Elites saves the least for last

KIMBERLING CITY, Mo. — The CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series may have saved the least for last.

 After Elite Series events put anglers on water during their optimal bass catching time, the final event for 2006 presents perhaps the most trying conditions.

 "September is typically about the toughest month of the year, unless there's some unusual conditions," said Stacey King, a 12-time qualifier to the Bassmaster Classic who lives on Table Rock Lake. "But there's been no rain to speak of, it's been extremely hot all summer and the water level is down well below power pool level. It will be very tough."

 King, 57, of Reeds Spring, was asked by Bassmaster.com to give a scouting report for The Rock presented by Theraseed, which runs Thursday through Sunday. King said the fish are there, but the trick will be finding them, then catching them.

 "The lake is full of quality largemouth, smallmouth and spotted bass, but when it's hot and low and there's no fresh water, typically the fish have a tendency to want to suspend," King said. "There'll be a lot of fish deep. The shallow water bite will be very limited.

 "Maybe early in the day, there may be a few shallow fish. The rivers don't produce this time of year, not to say there won't be a few caught in them. The main lake fishing is usually the best. The guys to who like to fish deep will typically do best."

 And best won't be much, he said. While the Elite Series opened with huge stringers on Lake Armistad in March, King said The Rock will have a number of empty bags.

 "They'll be some zips," he said. "They'll be lot of guys weigh 1, 2, 3 fish in two days."

 While King said he wouldn't be surprised if someone weighed in a 17- to 18-pound bag, he thinks anglers can make Saturday's top 50 cut with around 7 pounds each day.

 "There won't be 50 guys catch 15 pounds," he said. "The leaders, the top 10 or 12, if you can catch 25 pounds in two days, you've done extremely well. And I don't think anybody will catch that four days in a row.

 "As far as catching five bass a day for four days, that will be hard. But those guys are all such quality fishermen, they're very capable of finding a group of fish, or an area that's holding fish, or a pattern. Overall I think there'll be a lot of sad faces in the field. The majority is going to find it very, very tough."

 Except for early, King said he'd bypass the 900 miles of shoreline on Table Rock and hit deep structure.

 "I like to fish deep. I'd be fishing jigs and a dropshot primarily, deep-water techniques.

 The guys who like that type fishing will be stronger than the shallow water, bank-beater type guys," he said. "The fish roam around on bait and they're finicky. You have to know how to use your electronics to fish those type fish. You have to find the right bait, the submerged timber. You have to figure out all the scenarios and put the pieces together until you get it figured out."

 Aaron Martens, Gerald Swindle and Brian Snowden, who guides on the lake, are anglers whose expertise gives them an advantage here, King said.

 "All these guys are versatile, so you can't count anybody out," King said. "It's hard when you just come here with a 2-, 3-day practice when you have a 30 day off-limits and have to find deep-water fish. But some of them are going to find them. It's going to be interesting to see what shakes out."