Klein Rides Familiar Pattern to Lead at Bassmaster Elite Series Season Opener on Lake Amistad
DEL RIO, Texas - Sticking to what he knows best, BASS veteran Gary Klein of Weatherford, Texas, a two-time Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year, persevered through windy, rainy conditions Friday on Lake Amistad to vault into the lead at the OPTIMA Batteries Battle on the Border with a two-day total of 54 pounds, 7 ounces.
With his wealth of experience on Amistad, the wily veteran again threw a jig to deep water and rode an early bite to an advantage of more than 7 pounds over his nearest competitor, 2007 Bassmaster Classic champion Boyd Duckett (46-15) of Demopolis, Ala. Behind Jones, the leaderboard shakes out like a Who's Who of Elite Series pros, including decorated anglers and eight Angler of the Year trophies and six Classic titles among the top 20.
Early indications were that the field would struggle on spacious Amistad, but that theory didn't bear out. Seven anglers weighed in more than 40 pounds over two days and Klein is on pace to weigh in more than 100 pounds and join the BASS century club.
Fishing fans can catch all of the on-the-water action from the March 12-15 OPTIMA Batteries Battle on the Border on The Bassmasters, which airs Saturday, March 28, at 9 a.m. ET on ESPN2. The daily weigh-ins, hosted by BASS emcee Keith Alan, for this and the other seven regular-season Elite events and two postseason events will appear live on ESPN360.com, ESPN's broadband sports network, while a wealth of unique content, including a live leaderboard, photo galleries and more, will also be available at Bassmaster.com.
Searching for his ninth BASS victory and the accompanying $100,000 top prize, Klein has been rotating between a few productive spots. The key to his success, he said, has been executing long casts to targeted spots.
"You have to be very stealthy out there," said Klein, 51. "The fish are smart when you get up close to them, but when you remain far away it becomes almost easy. Still, the lake is very finicky right now and it's going to be a grind."
Klein boated a limit in the first 30 minutes of competition Friday and accumulated 18 pounds on his first spot. He moved to his secondary spot later in the day and caught two bass weighing more than 7 pounds each on consecutive casts to round out his 29-pound, 3-ounce limit.
Amazingly, Klein has yet to cash in on a trophy bass, as several others in the field have. His biggest bass was not quite 8 pounds.
"My pattern is susceptible to catching big fish so I have to think it's going to happen at some point," said Klein, who has won at least one BASS tournament in each of the last four decades.
In contrast to Klein, Duckett was dependent on big bites to fill out his limit. He is running two distinct patterns, throwing a swimbait to entice the biggest bites. Friday, Duckett landed two fish on the swimbait, one weighing more than 7 pounds and the other tipping the scales at nearly 10 pounds.
However, Duckett's place in the standings after Day Two belied his struggle in sticking with a swimbait. He had five bites but was only able to land the two lunkers. Despite the momentum, Duckett said that his success depended on the weather conditions.
"I need that wind to blow," said Duckett, 48. "I have a feeling it's about to get a lot tougher for me throughout the weekend."
Behind Duckett was 2008 Classic champion Alton Jones with 46-4. Like Klein, Jones has built his total without landing a lunker. His weighed fish have included a healthy mix of 4-, 5- and 6-pounders.
While his success came later in the day Thursday, Jones had all of his weight by 11 a.m. Friday. He spent the rest of the day looking for new, productive areas. His search wasn't as fruitful as he hoped but Jones feels confident that his pattern will hold up in all weather conditions.
Slipping from the lead to fourth was Mike Iaconelli of Runnemede, N.J, with 43-8. Rounding out the top five was defending Battle on the Border champion Todd Faircloth of Jasper, Texas, with 41-3.
The field was cut to the top 50 anglers for Saturday's competition and those who made the cut included four-time Angler of the Year Kevin VanDam (11th), 2009 Bassmaster Classic champion Skeet Reese (12th) and 2005 Angler of the Year Aaron Martens (21st).
The Amistad event marked the debut of the Bassmaster Elite Series Marshals program. Marshals, who took the place of co-anglers, will help enforce tournament rules and ensure the integrity of the highest level of professional fishing. With the introduction of the Marshals program, the Elite Series becomes the only exclusive pro fishing league in the world. Despite the conditions, the Marshal program was at capacity.
Along with the top cash prize, the OPTIMA Batteries Battle on the Border awards valuable points in the 2009 Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year title race. Daily launches through Sunday will be at 7:40 a.m. CT at Diablo East Marina, Hwy 90 West, Del Rio. Daily weigh-ins begin at 4 p.m. at the marina.
Sunday's activities include the live taping of Hooked Up, hosted by ESPN Outdoors personalities Mark Zona and Tommy Sanders and BASS emcee Keith Alan. The show, which will air live at 4:30 p.m. ET on Bassmaster.com, will preview Sunday's final weigh-in.
Other activities Saturday and Sunday at the Battle on the Border, including the Central Texas Barbeque Scholarship Battle On The Border Cook Off and the Chili Appreciation Society International Cook Off, will begin at 1 p.m. CT at Diablo East Marina. Fans are invited to join the "Ask the Experts" session with the Elite pros during Bassmaster University, set for Saturday, March 14, at 3:15 p.m.
All events at the Battle on the Border are free and open to the public.
For more information, contact BASS Communications at (407) 566-2208 or visit Bassmaster.com. Visit ESPNOutdoorsmedia.com for ESPN's latest releases, schedules and other news, plus photos, video, audio clips and more.
The local sponsor of the Battle on the Border is the Del Rio Convention & Visitors Bureau.
Sponsors of the Bassmaster Elite Series: Toyota Trucks, Berkley, BOOYAH Baits, Evan Williams Bourbon, Mercury, OPTIMA Batteries, Skeeter Boats, Yamaha Marine; Bass Pro Shops, Costa Del Mar, Lowrance, Ramada, SpongeTech and Triton Boats.
For more than 40 years, BASS has served as the authority on bass fishing. With its considerable multimedia platforms and expansive tournament trail, BASS is guided by its mission to serve all fishing fans. Through its industry-leading publications Bassmaster Magazine, BASS Times and Fishing Tackle Retailer and comprehensive Web properties in ESPN360.com, ESPN's broadband sports network, Bassmaster.com, BASSInsider.com and ESPNOutdoors.com, the organization is committed to delivering content true to the lifestyle. Additionally, television programming on ESPN2 continues to provide relevant content - from tips and techniques to in-depth tournament coverage - to passionate audiences.
The organization oversees the prestigious Bassmaster tournament trail, which includes the Bassmaster Elite Series, Bassmaster Opens, Women's Bassmaster Tour and the Bassmaster Classic, the ultimate celebration of competitive fishing. Through its grassroots network, the BASS Federation Nation, BASS sanctions more than 20,000 events annually.
BASS also offers an array of services to its more than 500,000 members while spearheading progressive, positive change on issues related to conservation and water access. The organization is headquartered in Celebration, Fla.
Source: bassmaster.com (2009-03-13)