FORT WORTH, Texas It's the first leg of the Triple Crown of bass fishing, the Bassmaster Memorial Major here.
Fifty-five of the world's best bass anglers began the tournament on Thursday, but the murky waters of Eagle Mountain Lake washed out most of the field and now there are only 12.
The chase for the $250,000 grand prize continues Saturday but on a different lake, unknown to most of the contestants. They will be fishing a six-hole course where each angler has one hour and ten minutes on each spot of the small Benbrook Lake setup.
The weights are zeroed. It's anybody's game. This will be a pure fishing tournament from here on out. Strengths and weaknesses will be utilized or exposed.
What will they do? Most have never even seen or fished on the lake before. Will they tie up every lure they have and put every rod on the deck of the boat? Bassmaster.com wanted to know these things and asked a few of the anglers this morning two questions:
How are you going to approach the day?
Did you learn anything during the last two days on Eagle Mountain that might carry over and apply on this lake?
Here's what they had to say:
"I take the knowledge I have from last week of how I caught them and where the fish are positioned. The knowledge of five days there (Eagle Mountain) and put it to this and just run those patterns. I'm going to fish a little deeper than I have been fishing.
"This lake sets up a little different than the other and we're missing one thing, boat docks. We're going to have to relate to something different than boat docks. I'm going to run a primary post-spawn pattern by fishing main points and hope that they're living around that stuff.
"I learned about how the fish are positioned, that they've been suspended so much. They are not on the bottom and I will use that knowledge here today."
"It's just like a first practice day of any event we go to. I've got about 20 rods out on the boat and different baits on every one of them. I'm going to approach it just like a normal practice day at any event. I will try and look for the high percentage spots and you're just going to have to run around and see what looks good. I will look for places like I caught them the first two days on the other lake.
"It's going to be a rushed day today, everybody is square, it's going to be a lot of fun, and I'm really looking forward to it.
"If the water conditions are similar here and by looking at the water right now the color looks about the same. I'm looking out here and I see some rocks which I caught fish off of at Eagle Mountain so if they are here I can key on that as well. I know there isn't many docks on this lake and I had caught some fish off those there so that won't be an issue.
"I think the biggest thing you've got to do today is cover as much water as you possibly can. Fish fast and try to locate something in a hurry. This is my first hole-course tournament that I've ever fished in and it definitely fires you up. It's also cool to know that everybody is somewhat on an even playing field.
"I don't think there is anything I can use from Eagle Lake at all. I did come over and run this lake the day before yesterday and from what I could see there is nothing that will carry over from the first lake to here."
"Pretty simple game plan, you just go fishing. It's more of a challenge to get out there and find fish as opposed to being in a tournament. If we were on the same lake I would want to do the same things over and over again in the same places and it would be hard to leave those places to find new stuff.
"Here, on a lake I've never been, I don't have any places so I'm more open-minded about going and finding. I don't really have the opportunity of having the advantage of prior knowledge. That can also be a disadvantage, by keeping you some place you probably shouldn't be.
"Absolutely, there is a lot I learned. The patterns should be very similar. As far as the spawning bait fish how they are shallow and reacting to the shoreline. The fish are going to be doing the same thing they were in the other lake. You just have to find those areas that have the fish in them."
"I will fish just like normal. I will find something that suits me and I've already looked at this water color and I like the way it looks. We should be on the clearest end of the lake and it's just going to get dirtier the further we go up. I'm starting on this end and I will just work my way up.
"There will be something similar here that there was at Eagle Mountain. The water color is already the same so I already know bait setup wise it's going to be similar. It may not be the exact same but it will be similar. All of these lakes have the same water in them; they just run from one to the next. The word is that this lake has big fish in it so I'm thinking maybe I can get some good ones."
"Just go fishing. That is all you can do today. The conditions are totally different here than on Eagle Mountain, a totally different habitat. I'm going to come in with a completely different outlook and I've probably got 10 or 15 rods set up for different situations. That's about all you can do, is just go fishing. I'm trying to be confident and hopefully I will make the right decisions.
"There are a couple of things that I saw on Eagle Mountain that I will be curious to see if they transpire here. Obviously we don't have dock fishing here, and that will change things because I caught all of my fish off docks the previous two days."
"I rode around and looked at the lake and there isn't a lot of cover. The cover that is out there it's obvious you have to hit it and that's where some definite fish are. You've got to hit the obvious stuff right now and see what happens.
"I was fishing a typical post-spawn pattern over there and this lake doesn't have any docks. I wasn't fishing any docks on Eagle Lake so that is fine with me. That worked out well."
"I go out there with a wide open mind today. I figure it's probably similar to a lot of lakes in central Texas but I've never been on this one. I'd say I need to go out there and put it together. It's just like practice and sometimes you practice days are your best days. I'm just going to go out there and try to figure it out.
"The thing I learned is that I can catch them in the off limits area. The only areas that have docks in them are off limits and that's what I caught most of my fish on at Eagle Mountain. So what I had over there is not going to work here."
"I approach it with an open mind buddy. I will just cover water and look for stuff that I'm comfortable fishing. Fish to my strengths and just go with the flow and see what happens.
"Every time you are on the water, no matter where you're at, you're going to learn. How I was catching them at Eagle Mountain, off of marinas like this, is all off limits here. I can't really say what will happen until I get out there.