"Nobody goes there anymore; it's too crowded." — Yogi Berra
The Hall of Fame New York Yankees catcher said the above about Mama Leone's, the once-famous, now-defunct Manhattan Italian restaurant. After spending most of Wednesday observing the action in one Pool 5 backwater, which shall remain nameless, you have to wonder if Berra's quote might apply to this place. More than one of the at least 17 Bassmaster Classic anglers who came into this area Wednesday left saying, "I won't be back."
After witnessing the conditions on the Red River, it's apparent they might be speaking the truth, but at the same time they'll be somewhat misleading. The Classic may not be won in this place, but it will be won in some place similar. As anglers around here like to say, "They don't call it the Red River for nothing." And in the main river channel, the river is running seriously red.
But in the backwater that shall remain nameless, there was a clear mud line in the water, where ugly met pretty. And that is the attraction – fairly clear backwater staked out starkly by a red line of muddy water. If those anglers don't come back here when the three-day Classic begins Friday, they will be going to some place like it.
Several telling comments came from the competitors on Wednesday. To sum up, they were: 1) It's so difficult to move around the stump-filled Red River that you need to hunker down in one or two places, three at the most; 2) There's enough bass-attracting cover in the backwater areas that crowding won't be a problem; and 3) Bass tend to congregate this time of year on the Red River; you might pick a place apart for an hour or two with no success, then strike absolutely pure gold.
It's time to hunker down, not run and gun. So you must pick your spots carefully.
Several Classic qualifiers have mentioned how they think this will be an "interesting tournament" and how it will probably be decided by split-second decisions on the water, not some preconceived plan hatched during practice. After watching Wednesday's practice, I couldn't agree more. The clear, backwater areas of the Red River have been scoped out and fished through, but water conditions are going to change daily during the Friday-through-Sunday event. A cold front is expected Friday night. Not a brutal cold front, but something that will cool the water that was warming rapidly Wednesday. Thursday is press day, when all the competitors will be in front of tape recorders and TV cameras, not experimenting with the 24-hour changing conditions of the Red River.
Friday, 49 anglers will attempt to achieve a lifetime goal, knowing that recent practices have given them, at best, a glimpse of a winning formula.
So, yeah, it should be interesting. Who is going to be able to think on his feet well enough to figure out this puzzle that is the Red River in pre-spawn with a limited amount of clear water?
No matter who wins here, it will be well-earned.