Today was the last practice day before competition starts on Friday. I had a pretty good practice, all things considered. At least I accomplished some of the things I wanted to get done. That's not to say it's getting much better out there, though. It's still really tough.
If you want to put it in a positive light you could say I eliminated a lot of water today, that's for sure. That's something, I mean it's isn't like you're going to catch keepers every place you stop under conditions like these. That's unrealistic. Sometimes you have to take what you can get.
There's no point in kidding anyone. This is one of the toughest — if not the toughest — Classics I've ever had to prepare for in my career. The conditions are brutal. A lot of guys are comparing it to Pittsburgh but I don't buy that. Pittsburgh in 2005 and Birmingham in 2010 are two very different fishing experiences.
In Pittsburgh, the fish were small but the fishing wasn't really that tough. They weren't all that hard to catch. I knew after practice what I needed to do to get them in the boat. That was a tournament where they were biting but they just weren't very big.
Here, this year, it's a different story. The fish are plenty big in Lay Lake; they just won't bite. They're in shock from all this rain and cold weather. It's the opposite situation from Pittsburgh. Frankly, I don't think there's any comparison between the two.
Anyway, back to my practice. The big thing I wanted to do was see how much things had changed since Sunday. That should give me an idea of how things will be come Friday morning. That's the thing when you're fishing tournaments at this level — you have to anticipate what's going to happen as well as what is happening.
I was able to do some of that. According to the weather forecast it's supposed to slowly warm as the week rolls along. That should make for better fishing each day. As cold as the nights are, however, I don't think the changes will be radical. A degree or two here and there is about all we're going to get. Nevertheless, some improvement is better than none.
To take advantage of that an angler needs to have some idea of what everything is going to look like later in the tournament. It's true that you have to fish for the fish the way you find them, but you also have to plan for the future. It doesn't matter if that's two days away or two hours away.
That's what I try to do on days like today. If I can measure the change from Sunday then I'll have an idea of how much change there'll be by Friday. It's always somewhat of a guess, but it's the best we have right now, or maybe I should say it's the best I have right now.
In the end it all boils down to confidence. You have to believe in yourself and in your abilities as an angler. Qualifying for a Bassmaster Classic is proof positive that you can fish. You just have to go forward and trust yourself, no matter how tough the conditions.
In the end, it's all about the attitude.