DEL RIO, Texas — Three Elite Series pros made a splash Friday on Lake Amistad before they ever cast a lure.
Kelly Jordon, Byron Velvick and Brian Hudgins hit the water wearing Mexican wrestling masks, à la "Nacho Libre," drawing a smattering of applause and abundant laughter as they idled through the take-off line at the Diablo East boat dock.
The three lined up alongside one another at the boat dock and donned the masks after the national anthem. They held arms skyward in triumphant postures as they posed for photographers.
"It's something different for take-off," Jordon said. "We're just having a little fun with it."
Actually, the fun started Thursday in Ciudad Acuña, Mexico, where the three anglers and friends spent the Battle on the Border's canceled first day. After lunch at Manuel's, the group walked the streets of Acuña for the better part of an hour. A storefront display caught Velvick's eye as they walked past, and soon the whole group was perusing the shop's selection of wrestling masks.
They tried on several different masks before choosing, with Velvick's fiancée, Mary Delgado, making suggestions about which ones looked best. Jordon settled on a blue and white mask, ostensibly to better represent Yamaha blue. Velvick went with a red and green mask because "it matches the colors in my boat and jersey better." It was a tough call, though. He almost went with a red and black model to represent his affiliation with Mercury. Hudgins picked out a black and gold mask "because it's cool."
They were calling themselves "Team Chupacabra," a satirical reference to the mythical blood-sucking creature of Latin American legend.
As of take-off, there were no reported sightings of body slams, figure-four holds or actual chupacabras.
Co-angler Mike Frazier didn't have pink. But he got it when he learned he'd be fishing with Arkansas pro Kevin Short.
Short is well known for his pink boat and jersey. It's also a prominent color in the logo for his Peepers Baits.
So Frazier, a true character on the Elite Series co-angler circuit, bought a pink T-shirt to wear Friday while fishing with Short.
"I don't know what to tell you about that," Short said as the two stood side by side on the dock prior to Friday's take-off.
But Frazier didn't stop at the pink T-shirt. He scrawled "Big Sexy" across the back of the shirt in large block letters.
"The color is cool," Short said. "But the words are the scary part."
"I'm bringing sexy back to bass fishing," Frazier proclaimed.
Short's reply: "I didn't know it ever left."
On the scheduled first day of the Battle on the Border, BASS officials waved the white flag, surrendering to a forecast of dangerous winds. And while some anglers lamented the loss of the day, many weren't complaining about a rare day off.
For some anglers, it was especially nice after the slugfest last week at Falcon Lake, where BASS records fell and anglers had to tape their hands because they were rubbed raw after handling giant largemouths all week.
"I was so worn out it took me until Tuesday to regain consciousness," said Paul Elias, winner of last week's event with a record total weight of 132 pounds, 8 ounces. "My hands were so sore I could hardly hold my reel."
Terry Scroggins, Kevin VanDam and Davy Hite went bowling. Gerald Swindle and Jeff Reynolds argued about the Boone and Crockett score of a whitetail buck at a local tackle store. Boyd Duckett, Marty Stone and Jeremy Stark tested lures in the swimming pool at Amistad Lake Resort.
"We needed a day off," said Ohio pro Charlie Hartley. "After last week, it couldn't have come at a better time."
Right at home
John Murray calls Phoenix, Ariz., home, and he feels right at home on Lake Amistad.
"It looks just like a lot of our lakes," said Murray, who finished 12th last year at Amistad. "We just don't have the grass, that's the big difference here. And I think that's what gives it the potential to grow such big bass.
"With our lakes, there's just not much habitat below 20 feet. Down here, it starts about 20 feet in some places with that deep grass. It's pretty healthy."
Murray was referring to the abundant hydrilla in Amistad's 67,000 acres.
It's in that deeper grass that Murray thinks the Battle on the Border will be won.
"Almost all the tournaments are won at 20 to 30 feet," he said. "That's where the big ones like to stay. Some will be caught deeper and some shallower. But you're going to have to have a good area. You can't just fish that depth."
Deep spawning beds
Lake Amistad is noted for its clear water. How clear is it? So clear that Ben Matsubu caught a bass off a spawning bed in practice that was exactly 22.9 feet deep, according to his sonar.
"I caught 15 to 20 fish in 20 feet of water that were on beds," Matsubu said.
However, Matsubu hasn't been impressed with the size of the bass on those beds.
"When you see them that deep, you're usually thinking there's going to be some size to them," he said. "If this was out west, those would be 3-pounders. But they're 1-pounders."
"I wouldn't want to be a fish out there today."
— Ohio pro Charlie Hartley on fishermen returning to the water after an unexpected day off.
"I have to capitalize on every bite. I've got to catch everything."
— Oklahoma pro Fred Roumbanis on the shortened tournament.
"We're big boys with big toys. If we can take off, we should."
— Missouri pro Denny Brauer on Thursday's cancellation.
"I repacked my Suburban. When you've got to resort to stuff like that to keep busy, you're pretty bored."
— Brauer on what he did during Thursday's down time.
"I'd rather be fishing."
— Skeet Reese during Thursday's cancellation (also a popular bumper sticker slogan).
"A whole lot of nothing."
— Reese's answer to what he did during the down time Thursday.
"This is a spectacularly beautiful lake. You launch your boat and you just go, 'This lake is gorgeous.'"
— Shaw Grigsby on the natural beauty of Lake Amistad.