had one of those days where you feel like you couldn't do anything wrong," said McClelland of he and his co-angler. "I started off with a Carolina rig and caught a 5 1/2-pounder on the first cast. On the next cast, I caught a 7."
After the Bella Vista, Ark., angler saw his partner catch a bass on a swimbait, McClelland cast one and caught his big bass of the day, an 8-6. Then he finished out his limit with a new prototype SPRO stickbait.
"That's a few more bites than I expected," McClelland said. "The conditions were right, with the wind blowing in the direction it did."
Both McClelland and Dove were concentrating off-shore in deeper water. And that's where most of the other success stories came Friday. Clark Rheem, an Elite Series rookie from Russellville, Ark., is in third place with 28-14. Ish Monroe and Jami Fralick are tied for fourth with 27-12.
Monroe, who won this event in 2006, caught all his fish on a Tru-Tungsten Tru-Life swimbait, in tilapia and bluegill color patterns. As is often true in throwing swimbaits, he didn't get a lot of bites — "probably 10 or 11," he said — but he did get quality bites.
"I threw it all day long," Monroe said. "I picked up a jerkbait and made probably 10 casts — nothing, so I put it down. I picked up a Senko and made probably 20 casts — nothing, so I put it down."
Then he hit a stretch with the swimbait where he put four in the boat in an hour.
"That told me I've just got to keep throwing it," he said.
Randy Howell caught the Purolator Big Bass — a 10-8 that he described as being as long as his leg, and that appeared to be true. Howell said it was the biggest bass he's ever caught in a tournament. The big bass hit a jerkbait.
"I chased it with the trolling motor for awhile," Howell said. "I thought it might be a striper because I never saw it. When I finally got it up to the boat there was one hook on one treble holding it.
"Honestly, in three days of practice I caught over 100 fish, but never had one over 3 1/2 pounds," said Howell, who is in 13th place with 25-4. "Four of those fish I caught today were bigger than anything I caught in practice."
Jared Lintner is in 42nd place with 18-4, but he had the best "one that got away" story of the day. Lintner caught a 12-inch bass that he was reeling to the boat when a bass weighing 8- to 10-pounds engulfed the smaller fish.
"I had it, but the hook was in the other fish," Lintner said.
The big bass let go of the little bass. So Lintner came back to that spot 45 minutes later and had a hook in the big bass this time, but it threw the bait before he could land it.
Lintner and everyone else in this 109 Elite Series angler field will have one more day to try and make the top 12 cut. Rookie Billy Brewer currently occupies 12th place with 25-12, followed by Howell, Kotaro Kiriyama (25-3) and Todd Faircloth (23-14) rounding out the top 15.
There are 22 anglers bunched between 22 and 19 pounds, including Toyota Tundra Angler of the Year points leader Mark Davis and Bassmaster Classic champion Alton Jones, both of whom are tied for 28th place with 19-15.