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Big Bass Expected at Opener on Amistad

Big Bass Expected at Opener on Amistad
Lake Amistad

Lake Amistad might not kick out quite as many massive stringers of largemouth bass as it used to, but the legendary south Texas border reservoir is still a factory for big fish. According to local guide and always tournament favorite Ray “Hanselmania” Hanselman, there are some real giants to be caught at Amistad, but they’ll be at a premium when the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division rolls into Del Rio to kick off the 2019 season on Jan. 3

“It’s got a lot of fish in it. They’re either over 6 pounds or under a pound and a half,” Hanselman says. “It’s been hard to go catch five 3 1/2-pounders the last few years. If you catch that one good one and four swimmers you’ve had a decent day. If you catch two of those big fish you’re going to have 18 to 19 pounds. If you get lucky enough to catch three big ones you’re on fire.”

Tournament details

 

What to expect

The last time the Southwestern Division visited Amistad was in mid-February 2015, when Hanselman won the first of what turned out to be a four-tournament sweep – the three Southwestern Division regular-season events plus the series championship – in one of the most impressive season-long performances in the history of tournament bass fishing. A local guide, Hanselman worked a combo pattern of targeting bass in grassy ditches with a tail-spinner and crankbait and then twice pulling off a harrowing run through a scrawny creek ditch to a warm-water spring far upriver where he locked up the win with a line-thru swimbait.

 

Hanselman’s winning weight in 2015 was 50 pounds, 14 ounces. He says we can probably expect a similar winning weight this time, but better fishing overall and a lot more fish caught, with a plethora of 8- to 12-pound bags.

“This time of year you never know,” he says. “You could find that one school of giants and have 28 to 30. Anything’s possible. It’s got them in it. I don’t think that can sustain three days in a row. If somebody can average 16 to 18 pounds a day they’ll probably be the victor.”

As of late December, Amistad was about 25 feet below full pool and about 5 feet higher than when the FLW Series visited in February 2015. The current water level is trending lower than the previous two seasons, but it’s back up 13 feet from where it bottomed out on September 2018 and far above the extreme low water that Amistad experienced in 2013 and parts of 2014.

 

Patterns in play

The local suspects a couple of bad year-classes left a gap in the size-class structure of the lake; hence the mix of small “swimmers” and true hawgs, without much in between. But Hanselman says the lake is “healing” thanks to healthy hydrilla and better spawns as of late. The population is well, and there’s plenty of productive water for the field to spread out.

“The lake itself is fishing pretty good,” Hanselman says. “There are a couple people who’ve figured out how to run my deal up the river [where he won last time]. They figured it out and did well in some summer and fall tournaments, so I’m sure those guys think they’re going to give it a whirl fishing it again. I could see some guys making the long run up that river. I probably won’t since the cat’s out of the bag and it’s only good for one or two boats.”

There’ll be deep patterns on the river ledges with drop-shots and other slow-moving baits. Bass will also be caught over deeper grass with jerkbaits and crankbaits – what Hanselman calls the “typical Amistad winter pattern.”

But any number of prespawn patterns could come into play on the massive border water.

“They’ll get in some shallow grass because that grass is a good insulator,” Hanselman adds. “They’re not thinking about spawning yet. It’ll be mid- to late February before we actually start to see bedding fish.

“The fishing really depends on how cold it’s going to get,” he continues. “The long-range forecast doesn’t look too awful bad. It ought to be decent. It ought to keep these fish in somewhat of a hungry mood. They’ll be in their groups. If you find them, you should be able to find little packs of them. They may all be 12- to 15-inchers, but that’s not too bad either. Then you’re just fishing for one – a 5- to 7-pounder – and you’re keeping yourself in it.”

 

Smallmouths in Texas?

Yup, they’ve got smallmouths in Amistad, too. In 2015, quite a few of the better bags included brown bass.

We’ll see some this time, too. Whether or not they factor in is yet to be determined, but Hanselman weighed at least one 3-pounder last time.

“They’re not catching them like they were when the water was low, but they’re catching them,” he says. “The guys that are going to be out fishing ledges will bring some in.”

 

Details

The Lake Amistad Costa FLW Series tournament runs Jan. 3-5. The Del Rio Chamber of Commerce is hosting this derby, and takeoffs and weigh-ins will be held at East Diablo Launch Ramp, Highway 90 West HCR 3 in Del Rio. Weigh-ins will be streamed live at FLWFishing.com at 3:30 p.m. CT each day.

Complete details

Tags: curtis-niedermier  pre-tournament  2019-01-03-lake-amistad 

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