With Christmas Day rapidly approaching, most CITGO BASSMASTER Tour pros are hurriedly finishing their preparations for the arrival of Dec. 25th. But while most pros will be home for Santa's arrival the tour pros couldn't help but think of where they'd like to be come next July: sweet home Alabama.
Those December thoughts of southern hospitality, big largemouth and spotted bass, and hopes for a visit to Alabama came on Tuesday of this week when CITGO BASSMASTER Tour officials announced that Lay Lake near Birmingham, Ala. has been chosen as the site of next summer's 32nd CITGO BASS Masters Classic.
The event, which will launch daily from the Paradise Point Marina with daily weigh-ins occurring at the Birmingham-Jefferson Civic Center, will be held July 25-27, 2002. The Lay Lake fishery goes off limits to any potential qualifier on New Year's Day with official practice days scheduled for June 24-29 next summer.
Defending Classic champion Kevin Van Dam of Kalamazoo, Mich. admits he was hoping that the site of next summer's Classic would be on nearby Lake Logan Martin since he has a lot of experience there. But then again, he's not crying in his eggnog that his title defense will be on Lay Lake either."Well, I knew it was in Birmingham," Van Dam said. "So I knew it had to be Logan Martin or Lay Lake. I really like Logan Martin since I've gotten in a lot of time in over there. But they've held the Classic at Logan Martin three times, so I guess that in that light, it does makes sense to hold it at Lay Lake."Van Dam feels good about his chances to defend his Classic title on Lay Lake. And he should too. After a fast start on the first day of the 1996 Classic there, Kevin was in the hunt on the Shelby County lake. A slow final day however ended Van Dam's dream of winning his first Classic crown."I feel real good about it," said Kevin. "The lake fits the style of fishing that I like to fish. I've always done well in the whole Coosa River system and I can fish the way that I like to."
I think strategy will be a big part of this Classic. You've got two species of bass to fish for, the largemouth bass and the spotted bass.
Mark Davis, his thoughts on the 2002 Classic
Defending B.A.S.S. Angler of the Year Mark Davis is pleased that the 2002 CITGO BASS Masters Classic will be visiting the state of Alabama for a record eighth time.
"I'm glad to be going to Lay," said the Mount Ida, Ark. angler and the 1995 Angler of the Year and Classic champ. "We've been to Logan Martin several times. We've had three Classics and a Top 150 there, so I think Lay Lake is a good, neutral choice. It's a good body of water and an excellent fishery."
Davis believes that this next year's Classic winning pattern could be a tough one to figure out.
"I think strategy will be a big part of this Classic. You've got two species of bass to fish for, the largemouth bass and the spotted bass. Lay Lake offers shallow water to pitch and flip in. There is also some structure fishing with plenty of edges and humps to focus on."
"With the two species and the different options, it has the makings of an exciting Classic," Davis said.
Muscle Shoals, Ala. resident and most recent CITGO BASSMASTER Tour victor Tim Horton agreed with Davis that Lay Lake presents a variety of angling options."That lake really fishes to whatever pattern you want it to do," said Horton, who pocketed a nice Christmas present last week when he won the $110,000 Florida Pro Tour event's top prize on Lake Toho. "There will be a real good weed bed bite going on. There will be a boat dock pattern going on, and to some extent, there will be an offshore bite pattern going. It is a neat place to fish because you can do so many different things."But just because he lives in Alabama and has a thorough knowledge of Lay Lake, Horton said that wouldn't necessarily give him an edge if he qualifies for the Classic.
...you've got to start right out of the gate catching them. If you fish deep and they're shallow and you don't catch them, you're done after Day One.
Kevin Van Dam, explaining the level of competition
"It's kind of not an advantage," said Horton, the 2000 Angler of the Year. "Sometimes, you know too much about a place. Sometimes, when you go in with an open mind, it's a benefit. George Cochran won his Classic on Lay Lake in 1996 by going into a real shallow backwater area that nobody else had been going into. It was shallow and extremely hot, and yet he came away with the win."Van Dam agreed with both Davis and Horton and said that the variety of possible patterns will make for some tough decisions on the part of the 52 Classic qualifiers.
My biggest problem for this Classic is choosing a particular pattern," Van Dam said. "It will be picking the right pattern based on the existing conditions the week of the Classic. In the Classic, you've got to start right out of the gate catching them. If you fish deep and they're shallow and you don't catch them, you're done after Day One."
The defending Classic champ said that the variety of options should make next July's Classic a wide-open event that anyone could win."I'd bet there would be five viable patterns during the Classic week," he said. "Any one of them could be the winning pattern."According to Davis, that's what already makes next summer's Classic so intriguing.
"It's a fun place to fish," said Davis, the 1995 Classic champ on North Carolina's High Rock Lake. "It's fun to have a place to fish where you have to think a little bit. This should be a fun Classic and I'm looking forward to it."
While Van Dam has an automatic berth next summer as one of the past two defending Classic champs (Woo Daves is the other) and Davis has an invitation based on his 2001 Angler of the Year title, Horton is among the other CITGO BASSMASTER Tour anglers hoping to qualify for bass fishing's most important championship.
It should be exciting and I hope I'm there," Horton said.