Everyone talked about the different scenarios that could potentially play out leading into the final day of the Bassmaster Elite Series event on Texas' Lake Falcon.
Aaron Martens could fall back. Mark Davis could catch 40 pounds. Somebody could catch a 50-pound stringer and blow everyone else away.
Yet underneath it all, you got the sense that just about everybody had accepted the fact that it would be Martens' hoisting the trophy when it was all said and done.
After accumulating nearly 110 pounds of bass in the first 3 days of competition, pros and pundits alike agreed that Martens' chances for pulling out a wire-to-wire win in Zapata were looking good.
It seemed the only other angler with a realistic chance of catching Martens was Davis. He started the day 7-07 behind Martens, but his 3 consecutive days of 30-plus-pound limits made him the most likely threat for moving into the top spot should Martens stumble.
"On Falcon Lake, anything can happen."
That phrase has been repeated so many times this week that it's almost lost its meaning, but today, it proved to be true. Martens didn't just stumble on day 4, he took an all-out nose dive. He weighed in just 19-15 - the second smallest sack of the day - and dropped all the way back to 4th.
But it wasn't Davis who took Martens' spot at the head of the pack. Instead, it was 56-year old veteran Paul Elias who jumped up from 5th place to claim his first Bassmaster Elite Series victory. His final-day limit totaled 37-11, bringing his 4-day total to 132-08. Elias finished the day a slim 4 ounces in front of another angler that nobody expected to compete for the win - Terry Scroggins.
Scroggins' big move came courtesy of a jaw-dropping sack of bass that totaled up to a tournament best 44-04 pounds. Byron Velvick brought in a 30-03 limit to maintain his 3rd-place position. Davis, who appeared to have far and away the most consistent bite of all the Top 12 anglers, weighed in his lightest limit of the event at 26-14 and slipped three places into 5th.
Here's a look at how the final Top 12 shaped up:
1. Paul Elias: 132-08
2. Terry Scroggins: 132-04
3. Byron Velvick: 131-15
4. Aaron Martens: 129-07
5. Mark Davis: 128-15
6. Scott Rook: 125-10
7. Scott Campbell: 120-01
8. Jason Williamson: 118-02
9. Ben Matsubu: 114-13
10. Casey Ashley: 113-03
11. Michael Iaconelli: 112-06
12. Rick Morris: 108-07
Carolina- and Texas-rigged soft-plastics were hands down the dominant presentation used by the Top 12 finishers. Just about every angler that crossed the stage today mentioned using one or both of those techniques to catch their fish.
The other common thread that most of the Top 12 competitors shared was their use of jumbo-sized baits. Several pros mentioned using 10-inch worms, and 9th-place finisher Ben Matsubu even went through the trouble of using a lighter to fuse two 7-inch Senkos together into some sort of 14-inch Franken-Senko.
However, what varied among the Top 12 pros was how and where they presented their baits. Many anglers stuck with the rubble bite that's been talked about all week, while others concentrated on points and isolated brush.
Elias says today was best day he's had on the water in 30 years of tournament fishing.
Elias did his share of Carolina-rigging this week, but he's known for his affinity with a deep-diving crankbait, and you can bet he had one in close reach at all times at Falcon. He caught three of his five fish with the diving plug on the final day, which he described as "the best day I've had on the water in 30 years of tournament fishing."
"It's hard to describe," Elias said about his victory. "I never dreamed I was going to win this thing today. I was 15 pounds out of it when the day started, and this lake is so awesome that there's always that little voice in the back of your head that tells you it's possible, but I never really thought it would happen today."
Elias spent the majority of the 4-day event dredging the depths of one specific point with a Mann's 20+ crankbait and a 12-inch Mann's Jelly worm on a Carolina-rig.
"It kinda' makes me laugh when I think about winning it on those baits," he said. "Those two baits are as old as Methuselah when it comes to bass fishing."
As noted, the Carolina-rig was a staple among the Top 12 finishers, but Elias was the only angler to mention a crankbait in his arsenal, and he thinks that's what made the difference.
"The bigger fish really seemed to be more susceptible to that crankbait," he noted. "I caught fish on the Jelly worm, but I think everybody throws plastics in this lake and that crankbait just gave them a different look."
