I qualified for my first GEICO Bassmaster Classic back in 1997, which coincidentally was held right here in Birmingham. Now I'm putting the final preparations together for my 13th Classic. The Classic has changed a lot, but it's still the Bassmaster Classic and the biggest and best tournament of the year.
Back in 1997, which doesn't sound like that long ago, we all fished out of the same boat and motor combination. The boats were about 17-18 feet long and the motors were 150s (horse power). This year, you probably won't see a single boat under 21 feet or a single motor under 250hp in the event. The ability to use our own boats was a great move in a positive direction for us anglers. It allows us to showcase our sponsors on the biggest stage of our sport.
The advances in technology have also been vast and, unlike the boat and motor advances, these actually have changed the game. The addition of GPS, side imaging, and structure scan has made finding fish a lot easier. We used to spend countless hours studying paper maps. Now we just launch the boat and study our electronics as we run down the lake. With my new Garmins and the LakeVu HD I can see contours of the lake at incredible one foot increments. With the side scan and sonar we can see 50 yards to each side of our boat.
In 1997 we were only allowed one tackle bag of tackle and eight rods and ten reels. These days I have 25 rods and reels and a boat full of tackle in the boat. In 1997 it took some strategy picking out the right gear for the event. Today we bring it all.
While all that has changed, a lot remains the same. The event is still the biggest and best event our sport has to offer. A win will solidify a career overnight.
For me personally, in 1997 I was new to the game, nervous and excited about the event all at the same time. I've fished a dozen of them now and, while I might not be quite as nervous, I am still excited. It's still the one event I want to win more than any other. I'll sleep a little better tonight before the event tomorrow than I did the night before the event in 1997, but once I get up I'll be visited by 17-year-old butterflies and the excitement that only the Bassmaster Classic can bring.
I'm sure you all want to hear how practice went, so I'll give you few quick notes on that before I sign off. Practice went average, but that's OK. In the past, the events at Guntersville where I did well came after a mediocre practice. The events where I bombed, I had good practices. Maybe that means I'm going to have a good event. I do have a few areas where I got some bites, and I'm hoping those really turn on over the next few days. We'll see.
One thing is for sure! In a few days, we'll have a new Bassmaster Classic champion. Stay tuned right here on Bassmaster.com. It should be a Classic to remember.