January 24, 2013 by David A. Brown
DEL RIO, Texas - Realistically, Lake Amistad's bass aren't going to run out of water anytime soon. However, the continued decline in water level - a function of downstream agricultural needs - took its toll on the leaderboard one day one of the EverStart Series Texas Division opener.
Amistad gave up several quality fish of 7-plus pounds, including co-angler Kevin Gressett's 9-pound, 15-ounce mule. Largely, though, anglers reported struggling to find consistency in otherwise promising conditions. Warm days, an approaching full moon and rising water temperatures should have the fish in predictable prespawn mode, but yanking several inches of water a day from their world has a way of rattling a largemouth bass.
Day one began calm and mildly chilly. Within an hour of takeoff, a dense fog had settled over Amistad. Visibility declined to the point that several competitors like sixth-place pro Stephen Johnston reported camping out in areas longer than they would have liked.
"I spent an hour and a half in this one area because I couldn't see to run," Johnston said. "Visibility got so low that you couldn't see the end of your cast."
By midday, the fog had lifted and anglers were safe to run where they pleased. Topping the pro division, Dusty Schultz, of Willis, Texas, sacked up a limit catch of 23-2. Given his experience in past Amistad tournaments, he came into the event thinking that he'd be fishing offshore winter patterns, but he said his success hinged on flexibility.
"I moved around a lot and just mixed it up," he said. "I fished the mid-range and caught a couple of fish deep."
Schultz said he caught his fish on various reaction baits and swimbaits. Targeting creek arms near deep water was his strategy.
"The fish are coming out of deep water and then they're just hanging around the first (structure points) they come across," Schultz said.
One thing working in the anglers' favor is the abundance of hydrilla throughout Amistad. Schultz reported catching some of his fish around hydrilla and other competitors pointed to this subaquatic growth as essential to their game.
Byrd flies into second
Benjamin Byrd was doubly happy to be fishing Lake Amistad today. First, his hometown of Moab, Utah, hadn't seen daytime highs above 20 degrees in a couple of weeks. Complementing the pleasantly warm local weather, Amistad delivered a second-place limit weighing 21-10.
"I just played the weather; I knew it was going to be warming up this week so I avoided the offshore stuff and focused on some areas where I knew the fish would be going and it panned out," he said.
Byrd said he targeted main-lake structure in the mid-depth range. He fished reaction baits and caught bass throughout the day.
"It was just hitting a bunch of spots - I'm not hitting any one area," Byrd said. "I bet I fished 30 different spots."
Reneau rides vertical walls to third
Local favorite Tim Reneau of Del Rio, Texas, also resisted the deep game and, instead, opted to stay close to shore and work a pattern he had identified in practice. The plan worked, and Reneau sacked up the third-place limit of 21-1.
"The fish (I found) are on vertical walls, so you have to fish slowly with a light jig," Reneau said. "It takes a lot of patience and a lot of time. You could come in with none or you could ignite a couple of schools like we did today. I hit probably 25 spots and the fish were on two.
"We got into two flurries. We messed one of them up - I jumped off a couple of 4-pounders. In the other flurry, we got two 3-pounders, a 5- and an 8."
Reneau fished his walls with a 3/4-ounce Strike King jig and a green pumpkin Rage Craw trailer. A glacial presentation, he said, was essential.
"You want to try to pull (the jig) off the shelf and let it sink vertically, right beside the vertical wall," he said.
Addison rips into fourth
In fourth place, Phil Addison of Baytown, Texas, trails Reneau by 3 ounces, with 20-14. For him, catching a good limit was simply a matter of turning the numbers.
"I was covering a lot of water, making a lot of casts and catching a few fish here and there," he said. "It was tougher today than it has been all week. (In practice), I was catching 20 keepers a day; today I think I only caught 12."
Addison caught his fish on Strike King Redeye Shads. He fished his baits around hydrilla, where the ripping technique produced best.
"I was letting the bait go down 5 to 7 feet and ripping it out of the grass," he said. "I've been catching them that way all week."
Fifth-place Craft keeps busy
Buz Craft of Vidalia, La., caught a limit that weighed 20-8 and landed in the fifth-place spot. Day one delivered plenty of action on a variety of baits.
"We caught a lot of fish and caught them a lot of different ways," Craft said. "We caught them trapping, on a DD22, wacky worming. I'll bet (my co-angler and I) caught 30-plus good fish. Tomorrow's another day and hopefully there's some more moving up. There's a lot of fish moving around and if they weren't pulling water so strong, it would be phenomenal."
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 pro leaders at the EverStart Series Lake Amistad event:
6th: Stephen Johnston, of Hemphill, Texas, 20-6
7th: Austin Terry, of San Angelo, Texas, 19-5
8th: Phil Marks, of Dallas, Texas, 19-2
9th: Mark Rouse, of League City, Texas, 18-10
10th: Kris Wilson, of Montgomery, Texas, 18-5
Terry took Big Bass honors with his 8-pound, 12-ounce largemouth.
Early kicker buoys Scott's co-angler lead
Fort Worth, Texas co-angler Daren Scott took the lead in his division by sacking up a limit catch of 18-11. His catch included an estimated 8-pounder that ate a 3/4-ounce Strike King jig.
"Actually, I think I caught each one of my fish on a different lure," he said. "It was just here and there. I caught that big one early and then followed up with a couple of jerkbait fish, finished off my limit with a drop-shot and then upgraded twice with a swim jig. It was a grind. It turned on a little bit after the sun came out and that's when I culled."
Kevin Gressett of Tioga, Texas, placed second with 17-0. His big fish was the largest of both divisions. Justin Lampier of San Angelo, Texas, sits in third place with 16-3, while Van Shipp of Commerce, Texas, placed fourth with 16-2. In fifth, Justin Cogburn of Eastland, Texas, had 15-15.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 co-angler leaders at the EverStart Series Lake Amistad event:
6th: Doron Pardo, of Monroe, La., 15-10
7th: David Kayda, of Huffman, Texas, 15-1
8th: Jason Gates, of Kountze, Texas, 14-9
9th: Mike Huckman, of Hemphill, Texas, 13-14
10th: David Wharton, of Del Rio, Texas, 13-6
Day two of EverStart Series Texas Division action on Lake Amistad continues at Friday's takeoff, scheduled to take place at 7:30 a.m. (Central) at the Diablo East Boat Launch in Del Rio, Texas.