For the 54-year-old Mississippi pro, his 28th season in the BASS wars seemed to hold more promise than any in recent years.
That’s because the premier Bassmaster circuit had been completely revamped with a schedule that would expand to 10 months of the year — quite a change from the past five years, during which each season was squeezed into a handful of spring months.
More specifically, instead of being faced with a barrage of shallow, springtime tournaments, the Bassmaster Elite Series pros will be competing through several seasons of the year. And that means Elias will again be able to do what he does best — deep cranking over offshore structure.
“We’re not going to have as many structure tournaments as people are thinking,” the five-time BASS winner said. “But we at least are going to have some. The lakes that we’re starting off on are probably going to be spawning tournaments, but they are also lakes where you can get out and catch fish on deep-diving crankbaits in deep water.
“These lakes are so full of fish that it’s not one wave of fish coming in; it’s constant waves. And there’s going to be pre-spawners, along with post-spawners and spawners. So I think we’re going to have a lot of outside fishing.”
Elias’ enthusiasm has not been tempered by a poor start in the season opener last week at Texas’ Lake Amistad, where he finished 79th with 30 pounds. In fact, he’s really looking forward to this week’s Bassmaster Elite Series stop at Texas’ Sam Rayburn Reservoir.
“I’ve looked back at my records since the schedule was announced,” said the 14-time CITGO Bassmaster Classic qualifier. “And my record on Rayburn in March I’ve done better on deep-diving crankbaits there than I have in February. Until May, there’s always a pre-spawn deal going on most of our lakes — especially those big, grass lakes.”
I’m really looking forward to every one of (the Bassmaster Elite Series lakes),” Elias explained. “I’m cautious of Clarks Hill, because it bit me in the rear end last year. But it shouldn’t have because it fit my style of fishing. I had never been on the lake, and it really blew hard for two days of practice. I made a bad decision and fished shallow the first day, which was really the only day you could get offshore and locate fish. And that really cost me.”
It’s a different time of year,” he said. “It’s probably going to be a post-spawn deal, where the fish are coming off the bed. They should be feeding up pretty well. There should be a lot of drop fishing going on, too.
“Naturally, I’m licking my chops about going to Kentucky Lake in June. I usually catch them there, and that’s probably going to be our best structure-fishing tournament of the year. I’ve always caught them real well on the Potomac, and we’re going there at a good time of year for me because they’re usually biting crankbaits pretty well in August. I’ve got a pretty good record on the Northern lakes. I won at Seneca Lake. We’re going to Oneida, which is a Finger Lake, too. I feel good about all of them.”
PERFECT TIMING. Nikki Brauer deserves a great deal of credit.
She and her husband, Chad, were worried that their second child would be born while Chad was in Kissimmee, Fla., for the recent Bassmaster Classic. But not only did Nikki avoid delivering during Classic Week, she somehow managed to give birth during the week off between the Bassmaster Classic and the Bassmaster Elite Series season-opening event at Lake Amistad.
Makenna Renee Brauer arrived Feb. 28 at 12:42 p.m., weighing in at 8 pounds, 11 ounces, and measuring 19½ inches.
CHAMPION’S RICHES. The riches associated with being the Bassmaster Classic champion continued paying off for Luke Clausen the day after he took the fishing world championship and its winner’s purse of $500,000. While driving to another tournament he stopped for gas; there the owner of the station recognized Clausen and refused to let him pay for his fuel.
HE’S READY. How did a Bassmaster Elite Series pro who did not qualify for Bassmaster Classic XXXVI get ready for the season opener and the big bass of Lake Amistad?
In the case of Dustin Wilks, it involved catching a pair of 10-plus-pound bass on consecutive casts while fishing a private, 80-acre lake in eastern North Carolina — his home state.
Unfortunately, Wilks’ big-bass luck didn’t carry over to Amistad, where he finished 62nd with 34 pounds, 5 ounces.
WEIRDEST CATCH. Bassmaster Elite Series contender Dean Rojas had trouble deciding the strangest item he had ever hooked while fishing.
“I’ve caught hats and shirts and pants,” the Texas pro said. “I caught a plastic bag one time on the Potomac River that had a bunch of clothes in it.”
“It was sitting on the bottom and I snagged it with a crankbait,” he explained. “I thought I really had something, because it loaded up pretty good. But I never even opened the bag.”
DID YOU KNOW? Luke Clausen was the seventh wire-to-wire winner in Classic history. The others: Rick Clunn (1977 and 1984), Hank Parker (1979), Bo Dowden (1980), Stanley Mitchell (1981) and Jay Yelas (2002).
IF I HADN’T BECOME A BASS PRO … Controversial 2003 Bassmaster Classic champion Michael Iaconelli says he likely would be working two jobs: writing ad copy for an advertising firm and moonlighting as a professional disc jockey.
THEY SAID IT. “I’ve never had a practice day as good as when we started on Monday. We usually fish from sun up to sun down, and when the sun went down I did not want to leave. I caught a 13-pound bass, which is the biggest one of my career. It’s an amazing lake. I’m actually looking at buying property here.” - Bassmaster Elite Series angler Michael Iaconelli, who, like many of his pro competitors, fell in love with the big-bass waters of Lake Amistad.
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