If ever there has been a perfect time and a perfect place in which to open a Bassmaster Elite Series season, it just might be March 12-15 at Lake Amistad on the Texas-Mexico border. Although the pros have been here before, lake and weather conditions have been aligning to produce an outstanding event. It certainly won't be another Falcon, but it'll be fun.
As I write this, seven days before competition begins, Amistad is 2 feet above full pool and barely falling. On this lake, that's a huge difference over what the pros have fished in years past. The flooded timber so many have depended on won't be quite as easy to see, but in place of the trees this year there's a good inside grassline, something that's been missing in the past.
Water temperatures are in the 60s, too, so that inside edge will get a lot of attention from fish coming in to spawn. At the same time, there will be late-comers still in the timber waiting to come shallow.
Those conditions will put bass anywhere between 1 and about 20 feet deep, so Amistad won't be all about sight fishing or deep jigging. A procan almost pick the style of fishing he wants and find it. Crankbaits, jerkbaits, swimbaits and possibly even topwaters will get used, along with all the tubes and plastics the bed fishermen will try.
The great equalizer might be wind, which has been howling across much of Texas all spring, and if it's 20 mph on Lake Fork, it might be 30 or higher on Amistad. Wind will make the lake fish smaller and also make sight fishing much more difficult.
Keeping these thoughts in mind, here are some pros to watch:
Greg Hackney — The Hack Attack, 7th here last year, seems to have this 67,000-acre reservoir dialed in. Admittedly, he likes to fish jigs in shallow water, but if that doesn't work for him, he'll do whatever he thinks is necessary to catch fish.
Dean Rojas — If it's a sight fishing event, Rojas will be in the hunt, and you can bet he'll spend much of practice exploring and studying shallow water. As he has proven, when fish are on beds, he knows how to catch them.
Gary Klein — Like Hackney, Klein knows how to fish Amistad (6th last year) in shallow and deep water, and he's caught double-digit fish here, too. The Texas pro was not happy about his Classic showing, and he told me he simply failed to listen to what the bass were telling him. He'll be listening at Amistad.
Alton Jones — When I spoke to Alton about this tournament, he was very confident, and he's planning to spend a lot more time searching for bedding fish than in years past. Like Rojas, he'll be tough if the fish are spawning, but he's also spent extra time on the water and has backup options already in mind.
Aaron Martens — I think Martens is ready to win, and this could be his time if he stays out of the timber with his drop shot. He's an excellent sight fisherman, he's won using swimbaits, and his Scrounger Head will certainly work here, too.
Mike Iaconelli — Iaconelli was not happy about finishing second in this year's Bassmaster Classic, so like Klein, he may come to Amistad with both barrels loaded. He's versatile, he had a Top 20 finish here last year, and when we visited in Shreveport, he confided that he is serious about winning again. If it's a bed fishing contest, I don't think he'll win, but he can hold his own if he finds cranking fish.
Several other pros bear watching, as well, including Kevin VanDam, Mike McClelland and Fred Roumbanis. All three are experts with jerkbaits and swimbaits, and each knows how to win. McClelland, of course, designed his own jerkbait and has caught a boatload of bass with it while VanDam and Roumbanis both use swimbaits far more than most realize.