DEL RIO, Texas — The weather had thrown the anglers a curveball from Day One of the OPTIMA Batteries Battle on the Border. Conditions got even more interesting on Saturday when the sun finally appeared halfway through the day.
For Boyd Duckett, the swimbait bite that helped him get near the top of the leaderboard abandoned him on Day Three. He only managed a little more than 12 pounds, and fell from second to sixth.
Duckett found the going tough both in the morning and once the sun came up, but eventually moved to a series of "limit holes" where he was able to finally pull out five fish.
He noted on Day Two that clouds and wind were critical to his success with the swimbait, so he has a mixed chance at ideal conditions on Sunday's final day, with the forecasts calling for warmer weather and a slight chance of thunderstorms in Del Rio.
Aaron Martens, on the other hand, welcomed the sunny afternoon to Lake Amistad. For him, the sun really got the deep dropshot bite going.
"When the sun gets up after it has been cloudy for a little bit, you can't beat a dropshot," Martens said. "I probably had 30 fish today — they were macking right now and I had to leave them to come check in."
The only problem for Martens was size. After catching a 9-pounder on a dropshot the first day, his big fish deserted him and he was only able to put together two bags in the mid-teens. He finished in 26th place.
Bobby Lane was excited for shallow fishing after a fantastic practice fishing for bedding bass. Then the cold front killed that bite after the first day of the tournament. Even with sun and warming temperatures, he doesn't expect the shallow fish to return until next week.
"It will take at least three days and then you should be able to just come out and whack them going down the bank," Lane said. "You might see some smaller fish moving up sooner, maybe even tomorrow, but the big ones probably won't be back around until next week."
Just to make sure he didn't miss anything this afternoon, when the sun popped out Lane went a checked a few of his shallow spots to see if anything had moved in.
"Man, it was perfect — there were beds everywhere," Lane said. "I even caught my last two fish in there, but I just didn't see anything of any size moving up. I still wish I had a chance to go out there tomorrow."
Jason Williamson and Stephen Browning weighed in the heaviest (33-13)and third-heaviest (27-0) bags of Day Three.
The biggest similarity between the two?
Both had fished water that was relatively untouched by the two anglers through the first two days of competition.
Williamson, whose sack was the tournament's first over 30 pounds, couldn't get to the wad of fish until Day Three, when the water finally cleared up.
"Crystal-clear water is critical for what I'm doing," Williamson said. "I tried to get in there the first two days, but I couldn't really fish the spot because it just wasn't clear enough. When it cleared up today it was on."
Browning had a similar experience with brand-new water, but he just chose not to fish the area until today.
"It's a place I normally fish every year, but only on the third day," Browning said. "I never expected to get that much off it today. I didn't have any expectations — when you pull up to a magical point and catch 21 pounds in 30 minutes, you just know it is going to be a good day."
The best thing for both anglers, and the dangerous thing for the rest of the field, is that neither expects to face much pressure from other Elite or recreational anglers.
Bobby Lane suffered a disadvantage at take-off this morning when he forgot to raise his Power-Poles before leaving the marina.
While waiting for his number to be called, Lane was lounging in the back of the cove with both poles down to keep him in place. He heard tournament officials call Mike McClelland, the boat in front of him, so he hurried to fall into line to take off.
Unfortunately, in the chaos of bumping boats to get in line, Lane forgot that his Power-Poles were extended.
As he idled past the tire breakwall and tried to get on plane, he said, "I go to take off and I couldn't go nowhere. I almost got on plane, but I couldn't quite do it. I look back and all I can see is this splashing and sure enough, the poles were down."
Even after all the pressure that his boat exerted on the poles, they were amazingly still in great shape. One was slightly out of line, but Lane was able to get them stowed and fished the rest of the day without incident.
"I'm not getting a lot of bites, but when my bobber goes down it's usually a good one." — Kenyon Hill
"You got to go big or go home." — Ish Monroe
"I have averaged 20 pounds a day and still don't think I'll make the cut." — Mike Iaconelli
"Either you're really on them here or you're not. I was not." — Jami Fralick
"I need to start throwing that swimbait on a fiberglass rod, but I'm afraid I'd hook myself in the butt with it." — Jeff Kriet
"I think I kinda burned them up yesterday, and didn't have another place to go catch 28 pounds." — Mark Tucker
"First I caught a 7, a 4, then a 5 and thought, man this is going to be a good day." — Stephen Browning
"Going into it I didn't have anything going on. I still don't." — Mark Davis
"You completely messed up my fantasy BASS team." — BASS emcee Keith Alan to Brian Snowden
"I went and threw that stupid swimbait, it looks like a tennis shoe. That thing makes a splash so big I think it scares the fish." — Randy Howell
"I'm gonna go melt all my swimbaits down and make tennis shoes out of them for a whole tribe of Indians. That's the most overrated piece of nothing I have ever seen." — Gerald Swindle
"Most of the day I was throwing a bait as big as the fish I was catching." — Steve Kennedy
"I'm so proud of that 9 pounds. With four minutes to go, I didn't have a fish." — Fred Roumbanis