Come on, Ken!

I just got back from Brazil where I was fishing for peacock bass on the Rio Negro, a tributary of the Amazon River, and had very little contact with the outside world. This trip was something I dreamed about for a long time, and it was an opportunity for me to recharge with a break from the real world. Unfortunately, even with incredible fishing, scenery and a trip of a lifetime, I found it difficult to keep the Bassmaster Classic from creeping into my thoughts.

The Classic is such an important event, but first a little about my peacock bass fishing trip. I was amazed at the enormity of the entire waterway. The Rio Negro alone is about three times the size of our Mississippi River. From the air you can see literally thousands of backwater lakes and oxbows. From the water it’s a winding maze that seems never-ending. I was thankful to have our river guides to navigate while fishing, and yes, they do it the old-fashioned way — no GPS!

I averaged 25 peacock bass per day, and a lot of those were in the 6- to 12-pound range. My biggest topwater fish of the trip was a 17-pounder, and I caught an 18 on a swim jig. The only way I can describe the fight is to compare it to an 18-pound Coosa River spotted bass. If you’re using anything less than 80-poiund braid, you’re in trouble.

Our topwater lures were huge, much larger than anything I’ve ever thrown, and they work best when ripped erratically across the surface. It’s a serious workout and I’ve decided that a peacock bass trip may be the best way to get my arms in shape for the Bassmaster Classic! (See how I justified an annual trip there?)

Since I’ve been home I’ve taken care of the business and family tasks that came up while I was gone, and there’s certainly plenty to do! My boat wrap will be complete this week and now I’ve got to completely overhaul tackle. I’ll be going through every single box, lure by lure, to make sure the hooks are sharp and everything is organized by type, size and color. Next week I’ll post a photo of my wrap and we’ll talk specifics about tackle organization.

Just before I left for Brazil, I saw that Ken Duke, the walking encyclopedia of professional bass fishing, had written his yearly feature for Bassmaster.com that places odds on the Classic competitors (Who’s got the best odds to win the Classic). If there’s one person alive qualified to play the tout in the business of professional bass fishing, it’s Mr. Duke.

But, come on, man, you’ve got me at 24-to-1? I see why you had to go into hiding after last year’s “Odds” story.

Of course I’m just joking with Ken. It’s always fun to log onto the computer and read all of the pre-Classic editorials. By the time the actual tournament rolls around, we’ve heard the prognostications and opinions of every angler who’s ever fished a tournament on who will win, what lure they’ll throw, who’s shirt they’ll be wearing, what they’ll eat for breakfast and on and on.

As a fisherman I read all that stuff, but as a competitor I know that all that really matters is what happens after launch on the first day of competition. I remember reading all of the college football news before the season started, and I don’t believe I saw a single thing about Auburn University playing in the BCS Championship game, or my Baylor Bears being a top 10 team for most of the season.

From a competitor’s standpoint I’ve got to read these things for fun and not put too much stock in them. When the time comes to get on the water, my mind needs to be clear so I can figure out the fish and execute a game plan. I simply cannot let any of the information I’ve read influence the way I fish, or how I think the rest of the competitors are fishing, for that matter.

But as I learned, or relearned, last week, some things you just can’t get out of your mind no matter where you are, what you’re doing or how hard you try.

24-to-1? Come on, Ken!

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