Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Texas Classic Bass Club March Tournament on Lake Falcon

I fished the Texas Classic Bass Club March Tournament over the weekend on Saturday at Lake Falcon with Steve Bethea. The tournament didn't go as we had hoped, but we had a great time. For the third time this season, there was 30 mph winds the day of the tournament.

Here's how it went down.

I drove down to the dusty, but growing little town of Zapata Texas that sits on the edge of Texas and Mexico. There isn't much there, but oil/gas fields and the lake. In the last two years though, the town has become more of a bass fishing destination as it has opened several new hotels, two new fishing tackle shops, one with a boat dealer. The lake became famous recently for the high numbers of big large mouth bass caught in BASS and FLW tournaments held on the lake. Falcon lake is a little different than most because it's surrounded by retama trees and mesquite that are covered in thorns. Not only are the fish mean, but so are the trees! Let me try and paint a clear picture of how lake looks, the bass are swimming around in 7 to 10 ft of water which was dry land a few months ago. In 10 ft of water the trees are sticking up about two feet out of the water and the shallower you go the higher the trees stick up. It looks more like you are fishing in a jungle than a lake with all the green trees filled with yellow flowers and loud colorful birds fluttering from tree to tree. Other guys in the club, reported seeing snakes, but we never saw any.

Weather was very cloudy, temps in the lower 90's, and wind blowing 30+ mph all night and day, both days. Water temps ranged from 68 to 71 degrees depending on where you were in relation to the wind and the water dept. We arrived at Tiger Island boat ramp at 5:30 AM, but instead of launching right away, we had a little trouble getting the boat off the trailer. One of the boat buckles wouldn't release. We spent an hour trying to get the buckle to release or at least get enough slack to unhook the boat. When faced with not fishing or cutting the strap, I had to cut the strap, but we were finally on the water. The wind was blowing pretty hard, but I really wanted to fish down the lake near the dam, so I headed out to the main lake. We stopped at the island to judge the wind and waves, and also did a little fishing. No, bites and I decided it was going to get rough on the main lake, so we headed back into the Big Tigers creek. I had to drive the boat through a few hundred yards of the stuff you see in the photo above only with lots of wind blowing. Once I got the boat in the very back and into about 6 ft of water I dropped the trolling motor and started blazing a new trail through the stuff. My goal was to find 2 ft of water where bass may be spawning. After a few casts I felt a hit next to the boat and looked down in time to be startled by the sight of a large gar following behind the lure. Two casts later I made a short cast between a few tree tops and as I retrieve the lure a few feet from the boat a 5+ lb bass charges out of the brush and inhales the lure. "Get the net! Get the net!" That is all I could say as the fish made a run back into the brush. I fought it back out and it made a few more runs, but Steve netted the fish as soon as it got close to the boat. Caught it on a white chatterbait, just like the fishing reports said I would. It pays to do your home work before going out to the lake. From there we navigated our way through a maze of thorny brush fishing, but four hours later we had absolutely nothing to show for our efforts. I'd gotten us into unfished areas of the lake, gotten the boat completely stuck and free again. While driving home, Steve admitted that at one point he was concerned we might not get the boat back out of there, especially when we were stuck. I'd found only one small bass on a bed and it wasn't willing to bite. I took a break to chug a Diet Dr Pepper and eat a Snickers.

The break gave me a chance to think about that first fish and what we were doing wrong. Time to move back out to deeper water. I made run out of the brush and up the lake to a small creek that feeds into Big Tigers. Once we got in the creek, we found the brush to not be quit as thick but standing in deeper water 12 ft and shallower. About 30 yards into the brush, we found a pipeline or old road bed running across the creek. I decided we'd fish it to the shore and try to locate bedding fish again since we were closer to the main lake. We fished all the way in an nada, only a large carp in the shallow water. On the way back out I started throwing the chatterbait again and set the hook. "Fish! It's a good one, going 3 or 4 lbs probably. Get the net!" After one good run, the bass rolled over and slid into the net. Steve said, "Man, that fish is 6 lbs easy. You caught it in 10 ft of water." At this point we've got about 2 hours left to fish and only two keepers going about 11 lbs. A little while later I set the hook and land a 3 lb fish on the chatterbait. I stop fishing and dig out another chatterbait and give it to Steve to fish with. A few minutes later and I hear all heck break loose on the back deck and Steve has a nice 3 lb fish on the line. With 3o minutes left in the tournament I see a bass chasing shad within casting distance and throw the chatterbait to it. It bites and I land our fifth and final catch of the day.

This is the picture of the 6.59 lb bass from day one.

Day 1 results, we're in 1st for the classic tournament with just over 19 lbs and 2nd place over all. One of the non-qualifier teams brought in 21+ lbs. The 6.59 bass I caught turned out to be the biggest bass of the tournament.

Day 2:

We launch the boat on Sunday morning and head out to a dear stand I'd hear some of the guys talking about that sounded like the spot I'd caught fish before. Well we found the blind, but I'm fairly certain it wasn't the same one. We didn't catch anything in the area so we headed back to the creek we had finished the tournament in the day before. Not long after we begin fishing Steve sets the hook and lands a nice 3 lb bass on the white chatterbait. That fish cost us a little because clouds rolled in and the wind let up which seemed to change the mood of the fish. We spent the next 4 hours fishing chatterbaits with no bites and found ourselves in the same spot all over again. Very little time left and we needed to figure out the fish in order to stay in the game. We decided to move out to the outside edge of the brush in deeper water. Not long after we started fishing here, Steve sets the hook on a 5 lb bass flipping a 6 inch watermelon lizard. After putting that fish in the livewell, new hope is born, the goal to catch 3 more bass sets in. We fish the edge for a while longer with no success and I decide to make a move to the wind blown side of the lake since the winds have let up. I take the boat into a new creek and find another road bed to fish. Steve and I had decided the sun and wind were necessary to get the fish interested in biting a chatterbait, so he flipped a lizard and I put on a 10 inch zoom worm, pumpkin/ with purple and gold flakes. We fish down the road bed with two hours left in the tournament. A little way down the road and I set the hook on a nice 3 lb bass. Now there's only an hour and half left and we still need two fish to have any shot at winning this tournament. Ten minutes later I drag the worm from the brush into the road and bam, fish on! Turns out to be a little swimmer just over 14 inches, but he ate it and fought hard. We continue fishing the road till it comes to an inter section with another road. We only have an hour left so we decide to fish our way back toward the main lake, so we're not late getting back. At this point the clouds have broken up a little and the wind is blowing again, so I tell Steve I'm going out chatterbait style. 5 minutes later, Steve is standing on the back deck of the boat and begins to prey out loud. "Lord please, give us just one more 5 lb bass!" I finish my lure retreave and on the next cast with the chatterbait our prayers are answered and a 5 lb bass crushes the lure. It goes crazy fighting and jumps next to the boat, but stays on. We get the fish in the live well and still have 10 minutes to fish. We do our best to try for one more, but come up empty, time to head in for weigh-in, but we have a limit so we're excited. After the fish are weighed, we find out we have over 15 lbs of fish and take first place! We are the Texas Classic Bass Club 2009 Classic Champions!

Tournament in Review:

We caught 7 bass on white chatterbaits in 6 to 10 ft of water in small creeks or drains. The other fish were caught on the edge of brush on soft plastics. We weighed 10 fish for 34+ lbs.

I have to explain this photo. In our club the pose I'm doing is called, "The Larry." Push your fish way out, smile big, and tilt your head - that's "The Larry."

If you want to see more big fish pics and various club members performing "The Larry" - click here - *scroll down. :-)