By John Johnson
BassFan Senior Editor
Veteran Lone Star State pros Alton Jones and Todd Faircloth are among a very few qualifiers for next month's Redcrest Championship who have any tournament experience at Lake Palestine near Tyler, Texas. Jones won a boat there one time and Faircloth recalls cashing a couple of checks in team events, but those derbies all took place prior to the dawn of the new millennium.
If they have any type of home-field advantage, it's probably in their proximity to the lake (both live within a 2 1/2-hour drive), which will allow them more pre-practice time than most before it goes off-limits on Jan. 20. The event, which was relocated from Oklahoma's Grand Lake after the accompanying outdoor expo was canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, is set for Feb. 21-25.
"I'd probably been there half a dozen times before (the relocation announcement) and I've been there another half-dozen times since then," said Jones, who resides in Waco. "It's maybe similar to Toledo Bend, but a much smaller version. It's full of standing timber and it has immense shallow flats; there's habitat everywhere."
Faircloth has yet to make his first pre-practice trip (he's still in the process of rigging up his 2021 boat), but he'll head that way shortly.
"It's a good fishery that's never received a lot of attention," he said. "It's hard to get around and it can be dangerous, so I think some organizations have shied away from it for that reason.
"I do recall one time watching another team win the tournament right in front of me. Me and my dad had found the same area, but they beat us to it."
Equipment in Jeopardy
Jones said the danger factor that Faircloth alluded to is something that Redcrest competitors can't afford to take lightly.
Todd Faircloth says Lake Palestine is a good fishery that doesn't get a lot of attention.
"It's probably one of the most treacherous lakes in Texas," he said. "There's a thousand different ways to destroy stuff there and I'm speaking from experience. I've already destroyed a prop and torn the skeg off my Mercury and I thought I was running in a boat lane.
"You can look out across the lake and see a stickup about every quarter-mile, but there's a whole bunch more that are 6 inches underwater. It's not like you have to be unlucky to have something bad happen; you just can't take any chances there."
The lake covers approximately 25,000 surface acres and is about 18 miles in length. It's smaller than the majority of tour-level venues, but size shouldn't be an issue with only 40 competitors in the field. The cover mix includes docks, flooded shoreline grass, buck brush and stumps, which could make it ideally suited for a junk-fishing approach.
The water level is a bit over the full-pool mark presently due to recent rain. If it drops considerably over the next few weeks it'll make running around ever more perilous.
"I don't recall Palestine fluctuating a whole lot, although I remember being there one time when it seemed low," Faircloth said.
A Pre-Spawn Deal
Both Jones and Faircloth said that any spawning activity occurring at Palestine during the tournament is highly unlikely.
"I figure most of it will be pre-spawn," Faircloth said. "Here, the coldest months of the year are usually January and February, but a lot of big ones are caught in Texas as that time of year."
Added Jones: "The fish should be up and feeding, but not doing their deal yet, and that'll hold true whether it's cold or not that week. We should be hitting it about as good as it can be hit for big bites and if there's a warming trend, that'll make it good for numbers, too.
"It should be fun and there's going to be some tanks coming aboard. I just hope one or two of them are on my boat."
> Jones said that Lake Palestine formerly contained an abundance of hydrilla, but that's not the case now. Faircloth said the hydrilla was gone prior to his first visit.
> The lake record is a 13.22-pounder caught on Feb. 1, 2014.