Monday was an off day for Bassmaster Classic competitors, but Edwin Evers went to work anyway.
After three consecutive practice days on the Red River, Evers used Monday to catch up on boat and tackle maintenance.
“It was a busy, busy day,” Evers said Monday evening.
Evers placed several new sponsor logos on his boat, installed a locker bar and moved his depth finder to a new position. A service crew also repaired the trim motor on his outboard.
Next on his agenda was preparing tackle.
“I put new line on my reels, just tried to get everything closer to ready for the first day of the tournament,” Evers said. “I changed some reels out on some rods and tied on a few things that I think might come into play this week.”
Evers is an admitted detail freak, but he insisted Monday’s busy schedule wasn’t the result of nervous energy.
“It was all stuff that I needed to do anyway,” he said.
He has one more thing to do before Wednesday’s practice.
“I meant to fuel up my boat, but I ran out of time,” he said. “I’ll have to go back out to the boat yard (Tuesday) and do that.”
Jared Lintner has a unique way of dealing with a crowd of anglers in the same vicinity. (Mike Suchan photo)
It’s hard to watch other anglers catch fish around you, especially when you’re not catching anything. It’s a demoralizing distraction that often leads to shaken confidence. It can quickly become a downward spiral into the depths of angling despair.
Consider last year’s Classic on the Louisiana Delta out of New Orleans. Fishing in a small area of Lake Cataouatche, Kevin VanDam was piling big bass into the boat at an alarming rate. Several other anglers in close proximity couldn’t help but witness the spectacle. (In fact, there was a indelible image captured by our very own James Overstreet that showed one of VanDam’s neighbors staring in awe as KVD lifted a chunky largemouth into his boat.)
To put it in more basic terms, watching other guys catch fish can mess with your head.
“When you watch some guys catch fish in the same area you’re in, the next thing you know you’re down on yourself,” Jared Lintner said. “And that means your head’s not in the game.”
With the Red River running muddier than usual, this week’s Classic figures to be one in which a lot of anglers will be bunched up in a handful of fishing spots. So anglers need to come up with a game plan for dealing with the crowds.
Lintner has a novel strategy.
“I’m going to go out and buy a hoodie and zip it up real tight around my face,” Lintner said. “That way, I can only see what’s right in front of me.”
In horse racing, they call that putting on blinkers.
Being a professional bass angler is a taxing vocation. You rise long before the sun, spend long hours standing on your feet in all sorts of adverse weather conditions, and you travel for months on end.
Gaige WIlliam Vinson is sending father, Greg, some encouragement.
But despite three long practice days in preparation for Friday’s start of the Bassmaster Classic, Greg Vinson says he’s actually getting more rest now than he was in the two weeks leading up to Classic practice.
Vinson is a brand new father. His wife Stephanie gave birth Feb. 6 to Gaige William Vinson, the couple’s first child.
“I didn’t get a whole lot of good rest before I came to Shreveport,” Vinson said. “I used to think I didn’t get much rest being a fisherman, but I’ve found out you get even less rest being a father. He’s on a three-hour cycle, so I’ve been getting up a lot at night to help take care of him. But I’m not complaining. It’s the most awesome experience I can imagine. I wouldn’t trade it for anything in the world.”
Gaige hit the scales at 6 pounds, 14 ounces, and measured 19 inches.
“He’s definitely a kicker,” Vinson said.
Stephanie and Gaige don’t plan to attend the Classic, but they’ve been sending Greg daily updates, including notes signed by the newborn.
“I think Steph is actually writing the notes,” Vinson said. “I don’t think Gaige is that smart yet.”
While mom and baby don’t have this week’s Classic on their itinerary, Vinson said that will change if he’s in contention on the final day of the tournament.
“That gives me a real good incentive to do well,” he said.
There’s a precedent for new fathers winning Bassmaster tournaments, a phenomenon that has come to be known as the “baby pattern.” Fred Roumbanis won the 2007 Bassmaster American shortly after becoming a new father, and during the 2006 season, anglers Preston Clark and Dave Wolak notched victories close on the heels of special deliveries from the stork.
“I didn’t really know about that before, but now I’ve heard the rumors about the baby pattern,” Vinson said. “If that’s what it takes to win the Classic, I’m all in.”
Whether you're watching the 2012 Bassmaster Classic from the computer in your living room or from the stands at the CenturyLink Center in Bossier City, you'll enjoy keeping up with who has weighed in, how many contenders have limits, and who's in the lead. Courtesy of B.A.S.S. Times Magazine, here is a score card you can use to jot it all down.
