I'd like to say I'm ready to head out to the Bassmaster Classic, but I'm not. However, I will be by Wednesday morning when I leave for Tulsa.
I've had a little time to get out on Lake Quivira and do some fishing. I think Lake Quivira is a perfect place for me to get warmed up for the Classic because it fishes a lot like Grand, only it's a lot smaller, a lot closer to home, and I can legally fish it during the off limits. Water temperature hovers around 30-40 degrees, mimicking Grand, too.
We'll be arriving in Tulsa on Wednesday night. I'll spend Thursday getting everyone situated, the campground set up and making last minute preparations for the practice period. Thursday is the day to get everything established, which will allow me to focus on practice.
During those three days of practice, I need to figure out what the fish are doing. My goal is not to catch a lot of fish. I hope to get a few bites, but I don't want to catch them. We often refer to this as "shaking them off." We don't literally shake them, instead we engineer our baits to not catch a fish by rolling over hooks on hard baits or just not setting the hook when one bites. Another technique involves using a screw lock instead of a hook on soft plastic baits.
Entering practice I'll have at least 20 rods set up with different baits and techniques. There are a few off-the-wall techniques I want to experiment with and a few baits that everyone will be fishing. My hope is to narrow down the bite to either bottom baits or moving baits during the practice period. I'm sure there will be a combination of the two that are working, but for the most part one style will dominate.
The biggest factor for me in deciding which technique to favor is water temperature. It ranges from 40 to 50 degrees, and that's a big difference for determining the outcome of my fishing.
I'll spend most of my time on the water observing areas. I may not even fish for several hours at a time. I'll be looking for things like baitfish, water color and water temperature. I'll spend time exploring the upper, middle and lower parts of the lake. This detective-like observation will allow me to narrow the lake down to a primary area during the first three days of practice.
During next Wednesday's final practice round, I'll take that area and either zone in or expand, finding other areas similar to it and finding that "spot within the spot." So many variables can change during a three-day span that it's essential to have that final day of practice to see what's changed.
One of the intriguing things about Grand Lake is that it's a pattern lake. If you can find a good pattern, generally you can duplicate it all over the lake.
I definitely expect certain areas of the lake to get a disproportionate amount of fishing pressure. Even with only 53 anglers in the field, some areas will experience a lot of traffic. Overall, Grand is a relatively big lake, and fishing pressure shouldn't play a big role in the final outcome of the event.
One tip I'd like to put out there this week is to prepare for more than just fishing when you're planning your next trip. Prepare for the cold; prepare for boat issues; prepare for accidents. I like to think about what I would do in certain situations. What would I do if I fell in 40-degree water? I know I would need a towel and a full set of dry clothes, otherwise my day could be over before it even started. What would I do if a hook penetrated my hand or leg? I would need a pair of cutters strong enough to cut a hook shank, and some bandages to wrap up the area so I could continue to fish. Tools, food, water and every other little detail needs to be thought about in advance in order to prepare for a catastrophe.
This is the Bassmaster Classic, and I don't want to cut my day short because I was unprepared. The same kinds of considerations apply to your fishing, even if you're not in this year's Classic. Cutting your fishing trip short for something you could have prepared for is no fun at all.
I'll check back in early next week after practice and give you some insight as to what to expect. I'm as excited for this event as any I've ever fished. It's going to be a lot of fun with so many hometown Kansas fans in the crowd.
I hope I can give them something to cheer about.