OK, I know it's even worse down there than I thought it would be when I wrote the blog last week. Lows in the 20s and highs in the 30s make for some difficult fishing, even for Bassmaster Classic qualifiers.
If it's any consolation to you, however, here in Columbus we've got over 12 inches of snow on the ground with more on the way during the actual competition in Birmingham. To make matters worse, I'm working a Signcom, not out fishing somewhere. It's killing me.
Anyway, here we go — my head picks are Kevin VanDam, Skeet Reese, Mike Iaconelli, Aaron Martens and Boyd Duckett. I pick these guys not because of their fishing skills — although they have many — but rather because they're winners. Each of these men has proved that when the chips are on the line they can produce. They always find a way to catch them, no matter what. They don't complain, and they don't give up. They put their heads down and go to work. In the end, that pays off. They win more than their share, and cash checks on a regular basis. Never count them out, not ever, and not for any reason. When the smoke has cleared and the dust has settled, those are the names you'll see on the leaderboard.
My heart tells another story. I like Gary Klein, Steve Kennedy and Jami Fralick. Each has a story to tell, and on some level each deserves a Classic win. Klein is obvious. He's fished long enough — 28 Classics — without a win. I like Kennedy just because he's a nice guy and has been good to me over the years. He's a true professional. Fralick is included because he's experienced a tough third day in a Classic, something I can certainly relate to as a fellow competitor who experienced the same thing. We have a painful kinship in that regard.
Now that that's out of the way let me say something else. Tough conditions put a premium on experience. Longtime competitors didn't get that way by accident. You don't survive in this business if you can't fish. Almost anyone out there is capable of winning. On some level this sport is like the Olympics. There are favorites, and some guys are clearly better than other guys. But, if the favorite stumbles or has problems, don't think for a minute that one of the other competitors isn't capable of winning. They are. At the Classic qualifier level there isn't as much difference between these guys' fishing skills as you might think.
That's enough for now. It's time to go to work and then, in a couple of days, eat my heart out as I watch the Classic on my computer while I mess with sign stuff. By Sunday evening we'll know how I did with my picks.