ZAPATA, Texas The consensus among 109 Bassmaster Elite Series anglers ranks Falcon as the best lake ever for a BASS tournament site, and predicts no record in the book is safe this week at the Lone Star Shootout, presented by Longhorn.
Boyd Duckett believes Steve Kennedy's four-day tournament weight record is definitely history. Kennedy set the mark of 122 pounds, 14 ounces, at California's Clear Lake in March 2007. In fact, Duckett, the 2007 Bassmaster Classic champion, thinks the 12 anglers making the final cut here this week might all surpass Kennedy's mark.
Jeff Kriet won't go that far, but he did say, "I don't think the record can help but be broken this week. This lake is so good and these guys are so good, it's going to get pretty nasty."
"This is uncharted territory," Dean Rojas said. "We've never been at a place with so much potential for so many big fish to be caught. It's off the chart. You don't know how to gauge it."
Competition began at 8 a.m. Thursday under cloudy skies, 10 miles-per-hour east-southeast winds and 74-degree temperatures. The clouds are predicted to give way to mostly sunny skies around noon, when the temperature will start rising to a predicted high of 96. The winds may gust up to 25 miles per hour today.
That forecast of high winds put no damper on Rojas' thoughts that his single-day, five-bass record of 45-2, set in 2001 at Florida's Lake Toho, is in jeopardy too.
"I think it is because of the lake we're on," Rojas said. "The potential of it falling is pretty good. I've never been to a lake like this before.
"I think it is by far the best lake where we've ever held a (BASS) tournament. I think other lakes in the country can be really good in a little smaller window throughout the year. But it's like this all year down here.
"It reminds me of (Mexico's) El Salto, when I went down there. It looks the same. The water color is the same. And it's just full of big fish."
Falcon Lake is formed by the Rio Grande River and has a surface area of 83,654 acres. It has had its ups and downs in the past: In the 1990s, the lake was reduced in size to only 13,000 acres and stayed low for several years, allowing brush and timber to grow around its suddenly small footprint. When the lake filled up again, it left these Florida-strain largemouth bass plenty of cover and food with which they've obviously flourished.
That flooded timber will be the key in determining the winner of this four-day event.
"If there is one equalizer in this whole tournament, it's that timber," Rojas said. "It can be your best friend — or your worst nightmare."
Angler after angler used the word "mean" to describe the bass in Falcon Lake. That's mean as in angry and unwilling to do anything they don't want to do.
They seem well-schooled in the tactic of wrapping a fishing line around a branch (or two or three) in this flooded timber. And that's why you won't see any spinning rods or much monofilament line on the pros' boat decks this week.
"I figure to catch five big ones out of the bushes, you're going to have to get 10 big bites," Kriet said. "You're just not going to catch every one of those, I don't care if you're throwing 150-pound (test) braid. It's impossible."
Dave Wolak has changed the line on his crankbaiting reels from heavy fluorocarbon to braided line.
"I've got braid on all but one rod," Wolak said. "I'm cranking with braid. You give them a second, and they turn their head and go the wrong way. I broke off two of the crankbaits I wanted to use this week, and I only had four left, so I had to stop using them (Wednesday) morning in practice.
"They turn their head and go where they want to go. You just try to steer them a little bit away from that stuff, but it isn't easy."
Wolak thinks a contributing factor in making these Falcon Lake bass so mean and strong is their high metabolism, created by the year-round warm water temperatures.
"Fish up north could eat every other day or every three days," Wolak said. "Here, with that speedy metabolism in 95-degree-plus weather, they've just got to keep eating in order to keep their weight up.
"All you've got to do is put a lure in front of them."
The hard part is putting the bass in the boat after you've hooked it. Thursday's weigh-in, where there is sure to be more stories than usual about the big one that got away — and there are always plenty — begins at 5:50 p.m. ET at Falcon Lake Park.
That's when the facts will begin to show just how much of a record-breaking week this will be. The field will be cut to the top 50 after two days. The cut weight at Clear Lake, where Kennedy set his record, was approximately 21 pounds, according to Kriet.
"Before I came down here, I said it would take 23 pounds a day to make the cut," Kriet said. "Everybody said, 'Ain't no way. Ain't no way. Ain't no way.'
"I've been down here. I know the history of this place. Now (after this week's practice), everybody is saying it's going to take 25 pounds to make the cut. I'm going to stick with 23. It's going to take a lot more than it has anywhere else we've been."
Rojas wouldn't even make a guess at the cut weight.
"I have no idea," he said. "You don't know how to gauge it. You've just got to catch the five biggest fish you can, see where you're at after the first day, and then make some adjustments if you have to."
Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Lone Star Shootout on Falcon Lake, from Zapata, Texas, April 3–6, 2008. Daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 5:50pm ET. "Hooked Up" will air Sunday at 10 a.m., noon and 5:15 p.m. ET.