If the 2013 Bassmaster Classic wasn’t the best Classic ever, it ranked right up there with the best of them.
I knew the Tulsa community was pumped up by the number of media calls I received beforehand and what I heard from sponsors and friends who live there.
It was the smoothest Classic I’ve ever attended despite the challenges organizers faced. There was the weather — a nasty snowstorm that hit prior to competition — and the 90-mile drive to Grove, Okla., where we launched on Grand Lake.
Yet, it all came off without a hitch with huge fan support, thanks to the tireless effort of the Tulsa Sports Commission, government leaders, and citizens who lived in both Tulsa and Grove.
My hats go off to the B.A.S.S. staff that worked tirelessly with officials and hundreds of volunteers. Most anglers don’t realize the amount of preparation that goes into such an event and everyone involved deserves kudos.
This Classic was extra special for me because of the strong family support. “Team VanDam” grew this year with the addition of my nephew, Jonathon, who competed in his first Classic. Assembling a large group of family and friends is no easy task, and credit goes to my wife, Sherry, who helped make it happen.
Family and friend support means so much to competitors even though we don’t get to show our full gratitude because we’re so caught up in the competition.
And what about the fishing?
First, Cliff Pace deserves heaps of credit for winning. I’ve always known he was an exceptional angler, and he did a great job all three days.
I felt good about this Classic and thought I was in a position to win. As I expected, the lake and conditions set up for a fabulous jerkbait bite, which is why I worked with Strike King to develop the KVD jerkbait that I thought could help us win this Classic.
I figured that most of the field would target the clearer water near the dam so I went north and keyed on areas where the water was a little dirtier. Knowing the cold front was coming through, I expected the bass would suspend along the lips of the drop offs and be easier to catch in the dirtier water.
And while I had a good first day (19 pounds, 12 ounces) my second and third days were a struggle. You can’t have a bad day in the Classic, and I just couldn’t get the big ones to bite on Day Two.
I caught three in the first 15 minutes of the second day and thought, “Man, here we go again.” Unfortunately, I only caught one more and never had another bite after 9:30.
Yet, I never got down and felt that my next cast would get the fish going again. I was equally confident the last day, but there wasn’t enough wind on my areas to make it happen.
In each of my Classic wins, I committed to an area and a pattern and could make it happen. I trusted my instincts but it backfired.
I’m proud of my 8th place finish but it could have been better. One different move, or a couple of more fish, could have changed everything for me.
But you know what? I’ll continue to trust those instincts and the next time it will work.
I just know it.
Remember, it’s all about the attitude!