UPCOMING EVENT: T-H Marine BFL - 2019 - Lake Okeechobee


Perfect Weather Now on Tap in Texas

Anglers competing in the Costa FLW Series Southwestern Division opener presented by Ranger Boats on Lake Amistad were welcomed to 2019 with the kind of winter weather that you’d hope would never come around to south Texas. Air temperatures dipped into the 30s for a few days, accompanied by some sleet and freezing rain as well as northerly winds that forced tournament directors to cancel day one of competition.

With an unexpected off day now behind us, it looks like smooth sailing and gorgeous conditions are on tap for the rest of the week as the entire 130-boat field will compete on Friday and Saturday to determine a champion.

Tournament details


About the fishery

Amistad is one of south Texas’ most famous reservoirs – the other being Falcon. Though it’s not the juggernaut that it was in the not too distant past, Amistad is still an incredible tournament fishery, with room to spread out and plenty of grass and rocky structure to target for big giant wintertime bass.

The reservoir was built on the Rio Grande near the confluence of the Devils River in the late 1960s. It’s currently about 73 percent full, which equates to about 45,000 surface acres. The water has been rising at Amistad since summer and is about 5 feet higher than it was in February 2015, when the Costa FLW Series last visited and local pro Ray Hanselman earned the first of his four wins in what was the most remarkable season-long performance in Costa FLW Series history.

Anglers are allowed to fish both U.S. and Mexico waters this week, opening up plenty of playing field as well as all the best stretches of water.


Current conditions

Yesterday’s cold start eventually transformed into what turned out to be a sunny, warm day with a high temperature in the low 60s. Continuous stiff winds built throughout the midday hours, but by sundown the wind had tapered off to about 7 mph out of the northwest. A light northwesterly wind is in the forecast again today.

The air temperature was a crisp 37 degrees at takeoff but expected to rise to nearly 70, ushering in conditions more akin to springtime than early January.

Oklahoma pro Bradley Hallman says the mid-50s water temperature isn’t a whole lot lower than it was a couple weeks ago when he stopped by to practice and fish a local derby before taking his family to the Texas Gulf Coast for the holidays.

Hallman didn’t seem overly concerned about the cold snap, given the time of year and that bass are still not even nosing the prespawn period.

“I think you’re going to see a pretty quick rebound,” he says. “This lake’s so deep it takes a lot to get it cold. It’s not like a shallow impoundment. We’re fishing in the wintertime, so wintertime patterns are going to prevail.”


Tactics in play

Some groups of bass have been found on deep, rocky structure, and while those fish will probably play in this tournament, the bulk of the catch is more likely to come from the hydrilla beds that have spread throughout the reservoir.

“It’s typical grass stuff,” says Hallman. “The grass is a little deeper, so it’s not like a Rat-L-Trap deal, but it’s still a reaction-bite deal. Of course, being a wintertime deal, the Alabama Rig is going to be a big player; and tail-spinners. You’ll see a lot of the same stuff that Hanselman was doing the year he won here.”

Hanselman won the 2015 tournament by throwing a crankbait and tail-spinner in grassy ditches and then running way up a narrow creek to a warm-water spring and slinging a line-thru swimbait.

Others in the top 10 fished offshore, threw a variety of baits in the grass and used drop-shots to pick their way to quality limits.

“There’ll be a little bit of Carolina rigging going on,” Hallman adds, referring to the offshore bite, “but there’s a lot more grass in it right now than in recent history. The lake has risen quite a bit over the last six months or so, so the grass is really deep. It’s everywhere from 25 feet all the way up to maybe 10 feet or even less.”


Critical factors

  • A two-day derby – If a pro wasn’t on them in practice, they'd better figure something out in a hurry today, as the weather-shortened tournament means there’s no time for a slip-up, and there’ll be a full field to contend with right up until the buzzer sounds.
  • The upriver run – Hanselman publicized what can be had by running way upstream when he snaked his way through a rocky canyon to the spring that earned him the win in 2015. That area should be accessible, and some anglers will surely try to get there. Beyond that one stretch, however, there are a lot of tucked-away areas in both U.S. and Mexican waters where pros could run to and disappear, but there’s also a lot of work to be done right in the main basin near takeoff. How willing a pro is to run and gamble versus staying close to home and maximizing time on the water could really factor into this week’s outcome.
  • Pattern options and efficiency – Right now, Amistad seems to be churning out two types of bass: runts and hawgs. There aren’t a lot of those quality “in between” 3-pound keepers to be had. Many of the larger schools are small bass. Hallman says the bigger fish are roaming in wolf packs, and you can get a couple bites from one pack, but then you might go a couple hours before running into the next flurry. With no cut to shoot for, catching a couple of kickers each day is essential for a top-10 finish.


Dock talk

Aside from their obvious distaste for the previous few days’ weather, most pros are mainly concerned about figuring out how to shake the small bass and find better quality bites. Amistad has them, for sure. We’ll likely see a handful of really big Texas-style bags this week. But they’re not as easy as they used to be in Amistad’s heyday.

Hallman originally figured 45 to 50 pounds was a good target range for a shot at the three-day win. You’ve got to figure that with just two days and reduced angling pressure, catching somewhere in the 32- to 35-pound range will be very strong, assuming these bass aren’t still recovering from the post-frontal blues. 


Tournament details

Format: All boaters and co-anglers will compete for two days. The winner in each category will be determined by the heaviest cumulative two-day weight.

Takeoff time: 7:30 a.m. CT

Takeoff location: East Diablo Launch Ramp, Highway 90 West HCR 3, Del Rio, Texas

Weigh-in time: 3:30 p.m. CT

Weigh-in location: East Diablo Launch Ramp

Complete details

Tags: curtis-niedermier  morning-story  2019-01-03-lake-amistad 


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