UPCOMING EVENT: TOYOTA SERIES - 2020 - Lake Eufaula

A curveball served up Amistad-style

A curveball served up Amistad-style
Anglers await their turn to launch at the start of the Stren Series tournament on Lake Amistad. As many as 400 pros and co-anglers are competing in the third Texas Division tournament of the season.

DEL RIO, Texas - Most years a bass tournament in May on Lake Amistad has anglers licking their chops. This year, however, they're scratching their heads.

The normally torrid bite that prevails here this time of year is absent. Or maybe it's more accurate to say that bass aren't biting where anglers are accustomed to finding them.

"Ninety-five percent of this field has never seen the lake this full before," said Keith Combs of Del Rio, referring to a Lake Amistad that's up 18 feet since last fall and that's higher than it's been since 1989. "It's going to be a tougher bite, no doubt about it. There's just so much cover. A lot of trees are under water."

Combs says a few bass are still on beds but that 95 percent are postspawn, which on Amistad means suspended. Fish suspended in trees can be very hard to catch. To complicate matters even more, the water is "ridiculously" clear, Combs says, with visibility down to 20 feet.

"You have to power-fish because of the cover, but you also have to use some finesse because the water is superclear," Combs explains.

Many anglers will approach day one with swimbaits, light Texas rigs and topwater baits. Fish will be caught as shallow as 6 feet and as deep as 35 feet, Combs says, adding that he believes the bigger bass are suspended somewhere in between. Water temperature is 72 degrees.

In addition to Combs, local favorites to watch for include Del Rio's Ray Hanselman and Tim Reneau as well as Fort Stockton's Trent Huckaby.

Despite the challenges confronting anglers, Combs believes it will take at least 39 pounds to make the top-10 cut and 75 pounds to win.

"You'll see a lot of bags in the 13- to 14-pound range," he says.

The last time the Stren Series visited Lake Amistad was in March 2007. Rick Turner of Tyler, Texas, won the Pro Division of that tournament with a four-day weight of 90 pounds, 9 ounces. Co-angler winner Jimmy Ballard of Blossom, Texas, brought in 93 pounds, 11 ounces. In February 2006, Del Rio's Jim Criswell scored a tournament win with a two-day final-round weight of 56 pounds, 7 ounces.

Tournament details

Competitors launch from the Diablo East ramp off Highway 90 at 6:30 a.m. each day. Thursday and Friday's weigh-ins are at the marina at 2:30 p.m. Saturday's final weigh-in is at the Walmart at 2410 Dodson St. in Del Rio at 4 p.m. All events are free and open to the public.

Lake information

ThursdayImpounded on the Rio Grande River in 1969, Lake Amistad has 64,900 surface acres and a maximum depth of 217 feet. The record largemouth weighed 15.68 pounds and was caught on Dec. 28, 2005. The record smallmouth weighed 5.37 pounds and was caught on Nov. 27, 2004.

Beginning in 1975, Florida-strain largemouth bass were stocked, and the fish have added greatly to the overall size structure of the lake's bass. The lake received annual stockings of fry and fingerlings from '75 through 1980. After a 12-year break, stocking was resumed in 1992 and has continued sporadically through 2008.

The tremendous rise in the water level last fall called for another stocking, said Randy Myers, district fisheries biologist with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.

"We do that when conditions are right," Myers explained, "and with all the new cover under water, it's obviously a good time. That, and we saw weak year classes in '06 and '07. The previous strong year classes were eating them."

Amistad also has good numbers of striped bass, white bass, crappies and catfish.

Walleyes were introduced in 1954 and the TPWD tried to establish a permanent population by stocking fry from 1975 through 1978, but the fish didn't survive and the program was abandoned.

"I think it's just too warm for them down here," Myers says.

Thursday's weather

Temperature at takeoff: 70 degrees
Sky: fair
Wind: SE at 9 mph
Barometric pressure: 29.97 inches and steady
Forecast: clear to partly cloudy with a high of 88 degrees; winds SE at 10-20 mph

Tags: vince-meyer  morning-story  2009-05-21-lake-amistad 

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