Velvick Closes On Martens

ZAPATA, Texas — Byron Velvick watched Aaron Martens catch a five-bass 42-pound limit on opening day of the Lone Star Shootout presented by Longhorn. Friday, Martens watched Velvick catch a 40-pound sack — 41-11 to be exact.

 The two Bassmaster Elite Series pros are sharing the same quarter-mile stretch of Falcon Lake, and now only 3 pounds, 4 ounces, separates the two tournament leaders.

 "I'm just three pounds ahead, that's sick isn't it?" said Martens, who remains on a BASS record-setting pace with 79-13 after two days.

 Yes, it is sick or simply unbelievable that someone would have almost an 8-pound average after two days of fishing and be clinging to the lead. But it's also a testament to Falcon Lake, which has been almost unanimously crowned this week as the king of bass fishing waters in the U.S.

 Velvick was in fifth place on Day One but closed the gap on Martens by catching the Berkley Big Bag on Friday.

 "I don't know what to say, I'm usually not at a loss for words," said Velvick, who has 76-9. "It's just amazing what's happening out there."

 Yes, amazing would describe one stretch of water that has sent well over 200 pounds of bass to the weigh-in scales the last two days, between what Martens, Velvick and their co-anglers have sacked.

 "It's like an old house down there, it's an old foundation or something," Velvick said. "I just hope they like it and keep coming back to the little pueblo in the water."

 Friday began with little wind. During that time Velvick said he was able to feel the structure on the bottom of their hot spot better than he had the day before. That's when he realized there was more to it than just a rocky point.

 "I could feel a wall or something," he said. "I think it's an old foundation."

 Martens left for awhile Friday and was able to add one bigger fish to his limit. Both Martens and Velvick have several other fish-holding spots on Falcon Lake that they found during practice. But it's difficult to leave a glory hole like this.

 "How do you leave a place where you've caught 76 pounds?" Velvick said.

 And it's not every day when two anglers competing for a $100,000-first prize would be willing to share water like they are. Martens and Velvick arrived at this spot about the same time on Thursday.

 "We've shared water before, but never this close," Velvick said.

 Steve Kennedy pronounced Friday morning that his 122-14 four-day BASS total weight record, set on California's Clear Lake a year ago, was all but history. That seems even more a foregone conclusion now.

 "If I have a good day tomorrow and the next day, it could be incredible," Martens said of his possible final weight in this event. "You're looking at 130, 135 (pounds), if it was halfway decent. Yesterday I threw back a 30-pound limit. Today probably 25.

 "If everything goes right, it could be 140, 145. That's going to be a hard record to beat."

 But this isn't necessarily a two-horse race. Mark Davis caught his second-straight 30-pound bag and has 68-13 — exactly 9 pounds behind Martens. Davis, who lives in Mt. Ida, Ark., is the only man to win both the Bassmaster Classic and BASS Angler of the Year titles in the same year. And Davis is right in his element — fishing for post-spawn bass.

 Davis landed the Purolater Big Bass Friday; it weighed 11-1. And he knows a bigger bag is possible in Falcon than the 42-0 that Martens caught Thursday.

 "A guy could catch 45 pounds here, if everything worked out just right," Davis said. "Somebody will do it before the week is over."

 The wind shifted to the north Friday and actually blew harder than it did on Thursday, once it started picking up around noon. That continues to be the one limiting factor here. "Only" 12 limits weighing 30-plus pounds came to the scales Friday, after Falcon produced 18 on Thursday.

 Mike Iaconelli was the only other angler to back up 30 pounds with another 30. He has 66-5 and sits in fifth place.

 The biggest thing that hurt me today was the wind," Iaconelli said. "I don't think it affected the bite as much as it did me. I couldn't detect the bite as well.

 "I've got three spots I'm fishing and all are offshore. I'm trying to rotate between all three. That was hard to manage today. Two of the spots are only five miles apart, but the other one is 10 miles away. It was hard to do on a day like today."

 Paul Elias was in 26th place Thursday but jumped all the way to fourth with 39-1, the second biggest bag of the day. Unlike the way Martens and Velvick have shared water the past two days, Elias and Ish Monroe got in a turf battle.

 Monroe was in an early flight Thursday and stayed all day on the spot they'd both found in practice. Monroe finished the day in third place with 35-6. Elias said he motored over to Monroe that afternoon and told him he was going to be there the next day.

Monroe wasn't happy about it, and Elias said he struggled with the decision all night, barely sleeping. He finally made up his mind that he wasn't going to give up a place he'd found in practice just because someone else drew an earlier takeoff time the first day.

 "I caught four of my biggest fish there, left my marker buoy there and told him he could have it," Elias said. "I caught another 8-pounder on my way back (to the weigh-in area)."

 Monroe finished with 20-18 and dropped all the way to 19th place with 55-14.

 The field was cut to the top 50 Friday. Todd Faircloth claimed the final spot with an amazing 49-7, which is the highest cut weight in Elite Series history. That total would have him in first place after two days at most stops on the tour.

 The field will be cut to the top 12 after Saturday, and they will fish for the $100,000 first-place check Sunday.

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