If you're not much of a note taker, watch the Live Leaderboard on Bassmaster.com. (Plus, it's easy to view if you're at work and you don't want the boss to know you're checking in on the weigh-in!)
What’s this weird polka-dot B.A.S.S. shield? It’s a special QR code, created to make it easy for fans to follow B.A.S.S. on Facebook. Smartphone users with the Microsoft Tag reader app (http://gettag.mobi) can scan the shield and go directly to the B.A.S.S. Facebook page, www.facebook.com/bass.
Fans of B.A.S.S. on Facebook can catch all the highlights of the 2012 Bassmaster Classic, whether they’re keeping up with the Classic from home or on-site.
B.A.S.S. Facebook fans who are in Shreveport-Bossier City will have the chance to win special prizes, just by stopping by the B.A.S.S. booth at the Bassmaster Classic Outdoor Expo presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods. Prizes include Livewell passes, special seating credentials, and special Facebook-fan-exclusive bags bearing the B.A.S.S. Facebook QR code. Each evening, we’ll post a special code on Facebook. Fans simply retrieve the code from their newsfeed and present it at the B.A.S.S. booth to claim their prize. Prizes are limited to the first 100 fans at the booth each day.
Facebook fans watching at home can keep up with the coverage in their newsfeed, where B.A.S.S. will post updates from the launches, the water and the weigh-ins. Fans also get to interact with each other on the page, cheering on their favorite pro or offering their own predictions for what tactics will be winners. Plus, it's so easy to find out what's happening, right from your phone, desktop or laptop.
In addition, until Feb. 29, all B.A.S.S. Facebook fans have a chance to vote for their favorite bass fishing lake — entering them into a contest where the winner gets to travel to the best lake in America and go out with a fishing guide. Click here to enter.
Kevin VanDam sees difficult decisions ahead on the Red River.
If Kevin VanDam is going to win an unprecedented third consecutive Classic, he’s going to have to make some decisions. A winning decision. A heroic decision.
The three-day practice period ended Sunday, and the final day of practice won’t be until Wednesday. As far as the Red River, the top angler in the world isn’t certain of much, except that practice wasn’t easy.
“Really, pretty tough for me. It always is,” he said. “The river is not at all like it was last time we came. It was low and stable. Everything was clear. Now, the river is running hard and it’s muddy. It’s a lot dirtier than it was.
“I’m going to give it my best, but it’s going to be tough. It’s going to fish real small and you’re probably going to have to have a little luck in your side.”
Good fortune played a small hand for him the last two years. KVD has been lauded for making well-planned decisions, and they turned golden at Lay Lake and the Louisiana Delta. KVD will have to pull more magic out of his hat to become the first to win three consecutive Classics.
In 2010, he locked down on Beeswax Creek and it produced winning bags. Last year, Venice looked like the deal before conditions turned his spot on Cataouache into the winner. On the Red, he’s yet to decipher a winning plan, he said.
“I’m not even sure I know where I want to go on Wednesday practice,” he said. “I’ll make that decision coming up. It’s going to be tough.”
He’d love to find a spot like Skeet Reese did on his way to a Classic win on the Red River Classic in 2009, where Reese intercepted transitioning fish. Something like that is what the 2012 winner will need to do.
“They’re going to have to find a spot where maybe there’s warm water that’s got some fish continuing to move to them, whether it gets cold and they’re coming out or it gets warm and they’re moving in,” VanDam said. “The problem here is you probably won’t have any place to yourself, unless somebody can find something up north. Some of the guys brought aluminum boats, trying to get into some obscure isolated place where there’s decent water quality. You never know.”
Recent rain has the Corps of Engineers running water, which is murky at best, but the warming trend should help fishing somewhat, he said.
“It’s forecasted to be highs at 60 and lows at 40, so it’s going to get a little warmer. We’ll take it all. If it was real cold, it would be horrible,” he said. “It’s going to be helpful. I’d like it to be 80. With that much current flowing through it won’t warm enough.
“We got a ton of rain locally, but we didn’t get it in Oklahoma, where it’s going to make the river rise for days, but it’s still coming in here. They’re ripping it to keep it at the level it is. The backwaters are colored up real strong. Before, you could go behind a wing dam and it was fishable. There’s a lot of current in a lot of places. High water, it just makes (fish) go where you can’t get to them. With the water that dirty, it’s hard to pinpoint fish.”
