Goshen News, Goshen, IN

March 31, 2013

OUTDOOR COLUMN: Falcon Lake lives up to its billing


ZAPATA, Texas — ZAPATA, Tex. – I expect three things to happen anytime I go south on a working fishing trip.

1) An unseasonably brutal cold front

2) A stiletto-like wind

3) Fishing success that falls well short of expectations.

Check. Check. Check.

“I hope you brought more clothes than that,” said Californian Skeet Reese who stood bundled in a quilted jacket outside the Holiday Inn early one morning last week.

“Everything I brought with me – right here,” I answered, waving a hand across my body as I dropped camera gear into his boat. “What happened to the 105 degree weather this place had last week?”

“You showed up,” Reese grinned.

Less than a mile from where we stood lay Falcon Lake, an 80,000-acre reservoir shared by Texas and Mexico. Often touted as the nation’s best bass lake, Falcon hosted a Bassmaster Elite tournament a few days prior.

I was there as a guest of Lucky Craft Lures, lure sponsors of Reese and fellow pro Kelly Jordon, who stayed after the tournament ended to be our fishing guides for the day.

Both are top-notch pro bass fishermen who did well in the tournament, but emphasized how tough fishing had been.

“You’re not going to catch a lot of fish, but chances of catching 8 to 10 pounders are as good here as they are anywhere,” said Jordon.

The morning spent with Reese indicated it was a lot tougher than that. I never had a bite; he caught three small ones.

Jordon and the Lucky Craft folks had a better morning. They caught four, including 6 and 4 pounders.

We switched boats at noon when Jordon wanted to investigate an area he saw on his graph. It was a rocky, offshore ledge that dumped into a creek channel.

“They have to be there,” he said assuredly.

One was. Jordon lost a giant on a crankbait after I pummeled the ledge with a jig.

“We’ll come back later,” the Texan said. “That spot is too good to not hold fish.”

We fished a little more that afternoon but spent most of time doing interviews and photos for magazine stories I was gathering. When we reconnected with Reese and the others, Skeet described a flurry when he caught six bass between 4 and 8 pounds in 20 minutes.

They came on a new Lucky Craft SKT 110 Mag MR, a 4 ½-inch, 2-ounce, square-billed crankbait that was the size of a young muskrat.

After more photos, the sun dropped off the horizon and it became obvious that I was the only one in our group who had gone all day without a bite.

I pointed that out as we slipped on life jackets for the ride back to the ramp.

“Don’t give up so fast,” said Jordon. “Remember that little ledge we fished near the ramp? We’re going there before we quit. I just know a big one lives there.”

When we idled up to the spot, Jordon pointed where he wanted me to make the cast.

“Here, I’ll show ya,” he said, launching the same big crankbait that Reese used, then handed me the rod.

I turned the handle about five times and then it stopped.

Hung in the rocks - or a fish?

The answer came quickly. I leaned into the rod and felt the tip section thump wildly. Suddenly, a giant bass tried to jump, but could only get his giant, swaying head out of the water before sounding to the bottom.

After a few tense moments, Jordon leaned over and grabbed the 8 pound bass by the lower lip.

I celebrated in shock. Jordon would have none of that.

“Throw back in there!” he hollered. “There’s got to be more.”

I made the next cast back to the same spot, turned the handle three times and the rod locked up again.

Just as before, another giant bass surged to the top and shook his giant head.

“Oh my God, that’s bigger than the first one!” Jordon exclaimed.

The fish stayed buttoned through the jump and battled his way to the boat – until the last four feet.

When I could feel the monster crankbait wobbling freely, I knew I’d lost him.

By then it was near darkness and we had to call it a day.

The experience proved why these guys can make a living from fishing and why you should never quit too soon.

Especially on Falcon Lake.

Steelhead program

St. Joseph River angling veteran Ray Williams will share tips and techniques for catching steelhead at the Michiana Steelheaders meeting Wednesday night.

The free program is open to the public at the DeAmici Club in Mishawaka. The Steelheaders will hold their general meeting at 7:30 p.m. with Williams’ presentation shortly thereafter.

R&B winners

Andy Buss (North Liberty) and Bryan Ritchie (Middlebury) caught four bass weighing 9.38 pounds to win the R&B Circuit Open on the St. Joseph River in Elkhart last week.

The tournament was previously scheduled for Lake Manitou but had to be moved to the river because the lake was still iced over.

Due to new, state-imposed river size limit restrictions, the tournament was fished with a four-fish bag and 15-inch size limit.

The winners’ catch included a 3.56-pound largemouth that won them the Money Mouth Baits Big Bass award. The big fish was fooled by a Lucky Craft Pointer 100, but all other fish were caught on ½-ounce Silver Buddy blade baits between 12-15 feet of water.

Wood was prevalent where all fish were caught.

Trevor Paulus (Osceola) and Jason Horvath (South Bend) were second with 6.83 pounds caught in 12-15 feet of water on homemade blade baits.

Kevin Fletcher (Elkhart) and Greg Mangus (Fremont) brought the only other limit that weighed 6.82 pounds. They used Poor Boy’s Erie Darters and grubs to fool their fish.

The R & B Bass Circuit classic season opener will be April 20 at Webster Lake. Visit www.randbbasscircuit.com for more information.

Turkey workshop

A free turkey hunting workshop is scheduled for April 14 at the Tri-County Fish & Wildlife Area in Syracuse, Ind. from 1-4 p.m.

Activities include turkey hunting tactics, equipment needs, cleaning and preparing after the harvest, safety, history and biology of the wild turkey, and field demonstrations.

If time and weather allow, there will be shooting range opportunities.

The workshop is tailored to beginning turkey hunters, but all levels can gain valuable knowledge.

Drinks and light snacks will be provided.

The event is sponsored by Tri-County FWA, Indiana Conservation Officers, and the Land of Lakes Chapter of the National Wild Turkey Federation.

For information, call (574) 834-4461.

Contact Goshen News outdoor writer Louie Stout at info@louiestout.com.