We are less than a month away from official practice for the 2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville, and I’m pretty excited about it. This will be my 15th Classic, and believe me the thrill is just as intense now as it was back in 1996 when I qualified for my very first one.
I’ve learned over my career that winning a tournament like this takes intense focus and preparation, but last week’s announcement that the 2015 Classic is headed back to Lake Hartwell has really thrown off my concentration. It’s where I won my Classic in 2008, and I can’t tell you how many emotions and memories that brings back.
So many moments stand out about that Classic; developing a pattern that I thought could win, idling in on the final day thinking I’d blown the tournament, hoisting the trophy in front of all those fans, Jimmye Sue getting the bouquet of roses and us making the victory lap around the auditorium. I was fortunate enough to reach a goal that all tournament anglers dream about, and I absolutely cannot wait to get back there!
But, in the meantime, I have to put that thought out of my mind and concentrate on the task at hand, and that’s Lake Guntersville and this year’s Classic. There are enough distractions involved with preparing for a tournament of this magnitude without throwing in this new information.
Part of preparation is making sure I have all of the baits I think might play a part in the tournament, so this week I’ve been going through catalogs and placing orders. It’s more fun than putting new line on or oiling reel gears, but I’d still rather be fishing.
For the record, I think the baits that will play the biggest roles at Guntersville are suspending jerkbaits, lipless crankbaits and jigs. My biggest orders were for Smithwick Perfect 10 Rogues, XCalibur One Knockers and every jig in the Booyah catalog. All three of those lure types have the potential to win a Classic this year.
Once the lures arrive, the important work of organizing everything begins. You’d be surprised at how difficult this can be. You have to have everything you could possibly need or want, but it’s got to be organized so you can immediately put your hands on it.
It’s important that I get everything ordered and organized now because next week I’m going to check off an item from my bucket list.
I’ve seen all of the TV shows and read the stories about catching peacock bass in the Amazon, so I’m headed to Brazil. I’ve never caught a peacock bass and I can’t imagine what it’s like when a 25-pounder hits a Pencil Popper on 100-pound braided line. It’s got to be arm-jarring!
So, for a few days I’m going to try to get the Classic – both this year’s and next – out of my mind and enjoy an adventure that I’ve dreamed about for a long time. We won’t have cell service in the jungle but as soon as I get back I’ll post pictures on my Facebook page. Then I’ll return to the arduous task of climbing the mountain called the Bassmaster Classic!