Strong winds greet anglers on Day 1

DEL RIO, Texas — Strong northwest winds that blew in overnight greeted anglers this morning for the first day of the CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series tournament on Lake Amistad, creating a new issue to deal with in the season-opening event.

The National Weather Service issued a "wind advisory" until 5 p.m. today for many west Texas counties, including Val Verde County where Amistad is located. That means wind of 26- to 39-miles per hour is expected, and gusts of 40 miles per hour or more are possible. A front that blew in about 1:30 a.m. should linger today and dissipate later this afternoon.

Lanyards were slapping masts, and flats were whipping as the 106 anglers departed Diablo East Marina for the 6:30 a.m. launch. Much like the season two years ago when rain plagued the field in seemingly every event, the anglers were wrapped in parkas, bibs and hooded sweatshirts to ward off the chill of the persistent northwest winds.

With a shallow-water bite expected for bedding fish, the arrival of the wind could wreak havoc on anglers targeting those bass.

Sight-fishing bite gone?

"It's going to severely hinder that 'look at them' bite," said Kelly Jordon of Texas. "Very severely. It should help the guys using fast-moving baits, jerkbaits and things like that. I've heard the wind and clouds help some here, but we'll have to see.

"Twenty-six to 39 miles per hour is never normal," he added. "The key issue is being able to hold your boat on your spot. It's hard to move around and fish well with 3- to 5-foot rollers and that's possible on this lake with this kind of wind. It's unfortunate and will be one of those tackle-testing days, but we'll deal with it. We've had other tournaments with wind and weather conditions, and everyone here is in the same situation."

Expectations for 30-pound catches, or bigger, could go out the window. But guys who find a secluded area or can manage to win the battle with the wind may find themselves on top of the leaderboard.

"It will be hard to catch 30 pounds because to do that, I think you have to move around a little bit," said fellow Texan Zell Rowland. "With the wind you can't be as efficient with your fishing. If it stays like this all day it will make the lake fish smaller … it's not as big of a lake as it looks."

Border challenges

Lake Amistad is about 67,000 acres, roughly the same size as Lake Guntersville in Alabama. But the steep canyon walls and numerous sloughs do make it appear larger. Anglers appeared to be about evenly divided in running upriver and downriver from the marina.

"This could take Mexico out of the equation," said Jordon, referring to the areas on the Mexico side of the border split by the lake. "Just getting there and getting back could kill you if the rollers are big enough. It definitely would be tough."

Still, the Elite Series anglers were pumped to get started.

"After 36 years, I ain't ready to retire yet," Rowland said. "I still get excited and pretty motivated to get out here, especially with a lake like this. I don't bass fish during our downtime and use that to go saltwater fishing for things that pull back, so when the season gets here I'm ready."