The majority of his weigh-fish ate the diver this week, and he thought he had his crankbait pattern honed in for the point he'd been working. But his fish repositioned today, and if not for an adjustment he made this afternoon, he probably would have ended up somewhere in the bottom-half of the standings.
"About 1:30 I figured them out," he said. "I'd been making this one particular cast and really getting bit, but I couldn't catch them doing that today. So I moved up on the point and started casting off towards deeper water, and that's when they really started jumping on it."
Full details of his winning pattern, as well as those of the other top finishers, will be posted soon.
2nd: Scroggins Disappointed
Scroggins' 44-04 final-day sack was less than a pound away from breaking Dean Rojas' 45-02 one-day record for a 5-fish limit, but more importantly, it turned out to be only 4 ounces away from winning the tournament.
"As good as my day was today, I'm very disappointed," Scroggins said. "I lost a 10- to 11-pound fish with about 20 minutes to go today. When I lost that fish I thought it would cost me the record, but I didn't think it would cost me the whole tournament."
Terry Scroggins' 44-04 limit today was less than a pound away from breaking Dean Rojas' one-day catch record.
He started the day as the caboose in the Top 12 trolley, and felt like he needed a monster limit to make any kind of move at all.
"My camera man asked me this morning what my expectations were," he said. "I told him that if I had a great day, I might get lucky and move up a few places, but I wasn't expecting much.
"I really didn't expect those guys to struggle like they did," he added. "I knew I had a really good day, but I expected everyone else to be bringing in the big ones, too."
He caught his biggest fish off one primary spot he described as "a bend in an old road bed with a little bit of rock off the side," but he had to visit that spot multiple times throughout the day to fool the big fish into biting.
"My fish spooked very easily," he said. "I caught three 10-pounders in the first 30 minutes today, but after that they shut off. I'd go out and hit another spot and then come back an hour or so later. I think the element of surprise is important on those bigger fish. You're best chance to get bit was the first time you brought it through there."
About opting for the deep bite instead of sticking with his trademark flipping style, he said: "I've earned a lot of notoriety from flipping, but I grew up fishing offshore structure in the St. Johns River. I love to flip, but I'm comfortable fishing out deep. The St. Johns made me a very versatile angler.
"When we first got (to Falcon) there were a ton of fish in the bushes," he added. "But I think the fishing pressure combined with the heat and the wind pushed those fish out to that offshore stuff."
5th: Davis Dejected
BassFans know Mark Davis as an easy-going, level-headed personality who doesn't show a whole lot of emotion, but he was noticeably upset when answering questions about his performance on the final day.
"You'll never hear me say that I feel like I'm going to win a tournament, but I felt like I was going to win this one," he said. "I really thought I could be consistent and weigh in another 35 pounds, maybe even more. And I felt like Aaron was running out of fish, so I thought I had a good shot to do it today.
"I really only needed about 30 pounds today and I could have sealed the deal," he noted. "I thought 30 pounds was a guarantee out of the spots I was fishing. Nothing was different today, I just didn't get those 8- and 9-pound bites I've been getting. I weighed in two 4 1/2-pound fish today. That was my demise."
He said not getting the win feels like "getting punched in the guts," but his 5th-place finish today puts him in the lead in the Angler of the Year (AOY) standings, and that helps ease the pain.
Mark Davis' 5th-place finish at Falcon makes him the new leader in the Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings.
"I'm fishing pretty well right now and I feel good being back at BASS. It's always nice when you can get a good start to the season, and anytime you can make a Top 5 against these guys is great. But when you're expecting to win and you stumble like I did - that's when it stings the most.
6th: Rook Content
Like Elias and Scroggins, Scott Rook was able to catch fish just about everywhere he went, but "99 percent" of his big fish came off one point.
"These fish are really grouped up by size," he said. "There's nothing that separates my point from any other point on the lake, but as far as that deeper bite goes, it seems like the bigger fish are really stacked into small areas."
With the exception of day 3 when he caught his fish on a jig, the Carolina-rig was his weapon of choice. He used a 1 1/4-ounce Tru-Tungsten worm weight on the Carolina-rig and said that was vital to his success.
"You can feel so much more with that tungsten weight than you can with a lead weight," he noted. "I was dragging that Carolina-rig down the sides of the point in about 15- to 18-feet of water and when I'd start feeling it hit that harder bottom, I'd slow it way down. That's when I'd get my bites."
