ZAPATA, Texas — All the unbelievable bass fishing stories that surfaced during practice on Falcon Lake this week were proven true on the first day of the Lone Star Shootout, presented by Longhorn.
It was predicted that Dean Rojas' BASS single-day, five-bass record of 45 pounds, 2 ounces, was in jeopardy. And Aaron Martens proved that was true by catching 42-0 Thursday, the second-heaviest single-day bag in BASS history.
He was one of 18 Bassmaster Elite Series pros who caught over 30 pounds on Day One of the four-day tournament.
"It was everything we thought it would be — and more," said Mark Davis, who is in fourth place with 35-4.
"It's just phenomenal. Words can't describe it."
Even Mark Tyler's record 14-pound, 9-ounce bass, which is the largest caught in a BASS tournament, was threatened by a 13-2 landed by Scott Campbell, who is in seventh place with 33-15. And Tyler still isn't sure his record will survive the week.
"I've held the record for one more day, maybe," said Tyler, after being informed of Campbell's Purolator Big Bass Thursday.
Martens' 42 pounds was especially spectacular when you consider he did it in only half a day of fishing. He and his co-angler spent most of their afternoon trying to keep their fish alive. The livewells in Martens' boat were so stuffed with big bass that fish care — not fishing — became the priority. Martens limit was anchored by an 11-1 lunker.
"There's not enough room in there for 70 pounds of fish, which is what we had," Martens said. "It's impossible to cull fish at that point. It was almost funny, until they started getting sick.
"This is the best largemouth bass lake I've ever been to."
Angler after angler after angler said the same thing — that Falcon is easily the best bass fishing lake in the U.S. This 83,654-acre impoundment on the Rio Grande River is full of Florida-strain largemouth bass, food and cover, plus it has a year-round growing season.
There was also lots of talk about how hard these fish fight.
"They are mean and strong," said Martens, who lives in Leeds, Ala., but grew up in California, fishing on legendary big bass lakes like Castaic. "I imagine this is what a 10-pound smallmouth would pull like."
When the day started, Martens thought about how tough it would be to surpass that 45-2 single-day record that Rojas established on Lake Toho in January 2001.
"I thought that would be harder to do — 45 pounds — then I'm like, unh-uh. This is like Castaic was in the late '80s and early '90s. It's like Castaic, but it's 30 times bigger. It's an incredible fishery.
"When one guy throws this way, and the other guy throws that way, and you're doubled up on 7-pounders, you know something's up."
Scott Rook of Little Rock led a trio of anglers who caught over 35 pounds. He sits in second place with 35-12.
"I caught all those fish in about 45 minutes this morning," Rook said.
Ish Monroe, in third place with 35-6, and Davis are the other anglers with 35-plus pounds. Monroe noted that catching a double-digit size bass is the key to separating yourself from the pack at Falcon.
"Aaron caught that 11-pounder," said Monroe, who lives in Hughson, Calif. "An 11- or 12-pounder goes a long way. I would have had 40 pounds if I'd caught an 11 or 12. All my fish were the same size. It's just an awesome fishery.
"But I still don't believe this lake can kick out 40 pounds a day. I don't believe Aaron is going to back it up with another 40 pounds. I don't believe I'm going to back it up with another 35. I think I can catch another 25 to 30 (pounds), but anything can happen."
Almost everyone at the top of the leaderboard was fishing deep, in 20 to 40 feet of water, where big schools of fish are located. Monroe noted that many of his bass are full of eggs, in pre-spawn mode, when just about every pro in this tournament considered the spawn over and done with on Falcon.
"It's a staging spot," Monroe said of the place where he caught his 35 pounds by 10 o'clock Thursday morning. "It's pre-spawn. All the fish are fat and full of eggs. They are ready to move up.
"It's one of those glory spots you look for. It's a point that leads up to a spawning flat. I've got them coming and going, I think. There's just so many fish there, it's unbelievable."
It seems that every aspect of Falcon Lake is unbelievable, as far as bass fishing is concerned. Brent Chapman noted that he caught the biggest bag he'd ever brought to a weigh-in stage — 31-15 — and that put him only in 13th place on Day One.
The 109 angler field will be cut to the top 50 after Friday's weigh-in. Mark Menendez is currently in 50th place with 24-11 — a bag that would put him at or near the top of the Elite Series leaderboard on any other lake.
Usually, when some big bags come in on Day One, the question to each angler is: Will your fish hold up for three more days?
The question at Falcon is: Will the anglers hold up for three more days?
"I'm absolutely worn out," said Davis, who estimated he caught 100 bass Thursday, most of them 4 pounds or better. "My back hurts. My arms are sore. My shoulders are sore.
"It was a heckuva day."
Visit Bassmaster.com for full coverage of the Elite Series Lone Star Shootout on Falcon Lake, from Zapata, Texas, April 3–6, 2008. Daily weigh-ins with live streaming video and real-time leaderboards start at 5:50pm ET. "Hooked Up" will air Sunday at 10 a.m., noon and 5:15 p.m. ET.