The much-anticipated start of the 2006 CITGO Bassmaster Elite Series is still six months away, but a pair of veteran pros already is eagerly anticipating the opening event, "The Battle on the Border," on big Lake Amistad, March 9-12.
It will be the first time BASS has visited the huge reservoir on the Texas-Mexico border near Del Rio, Texas. Recently, friends and traveling partners Marty Stone and Gerald Swindle visited the 67,000-acre lake and both were impressed with what they saw.
"It's the most beautiful (place) I've ever stepped into in my life," Stone said. "I've been fortunate to go to a lot of beautiful places in this country and that was the first time Gerald and I looked at each other and said, 'We've found somewhere we can retire.'
"It was so funny. We had only been there for about three hours and pulled up to a gas station to gas the boat up. And we got recognized by some guys from the Del Rio Bass Masters. They asked if we would speak at their club meeting the next night. We didn't have anything to do, so we told them we'd be there. There were 50 guys at the meeting," Stone said. "And … they gave us two plaques they had made up we are now honorable members of the Rio Grande Bass Club.
"We hung out for two hours, answered all their questions and signed everything they had. So I know when we show up on Lake Amistad next March we'll have 50 fans, at least."
Stone termed the fishing as "fabulous."
"I've never been at a lake that has so many fish in it in all my life," the North Carolina pro said. "We caught them schooling, and caught them and caught them. And I lipped the biggest fish I've ever seen in my life.
"Gerald caught one that weighed between 11 1/2 and 12 1/2 pounds. It was a monster. We caught a lot of 1 1/2 to 2-pound fish, a couple of 3 (pounders) and then that giant. And we didn't fish three hours a day. You'd find them schooling and just get tired of catching them.
"That lake is huge. It reminded me of Lake Champlain. You'd drive into a canyon and you'd drive and drive."
Another reason why Stone and Swindle were so enamored with Lake Amistad was the amount and size of whitetail deer they saw nearby. Both are avid deer hunters.
"I've never in my life seen so many deer, which is our second love," Stone said. "You'd go into a Wal-Mart and see deer feeding in the cactus and sage right next to the parking lot. We were riding to the lake one morning and saw a 130- to 140-class, 8-point deer standing on the side of the road."
Martens' home on the Web
Reigning CITGO Bassmaster Angler of the Year Aaron Martens has a new home on the Internet.
Fans can get the inside scoop on Martens at www.citgoangleroftheyear.com. The site is full of information from details of his 2005 Tour patterns to what's in his CD player. Fans also can submit questions directly to Martens that he will answer in his monthly newsletter. Three questions will be selected each month.
"I really want to hear from the fans," Martens said. "I'm not sure many people really know a lot about me. This newsletter is a great way for fans to interact with me and it often gives them a behind-the-scenes look at things."
In the August issue, Martens describes his disappointment after coming up a mere 6 ounces shy of winning the recent Classic. It was his third runner-up finish in four years.
BASS founder Ray Scott, who has attended each of the 35 CITGO Bassmaster Classics, was so impressed with Pittsburgh that he sent a letter to the editor of the PITTSBURGH POST-GAZETTE praising the city and its residents.
"There were clearly two winners in the CITGO Bassmaster Classic. One was Kevin VanDam and the other was Pittsburgh," he wrote. "… I have never experienced (a Classic) quite like this recent event. I have to use the word 'experience' because you could feel the energy and enthusiasm everywhere. It was in the air.
"Your reception as a community was overwhelming and your hospitality second to none. And that's a mouthful from an old Southern boy. Everyone I talked to was saying the same thing the bass pros, writers, BASS staff and out-of-towners … I want to thank you and Pittsburgh for a truly memorable Bassmaster Classic. I left a piece of my heart in your city and I will always look forward to returning."
Bass and golf
It's tradition for the newest PGA Championship winner to provide a special gift for all previous winners. In the recent event, Vijay Singh's gift had a bass-fishing theme.
In addition to a one-year subscription to BASSMASTER MAGAZINE, each former champion was presented with a specially designed tackle bag containing Berkley Gulp and Power Baits, Frenzy hard baits and Trilene line. They also were given a 7-foot Fenwick Techna AV rod and Abu Garcia Ambassadeur D5 Series baitcast reel. The tackle bag was embroidered to commemorate the 87th PGA Championship.
To make the gift even better, Berkley's public relations agency, Blue Heron Communications in Oklahoma, mailed the gear to each golfer's home.
Believe it or not, Andre Moore once accidentally caught a wild turkey.
"He was walking on the bank and I fired my spinnerbait up there and the line wrapped around his neck," the Arizona pro said. "I got him all the way to the boat and got him undone. He flopped right back over to the bank."
Did you know?
Lee Bailey's grandmother ultimately had a great deal to do with his career choice. "My grandmother bought me a subscription to BASSMASTER MAGAZINE when I was 12 years old," said the Connecticut pro, now 43. "My very first issue of BASSMASTER MAGAZINE was when Rick Clunn won his back-to-back, second Classic. I still have that article. I read that article every once in a while."
On Sept. 2, Texans Jay Yelas (40) and Kelly Jordon (35) will blow out candles. Legendary Arkansas angler Larry Nixon turns 55 on Sept. 3, while Florida pro Bernie Schultz becomes 51 a day later.
If I hadn't become a BASS pro ...
Three-time Classic contender Greg Hackney would likely still be working as a logging contractor in Louisiana.
The said it
"It was an overwhelming experience. You can't imagine what it's like at the weigh-ins when you pull your boat into the arena and there are over 13,000 screaming spectators in the stands. The whole town seems to get into the tournament. I could be walking downtown in the evening and people would come up to me and know my name and even ask for an autograph. I must have signed over 2,000 autographs." BASS Federation angler Jamie Fralick on his first CITGO Bassmaster Classic appearance.
For more inside information on the world of pro bass fishing, check out BASS INSIDER.