Giant Lake Amistad will be a fitting playing field for the April 8-10 season opener of the 2010 Bassmaster Central Open tour.
Signed up to compete on the sprawling impoundment that straddles the Texas-Mexico border are 204 pros and 204 co-anglers. They will converge on Del Rio, Texas, for the three-day tournament to try for thousands in cash and prizes. Pros also will compete for points that count toward berths in the 2011 Bassmaster Classic and Bassmaster Elite Series qualifications.
Because of the high demand for entry spots and the resulting large field, the top pro at Amistad will earn more than $52,000. In the co-angler division, the winner's take will be a Triton/Mercury boat rig valued at $34,000.
Expect good — no, make that great — fishing, said Byron Velvick, a Bassmaster Elite Series pro who lives in Del Rio and owns Amistad Lake Resort, a hotel and restaurant next to the 65,000-surface-acre lake.
"They're going to hit it right on," said Velvick, who won't be competing in the Open. He will be on his way to an Elite event in Virginia, the April 15-18 Evan Williams Bourbon Blue Ridge Brawl on Smith Mountain Lake.
"Between the high-water level, the warmer temperatures and the moon phase, it should be a fantastic event," he said. "They should see some incredible weights. Some of my guide buddies are really starting to catch some quality fish."
"Throw a swimbait" is one tip Velvick had for Amistad anglers. Just a few weeks ago, Velvick cemented his reputation as a top swimbait pro when he won an Elite Series event on California's Clear Lake by relying on a swimbait for four days straight. On Amistad, however, he would not choose to live or die by the swimbait.
"Besides throwing a swimbait, I'd do a lot of deep cranking. And, if it's warm and the weather's stable and there's not much wind, I'd go lookin' for them (sight fishing)," he said.
Trent Huckaby, a Texas rancher and outfitter who prevailed at the Bassmaster Central Open on Amistad in late September 2007 with 53 pounds, 12 ounces, is gunning for a second Amistad win. From Fort Stockton, Huckaby competed recently on the vast lake created in 1969 with the impoundment of the Rio Grande, Pecos and Devils rivers.
"I fished a few team tournaments there at the start of the year, and it was phenomenal," Huckaby said. "It's really coming on. In a couple of recent one-day team tournaments, there were limits of 37, 38 pounds."
He attributes the solid bags to higher water levels and pre-spawn bass behavior.
"The fish are relating to the newer structure, and bunching up a bit, getting ready to spawn," he said. "During the tournament, they'll be in all phases of the spawn and can be caught, I'm sure, any way you want to."
He predicted a winning weight of close to 75 pounds.
"There will be some big bags, maybe caught on swimbaits, if we have some decent weather and no brutal winds," he said.
The launches and weigh-ins will be at Lake Amistad Resort and Marina in Del Rio. Takeoff is set for 7 a.m. CT; weigh-ins will begin at 3 p.m. CT. All events are free and open to the public.
The Central Opens will move from Amistad to the Red River out of Shreveport, La., on June 3-5. The circuit will close out on Oct. 21-23 on Lake Texoma out of Denison, Texas.
Complete tournament coverage, including real-time leaderboards, will be available at Bassmaster.com each day of the event. Other coverage will include extensive daily photo galleries, BASSCam video interviews and standings and results.
The local sponsor of the Lake Amistad Bassmaster Central Open is the Del Rio Chamber of Commerce.