2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by Diet Mountain Dew and GoPro
Lake Guntersville - Birmingham, AL, Feb 21 - 23, 2014

A long johns Classic?

About the author

Kevin VanDam

Kevin VanDam

In the world of professional bass fishing, Kevin VanDam is at the pinnacle and arguably the best in the world.

I spent this week organizing my new Nitro while a nearby heater in my Michigan garage reminded me it’s still winter.

I leave for Classic pre-practice next week, and after looking at the 10-day forecast, I’m gonna pack my warmest clothes – long johns, face mask, warm boots, gloves and extra hand warmers.

This has been one of the coldest winters on record at Guntersville, and I don’t see much changing during Classic week. Yeah, we’ve had cold Classics – like last year – but they all warmed up at the end.

I don’t see it happening this year. The long range forecast still calls for daytime high of 50 and night time temperatures dipping below freezing.

But it’s the water temperature I’m most worried about. At Grand Lake last year, the water temp was in the mid-40s. As I compose this, some of Guntersville’s creeks are frozen over and lake temperatures have ranged in the 30s.

We need nighttime temperatures in the mid-40s or higher for that big, river-fed lake to warm enough during the daytime hours to activate the fish. I don’t see that coming.

I’m preparing for a mentally challenging event where everyone will have to work for a handful of bites a day.

I’ll still fish my strengths, but these conditions will impact everyone’s efficiency greatly during practice. We won’t be able to cover as much water as we’d like because we’ll have to fish slower and more methodically. Yet, if you spend two days trying to figure out what is going on, you won’t have time to see a sufficient amount of the lake. That could be troubling.

Now, I don’t mean to be negative. Trust me, there will be some big weights caught, but a lot of the field will struggle if conditions remain the same. Two recent tournaments there bore that out; the winners caught big ones, but most of the field really struggled.

My game plan for practice is simple; I’m targeting big fish to win. It will be easy to settle for finding 3-pounders under these conditions, but that won’t win. I’m fishing for 5- to 8-pounders because I know someone will find them and I expect it to take that kind of quality to win.

And I fish to win.

Remember, it was really cold when I won at New Orleans, and I didn’t find the winning fish until the last day of official practice and I only caught three that day. It can happen.

The great thing about Guntersville is it offers options for making adjustments. At New Orleans, we had to make long runs to change areas; on the Red River, we had to go thru time-consuming locks to change locations. At Guntersville, you don’t have to put all your eggs in one basket.

Another cool aspect of this Classic is the abundance of quality fish allows a contender to make up a lot of ground if leaders stumble. As tough as conditions could be, a 30-pound bag remains a realistic expectation.

Sure, it’s going to be mentally draining on those of us on the water trying to put it together. Yet, from a fan’s perspective, this should be an intriguing championship to watch.

For those going to Birmingham, pack your long johns and watch the drama unfold!

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!

Kevin VanDam's column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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