He moved into 3rd in the AOY points with his 6th-place finish at Falcon, and said his confidence is high going into Amistad next week.
"It's imperative to get off to a good start (in the Elite Series). If you start off slow out here these guys will bury you quick. I feel good about the way I'm fishing, especially after a tournament like this. I broke the 100-pound mark, I broke Steve Kennedy's record, and I finished 6th. That's absolutely unreal, but I'm happy with how I fished this week."
> Day 4 stats -- 12 anglers, 12 limits.
> All of the Top 12 anglers broke the 100-pound mark, and the Top 6 finishers bested Steve Kennedy's 4-day catch record of 122-14.
> The anglers leave Zapata and follow the Rio Grande north to Del Rio where they'll face off on Lake Amistad next week.
Day 4 (Final) Standings
1. Paul Elias -- Laurel, MS -- 20, 132-08 -- 305 -- $100,000.00
Day 1: 5, 28-05, -- Day 2: 5, 39-01 -- Day 3: 5, 27-07 -- Day 4: 5, 37-11
2. Terry Scroggins -- San Mateo, FL -- 20, 132-04 -- 295 -- $42,000.00
Day 1: 5, 33-01 -- Day 2: 5, 25-01 -- Day 3: 5, 29-14 -- Day 4: 5, 44-04
3. Byron Velvick -- Del Rio, TX -- 20, 131-15 -- 290 -- $26,000.00
Day 1: 5, 34-14 -- Day 2: 5, 41-11 -- Day 3: 5, 25-03 -- Day 4: 5, 30-03
4. Aaron Martens -- Leeds, AL -- 20, 129-07 -- 300 -- $19,000.00
Day 1: 5, 42-00 -- Day 2: 5, 37-13 -- Day 3: 5, 29-11 -- Day 4: 5, 19-15
5. Mark Davis -- Mount Ida, AR -- 20, 128-15 -- 280 -- $18,000.00
Day 1: 5, 35-04 -- Day 2: 5, 33-09 -- Day 3: 5, 33-04 -- Day 4: 5, 26-14
6. Scott Rook -- Little Rock, AR -- 20, 125-10 -- 276 -- $15,500.00
Day 1: 5, 35-12 -- Day 2: 5, 24-09 -- Day 3: 5, 35-04 -- Day 4: 5, 30-01
7. Scott Campbell -- Springfield, MO -- 20, 120,-01 -- 272 -- $17,000.00
Day 1: 5, 33-15, -- Day 2: 5, 25-06 -- Day 3: 5, 29-15, -- Day 4: 5, 30-13
8. Jason Williamson -- Aiken, SC -- 20, 118-02 -- 268 -- $14,500.00
Day 1: 5, 33-04 -- Day 2: 5, 27-09 -- Day 3: 5, 27-08 -- Day 4: 5, 29-13
9. Ben Matsubu Hemphill, TX -- 20, 114-13 -- 264 -- $14,000.00
Day 1: 5, 24-14 -- Day 2: 5, 30-03 -- Day 3: 5, 34-00 -- Day 4: 5, 25-12
10. Casey Ashley -- Donalds, SC -- 20, 113-03 -- 260 -- -- $14,500.00
Day 1: 5, 28-02 -- Day 2: 5, 28-04 -- Day 3: 5, 34-01 -- Day 4: 5, 22-12
11. Michael Iaconelli -- Runnemede, NJ -- 20, 112-06 -- 257 -- $12,500.00
Day 1: 5 34-11 -- Day 2: 5 31-10 Day 3: 5 25-12 Day 4: 5 20-05
12. Rick Morris -- Virginia Beach, VA -- 20, 108-07 -- 254 -- $13,300.00
Day 1: 5, 25-07 -- Day 2: 5, 29-10 -- Day 3: 5, 36-01 -- Day 4: 5, 17-05
> Day 4: Terry Scroggins -- San Mateo, FL -- 10-06 -- $1,000.00
> Day 3: Casey Ashley -- Donalds, SC -- 10-05 -- $1,000.00
> Day 2: Mark Davis -- Mount Ida, AR -- 11-00 -- $1,000.00
> Day 1: Scott Campbell -- Springfield, MO -- 13-02 -- $1,000.00