If you are a bass fisherman, then this should be one of the most important weeks of the year.  It’s the Bassmaster Classic week.  Competition begins Friday and culminates on Sunday.  Cool.

“What’s in it for me?” you say?

How about coverage and a breakdown of everything bass fishing all condensed into one week.  B.A.S.S. does a fabulous job of covering their crown jewel and now with “BASS Live” it really has become not just interesting but important.

I know, there are those of you who don’t feel like what happens in South Carolina this week has anything to do with you and your lakes or rivers, but it does.

Some of the best anglers in the world having to make decisions on baits, techniques, locations, and strategy.  All of it documented better than ever.  Even the participants use the Classic to learn.  

Lessons Learned

#1 – It Still Gets Cold in the Deep South

Ray thought this was pretty funny, I was pretty annoyed – with myself.  Trying to go practice for the Classic and I can’t even open the lids to the boat compartments.  Rookie…

Lesson #2 – Go With What You Believe In

My first cast in practice was on an area that I had found with side-imaging back in November while pre-practicing (scouting) the lake with Ryan.  It had healthy Coontail, and scattered wood.  It was an offshore grass pattern that I thought would be important.  A lipless crank seemed like the best bet for this stuff.

Plus there was a big-time shad die off in these creeks because the water was so cold.  Food + Cover = Bass.

Shad die-off during the 2010 Bassmaster Classic on Lay Lake, Alabama

During the Classic, Todd Faircloth and Jeff Kriet finished in the top 3 fishing this very area.  Rookie…

Later that morning…

 

Lesson #3 -Don’t Get Led Astray with the Wrong Feedback

Bites were hard to come by in practice.  When you catch a 5-6 pounder, it makes you feel like you’ve got something figured out.  Big fish caught in practice have led many astray before and I would be no different.  I started thinking greedy.  I would catch five of these in the tournament and come in with 25-30lbs.

Flipping thick grass mats gave me my best big fish feedback in practice, but it also led me down the wrong path.

Unfortunately, I read that fish as a sign of what I needed to do, instead of going with my initial instinct of fishing the healthiest offshore grass (Coontail) I could find.  I thought maybe this flipping pattern would improve as the weather warmed throughout the week.  As you will see later, I opted to go this route rather than deal with the “issues” associated with fishing in Beeswax Creek.

Lesson #4 – Know What’s Down There

Coming into the boat ramp at the end of day 2, I was chatting with Skeet Reese about what was a bad day for us.  Although I had a few bites and lost some fish, I came in with zilch.  Reese also blanked that day.  When he saw all of the floating Coontail that had been ripped up by guys using lipless cranks in Beeswax Creek, he said his heart sank.  He said he didn’t know it (green Coontail) was in there that good and he had been looking for that stuff all week.

I felt like an idiot because I knew it was there but ran away from it.

Here’s a good wrap up of KVD’s approach.  

Lesson #5 – The “No Info” Mental Handcuff

So my instinct was to fish Beeswax, but I also felt I could catch a good one or two flipping a few areas.  I caught a 6 pounder on day 1 flipping and added another pounder later on.  About mid-day, I made the run back to Beeswax to finish out my limit.  It was full of boats.  Spectator boats surrounded a few tournament boats creating a flotilla that was difficult to move in and out of.  Kriet and Faircloth were set up on my day 1 practice first cast area and dozens of spectator boats surrounded them.  KVD was in the back of the creek, on the other side of the bridge.  Several dozen spectator boats surrounded him to the point they had the narrow channel under the bridge blocked.

I stayed out of the way, fishing stuff I didn’t want to fish for an hour or so before moving on.  I knew my chance to fish Beeswax had passed as it would now only look like I was crowding in on the leaders.

One factor in not starting there was the effect the “no information” rule had on me.  In the course of practice, I had several locals tell me that the event would be won in Beeswax.  In fact, one guy pointed to the area KVD ended up winning while I was getting gas one morning.

It weighed on my mind that if I caught ’em in Beeswax, the “Federation Guy” – me, would have to answer questions about how I knew they were in there.  How is it that the guy from Washington was in the crowd with the leaders?  I let that thinking get in my head and didn’t want to risk a DQ because my conscience was thinking about the locals who blurted out where to be fishing.  So I struggled the whole event between wanting to fish where I thought I’d have the best chance to catch limits (Beeswax) and not wanting to admit that I had inadvertently gotten “info” via local chatter.

Lesson #6 – That Stuff Works at Home

The whole offshore, prespawn, grass fishing for largemouth was a little bit new to me in 2010.  I had spent a whole lot of time on smallmouth in those situations, but not so much for the largemouth.  After my Classic experience, I decided to see how it would work in the Northwest.  Turns out, it works really well.  Of course, if you’ve been paying attention to GOA, you already know that 😉

If you want to watch a recap of that 2010 Classic and see if you can put some of the pieces together for yourself, check out the link below.

2010 Classic Video

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