ZAPATA, Texas — As the national anthem was played Friday morning, just before the 8 a.m. takeoff on the second day of the Lone Star Shootout, presented by Longhorn, there was an ominous sign of things to come. The American flag was limp, only occasionally moving at the hint of a breeze.
"If the wind drops to 5 mph, watch out," said Kevin VanDam Thursday, while trying to keep the blowing sand out of his eyes after coming off the weigh-in stage.
"If the wind would lay," said Brent Chapman Friday morning, "it would make yesterday's weigh-in look bad."
It's hard to imagine anything making Thursday's weigh-in at Falcon Lake look bad. Aaron Martens led the procession of big bags to the scales with 42 pounds, the second-largest five-bass limit in BASS history. He was one of 18 anglers with over 30 pounds.
"The record is going down, I've pretty much accepted that," said Steve Kennedy, who set a new four-day BASS mark with a total weight of 122-14 at California's Clear Lake, in March 2007. "And it's not going to be me doing it.
"I went back and looked at those weights from Clear Lake last year. Twenty-five pounds was like 20th there (after Day One). Here it's like 50th. The numbers are so much bigger here. I had 20 pounds the first day there and was like in 51st place. I've got 19 here and I'm 86th.
"I'm going to have to catch 30 pounds today if I want to even get a check (for 50th place)."
The 109 Bassmaster Elite Series pros took off Friday from Lake Falcon Park to light wind, sunny skies and temperatures in the upper 70s. The high today is forecast at 96 degrees. The wind is expected to pick up during the day to about 20 miles per hour from the north by the afternoon, but it's supposed to remain relatively calm this morning.
Scott Rook, who is second with 35-12, caught all his weight in the first 45 minutes Thursday — and he was one of several anglers who sacked the big ones early. Ish Monroe is third with 35-6, which he said he had by 10 a.m.
Martens didn't have a full day to attack Dean Rojas' single-day BASS record of 45-2, because he spent most of the afternoon trying to keep his fish alive in an over-crowded livewell.
"It makes me sick to think about what I could have caught," Martens said. "I culled a couple of 6 1/2-pounders."
So Martens came prepared Friday with six bags of ice on board.
"I'm just going to go out and try to catch 35 pounds," the Leeds, Ala., resident said. "That's more realistic."
But there's nothing realistic about what's coming out of Falcon Lake this week. The 83,654-acre impoundment is part of the Rio Grande River and sits on the Texas-Mexico border, 50 miles southeast of Laredo.
"Yesterday was pretty impressive, with a guy being in 80th place at 20-something pounds," said Brent Chapman, who weighed-in the biggest bag of his life — 31-15, which left him in 13th place. "You catch 20 pounds here and essentially, according to the standings, you did bad.
"I'd have died for 20 pounds in Florida. I'd have died in Florida just to have the fish I culled here yesterday."
Byron Velvick of Del Rio, Texas, is in fifth place with 34-14. He and Martens shared the same water Thursday on Falcon. Between those two and their co-anglers, Velvick figured that over 140 pounds of bass came off that spot. And that's just what was weighed-in.
"I at least culled two 30-pound bags yesterday," Velvick said. "My smallest fish was 6-3, and I kept catching 5-11s and 5-12s and 6-pounders.
"It reminds me of Southern California and some of those migration points. Guys would take live crawdads and sit on a point all day and catch 100 fish a day. What we did yesterday was like throwing live bait out there."
If the no-wind predictions come true, Friday's weigh-in may look like the Elite Series pros were throwing dynamite in Falcon Lake. The weigh-in begins at 5:50 p.m. ET at Lake Falcon Park.
The field will be cut to the top 50 after today. And after Day One, Mark Menendez was in 50th place with 24-11.
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.