DEL RIO, Texas – Last year, after making a big splash in his first full season as an EverStart Series Texas Division pro – three top 10s and sixth place in points – Austin Terry was adamant about proving his 2012 season was no fluke. Suffice to say, his victory on Lake Amistad provided a huge shot of legitimacy for the 21-year-old angler from San Angelo, Texas..
"I wanted to start off this year good and make another run at (the points title)," Terry said. "In the last (Texas Division) event last year at Lake of the Pines, I felt like I had a shot to win it, but I lost a couple of key fish each day. You can't do that with these guys; you have to fish clean. I lost some big ones this week too – I just caught some really big ones to make up for it."
Terry started off with a strong day-one performance and took seventh place with 19 pounds, 5 ounces. The next day, he sacked up 26-1 (the event's heaviest catch) and stormed into the top spot. On day three, Terry saw his productivity decline to a limit weighing 13-13, but his earlier work had given him a 5-pound lead going into the final round. That advantage helped him stave off several challengers with a three-day total of 59-3 and a winning margin of 1-13.
"I had a pretty good lead yesterday but I knew this is Amistad and how many big fish are out there," Terry said.
Terry fished the lake's Mexican side about 12 miles from the tournament site and essentially targeted prespawn areas outside spawning pockets. He identified these areas during practice and said he had great optimism for their potential during the tournament.
"I found this place in practice and it just set up right for all these fish that would be coming in to spawn," Terry explained. "There were only 2-pounders and some up to 3 in there four or five days before the tournament. But I knew with it warming every day, and I was watching the moon, this could set up and we could really get it right."
His spot did indeed start to blossom and Terry caught bass on a selection of moving baits. He started his days by throwing a Fury squarebill crankbait and switched to a Revenge swim jig with a Reaction Innovations Skinny Dipper later in the day.
"My fish were really shallow – especially the later bite," Terry said. "All of mine today probably came in less than two feet. I've seen some pretty clean beds in there but right now (most of the fish) are getting ready to pull up; they're staging right now. But another week or so there's probably going to be a bunch on beds."
Terry and his fellow competitors struggled with a greatly depleted Lake Amistad. With drought conditions plaguing the region, downstream agricultural needs have prompted significant water release. This has been largely disruptive to the seasonal spawning migrations, hastened by warming temperatures and today's full moon. The fish want to move up, but declining water has had them in a state of flux that many anglers believed has held back the lake's true potential.
Terry overcame this by focusing on the drains accessing these spawning areas and working the outside edges of hydrilla beds. Tournament mornings were dim and foggy, with sunny conditions prevailing on the afternoons of days one and two. These late-day warm-ups triggered better action, but the final day offered no afternoon sunbath, so Terry never found a day-three big bite. Nevertheless, a win is a win and Austin Terry has officially made his mark in EverStart competition.
Combs improves to second
Just a few days removed from a bout with the flu, Keith Combs of Huntington, Texas, seemed just fine on the water. Day one saw him take 15th place with 16-12 but a day later, he had boosted his position to fifth after catching a limit of 22-6. In the final round, Combs weighed 18-4 and gained three more spots to finish second with 57-6.
"I didn't get much practice time so I just decided to cover water," Combs said. "The grass is mostly shallow so I stayed shallow.
"I threw three baits this week: I threw a jerkbait when the water was really clear and in dingy water I picked up a Strike King Redeye Shad or a Strike King 1.5 squarebill. I threw these on 15-pound fluorocarbon line and Power Tackle Rods and just covered water."
Combs said he fished from mile marker 5 to 9 on the lake's Mexican side.
Johnston stays shallow, takes third
Stephen Johnston wasn't about to repeat the mistake he made at last year's Lake Amistad event. And after three days of fishing very differently than he did last year, the Ranger pro from Hemphill, Texas, earned a third-place finish with 57-1.
"I came down here last week and the weather was beautiful, the water temp was in the high 40s and I just went fishing," Johnston said of his practice. "I'm a grass guy. I've made a lot of cuts down here by fishing deep but last year I stayed out too deep I thought, so this year I stayed up shallow. I put my head down in the grass and just went fishing."
Johnston caught his fish on a Strike King 1.5 squarebill and a V&M Lightning Blade. As the tournament progressed, he saw his list of practice spots dwindling with the falling water.
"Since I've been here, I think the water has fallen 3 1/2 feet," Johnston said. "Some of the waypoints where we caught them earlier in the week are dry."'
Big finish lifts Loyd to fourth
Lamonte Loyd of Gilmer, Texas, was the tournament's comeback kid. After placing 56th on day one with 13-3, Loyd stepped on the gas and made a huge advance into tenth place by sacking up 22-3. He continued his campaign on day three with a bag that went 20-10 and ended in fourth place with 56-0.
Loyd caught all of his fish on a custom-painted Strike King 6XD crankbait. Notably, Loyd was the only pro to break 20 pounds on day three and the only one to break 20 twice in the event.
Wilson winds up fifth
Kris Wilson of Montgomery, Texas, tallied a three-day total of 54-4 and finished in fifth place. Wilson caught all of his day-one fish on a jerkbait. He kept that bait in play for day two, but also worked in a swimbait. In the final round, he caught all of his fish on a Sixth Sense deep-diving crankbait.
Best of the rest
Rounding out the top-10 pro leaders at the EverStart Series Lake Amistad event:
6th: Shane Moore, of Argyle, Texas, 52-9
7th: Dusty Schultz, of Willis, Texas, 52-3
8th: Gene J. Eisenmann, of Frisco, Texas, 50-6
9th: Mark Rouse, of League City, Texas, 48-14
10th: TW Hardy, of Silsbee, Texas, 45-10