Though he’s not sure where he’s going to finish practice Wednesday, he was asked if he had idea where this derby might be won.
“I don’t,” he said. “My bet right now is Pool 3, because you could potentially have something to yourself. Or Pool 5, because you get the most fishing time.
“It’s one of those things. Every year you take a gamble. Last two years it’s worked out for me. Last time I was here I gambled on a place and it didn’t work, and I’m going to have to do the same.
“In the end, somebody’s going to look like a hero.”
Randy Howell said he's be surprised if any angler had the Red River figured out.
Randy Howell’s Bassmaster Classic practice report isn’t much different from what we’ve been hearing from the rest of the field. It was tough, which Howell blamed on cold, muddy water that has reached into backwater areas that usually aren’t as adversely affected by muddy river flows.
But the biggest factor, Howell said, is water temperature, especially considering water temperatures were higher before a recent spate of cooler weather after a relatively mild winter across the South.
“The water got really warm, and the fish were probably up and biting,” Howell said. “Then we got this cold weather, and some cold rain, and all that dropped the water temperature drastically. It shocked the fish back.”
Howell said it’s disconcerting to practice under such conditions.
“The worst part about having the time off (four days) between practice and the first day of the Classic is that things are going to be drastically different, and you know that going into it,” he said. “You know you’re not really going to learn that much, but you have to go out and practice and try, and when you don’t catch anything in the places where you know the fish live, it really shakes your confidence.
“I’d be real surprised if anybody’s sitting there thinking they’ve really got this thing figured out.”
Howell said time and warmer temperatures should improve catch rates by Friday.
“With temperatures in the 60s and 70s on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, the water should start to warm up,” he said. “We really need 6 to 8 degrees of warming in the water to get around that magic number of 60 degrees. I noticed that (Sunday), with the sunshine out from noon until it went down, the water warmed up to about 55 degrees in some of the places where I was.”
Wednesday, the final practice day, will be a day for Howell to eliminate water.
“It will be very important to see how far things have progressed,” he said. “I’ll go back and see if the fish have turned on, and if they haven’t, I’ll probably eliminate those areas as a place to start on Friday.”
With so much change expected by Friday’s takeoff, Howell said instincts will play a critical role in selecting a fishing spot.
“It’s going to be a gamble. Anglers that play the right card on instinct will have the early advantage,” he said. “You’ve got to be there in the right place and hope they’ve started biting.”
Bill Lowen said conditions made for a physically brutal practice period.
Bill Lowen is glad the Bassmaster Classic’s first practice period has concluded. Although anglers will return to the Red River on Wednesday for one more practice day, he’s looking forward to two days rest until then.
“I’m tired,” he said. “I’m sunburned, wind-burned, rain-burned, you name it. It’s been a rough three days. I’m going to sit around with my feet propped up and try not to over-analyze it.”
While conditions were tough during practice, Lowen said he had a good practice period.
“It’s been good, not great, but I’m happy with it for the conditions,” he said. “I wish it would stay cold. I wish it wasn’t going to warm up and warm up the water temperature.”
Water temperatures have been in the low 50s during practice, but weather forecasters predict a general warming trend leading up to Friday’s first competition day.
“I got bit in these tough conditions,” Lowen said. “Basically, I’m in areas that I know have fish in them, so it should get better. I know the water’s going to warm up, so it should make the fish get a lot more active. Right now, you’ve really got to work to get a bite. But I don’t think it’ll be that hard to get a bite when the Classic starts.”
A bigger problem, Lowen said, is the concentration of anglers in the few spots with somewhat cleaner water. The Red River has been a muddy mess during practice, and Lowen said anglers will be bunched up for the Classic.
“That’s the big problem,” he said. “There’s so much of the river that’s muddy, everybody’s in the same places. It’s like a merry-go-round. It’s like an Ohio River derby where everybody gets in line on one bank.”
Lowen, who hails from North Bend, Ohio, has spent considerable time honing his river-fishing skills on the Ohio. And while he said he definitely plans to put some of that knowledge to use on the Red River this week, he’s not tipping his hand in the least.
“Yeah, it’s going to help,” Lowen said of his Ohio River experience. “But I can’t really tell you much about exactly how it’s going to help.”
