Originally posted at Bassmaster.com
CONROE, Texas — Kelly Jordon is not a weatherman.
He can’t say for sure what the conditions will be when 52 of the world’s best anglers descend on Lake Conroe, an hour outside of Houston, for the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods, March 24-26.
But as a Texas native and a 22-year veteran of the Bassmaster Tournament Trail, Jordon knows the bass are likely to be in some phase of their annual spring spawn — and he says the angler who best identifies that phase is likely to be the winner of the 47th annual event.
“Most of the bass in the lake are going to be somewhere around the spawning mode, simply because of the time of year,” said Jordon, who finished 50th in the 2016 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings and barely missed qualifying for the Classic. “If I was going to guess — depending on what the weather does — I’d say we’ll be toward the final quarter of the spawn. There will still be some fish on the beds, but there will also be a lot of postspawn fish.”
A spawn/postspawn scenario could provide a lot of options, and it could certainly lead to some giant fish being brought to the scales at the Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park.
Jordon said the bluegill will likely be coming up to spawn, and big bass can often be found feeding around bluegill beds. Big male bass are also likely to be guarding recently hatched fry, and big females that are hungry from the spawn could be roaming the shallows.
Though some bass are likely to still be on the beds, Jordon said he doesn’t expect sight fishing to be a dominant technique.
“Sight fishing will definitely play,” he said. “But I don’t think somebody can win on sight fishing alone. You’re likely to see several giant fish caught off beds or maybe a key 5-pounder at a time when someone really needs it. But I don’t think it’s something you’ll be able to totally hang your hat on.”
As for the type of structure that’s likely to be most popular, Jordon said anglers will have their pick.
“The water color will depend on how much rain we get and which part of the river you’re fishing,” he said. “The water way up on the upper end could be a lot more stained than the lower end. But when you get up there, you’ll find plenty of backwater stuff, some side creeks, some marinas, some residential areas with canals, big gigantic flats — a little bit of everything.”
The lower end of the lake could appeal more to dock fishing specialists.
“Once you get down there, the lower half of the lake — if not more than half — is pretty much wall-to-wall boat docks and seawalls. Whether you want to fish shallow shoreline cover or deep shoreline cover, there’s tons of it available. You can find seawalls that may have 10 feet of water around them.
“You’ll find flat banks and deep banks. It’s a really dynamic place — and since we’ll be in the spring spawning season, the person who finds not only where the fish are, but where they’re headed, is going to be the one who’s in the best position to win.”
The abundance of boat docks, in particular, caught the attention of Classic competitor and noted shallow-water expert Cliff Crochet of Pierre Part, La., during pre-practice. Before the official off-limits period began Jan. 16, he posted a blog on Bassmaster.com titled, “Docks, docks and more docks,” complete with a photo of one dock-filled bank.
Other competitors — like Florida’s Drew Benton and Georgia’s Wil Hardy II — spent at least some of their time in deeper water during the chilly pre-practice period, while Bradley Roy showed photos of some giant bass he caught during preparation for his first career trip to the Classic.
Roy’s final blog from pre-practice was titled “Crushing pre-practice” and showed the Kentucky angler holding two largemouth that appeared to be in the 6- to 7-pound range. Another of his blogs showed a gigantic largemouth that he labeled the biggest he’d ever caught, even without scales to weigh it on.
“I've been out scouting the Classic waters and ended today with a bang,” Roy wrote of the big fish on his Facebook page at facebook.com/probradleyroy. “Left my scales in Kentucky, but I'm sure this is my new personal best bass. Best thing is my dad was there for the whole thing. She thumped a D&L Tackle football head jig with a Cabin Creek Bait Company Express Craw on the back.”
Keith Combs — a seven-year veteran of the Elite Series and a Texas native with two previous wins on Lake Conroe in the Toyota Texas Bass Classic — said he expects to see lots of heavy bass like the one caught by Roy in practice once the tournament begins.
“I think there’ll be at least one 30-pound bag caught — if not several,” said Combs, who finished second in the 2016 AOY race. “I think there will be a 10-pounder brought to the scales every day. That’s just the way Conroe is.”
About the 2017 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods
The 47th world championship of bass fishing, the GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods will host 52 of the world’s best bass anglers competing for more than $1 million, March 24-26 in Houston, Texas. Competition and takeoff will begin each day at Lake Conroe Park (146 TX-105, Montgomery, Texas) at 7:20 a.m. CT. There will be off-site parking and shuttles for fans wanting to attend the takeoff. Weigh-ins will be held daily March 24-26 at 3 p.m. in one of Major League Baseball’s Top 20 largest stadiums, the Houston Astros’ Minute Maid Park (501 Crawford Street, Houston, Texas).
In conjunction, the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by DICK’S Sporting Goods will be open daily only a block from Minute Maid Park at George R. Brown Convention Center, (1001 Avenida de las Americas, Houston, Texas) the largest in Classic history. Expo hours are Friday, March 24, noon – 8 p.m.; Saturday, March 25, 10 a.m. – 7 p.m.; Sunday, March 26, 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. All events are free and open to the public.