For now, Lowen is content to kick back and enjoy some rest and relaxation. His family will arrive Monday night, including his two-week-old son, William Fisher Lowen, who was born just in time for this year’s Classic.
Josh Polfer has at least one angler picking him, fellow Idahoan Brandon Palaniuk.
Watch out for Josh Polfer, says Brandon Palaniuk.
“He’s got knowledge. He’s my No. 1 darkhorse pick,” the Elite Series angler and two-time Classic qualifier said.
“Because he’s from Idaho and I’ve just got a good feeling about it .. And he’s sitting right next to me. He’s as strong as my No. 1 pick.”
Polfer said he and Palaniuk, roommates this week, have had many battles in their home state of Idaho. They fished against each other in events across the state until Palaniuk won the B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Championship in 2010 and made his way to the Classic and the Elite Series.
“I got him out of the way. And now I’m following,“ Polfer said. “Two Idaho guys, it’s awesome. To have both of us here representing Idaho, that’s pretty neat. That never happened before, we’re making history.
“And that fact that both of us came up through the Federation makes it ever better, because it’s a tough road.”
Polfer is the Idaho Fed Nation president and joins Palaniuk in this week’s Classic as the Western Division champion, winning that event by 10 pounds. They’re sharing a cabin at Red River South Marina, site of the Classic launches. While Palaniuk won his Fed Nation title on the Red River, they’re not sharing much information yet.
“We haven’t really got into it,” Polfer said. “I’d be happy to tell Brandon and I’m sure he’d be happy to tell me.”
The two might not be fishing anywhere near each other as Polfer went south and said his Classic days will spent there.
“I’ve committed to locking. I’ve been practicing in Pool 4 and Pool 3,” he said. “I’m committed to pull the horn.”
Pulling the horn is what boaters do to alert lock masters they want to go through, something Polfer had not done until this event. He said Idaho has rivers with locks, namely the Columbia, but he had yet to encounter one in all his fishing.
“I’ve never been though one. I didn’t want to be embarrassed, so I figured I better lock through and learn,” Polfer said. “You pull the horn and they open the gates and they blow it again and they drop the water, and vice versa when you come back up. It’s pretty cool. It’s different.”
Although costly, Polfer wanted to have the experience of what to expect on a run. He said others drove their rigs down to other boat launches but he burned $150 in fuel the first day. And that's where he'll be fishing during the competition.
“It’s a confidence thing for me,” Polfer said. “I found some areas I really like and I’m going in there and catching them. Hopefully things stay good.
"With it being springtime and fish coming up, it should be getting better and better every day. But you never know, you’re on a river system and things can change overnight.”
Brandon Palaniuk is back on the Red River, but it's different from when he won the Fed Nation title.
So Brandon Palaniuk, you stay dry out there?
“I did stay dry,” he said after a soaker on the second day of practice. “But only because I had a good set of raingear. It wasn’t due to the lack of any rain.”
Two inches of rain came down in the Shreveport-Bossier City area, a day not fit for a productive Classic practice.
“It pretty much started at 2 in the morning, and I think that in mid-morning it kind of let up a little bit then it was on-and-off rain all day,” said Palaniuk, who won the Federation Nation Championship on the Red River to get into last year’s Classic. “It makes you wonder how far the water is going to rise.
“I heard of this place having the ability to come up 7 feet in one day. It didn’t seem to make any big difference in the water level today -- it did muddy up the water somewhat.”
While he stayed dry, the rain made it uncomfortable in his search for a winning area.
“It just more or less makes it a pain to run around,” he said of the ice-pick feeling of rain on runs. “Seventy mph and rain on your face doesn’t mix too well.”
Palaniuk finished fourth in last year’s Classic in the Louisiana Delta and followed it up with a strong rookie season on the Elite Series, where he finished just high enough in the standings to reach his second Classic. He was the final angler in through the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year standings.
While his first Classic qualification came on this exact body of water, he’s not putting much stock in that as an advantage.
“If it was the same time of year, it would play into the confidence thing even more,” he said. “I won in the fall. This is the first time I’ve visited the river in the spring. The river just sets up completely different.
“To me it’s like coming to a new body of water, other than the fact of I know the river and how to run around and get into places. As far as knowing where the fish are, where they should be, it’s all new to me.”
Then how did your second day of practice go?
“I just looked at a couple areas I wanted to look at that I hadn’t spent a whole bunch of time,” he said. “I really struggled. Today I didn’t find a whole bunch I liked.”