The stumps and shifting sandbars of the Red River have Bassmaster Classic qualifiers weighing the pros and cons of glass vs. metal.
On the one hand, an aluminum boat with a jet drive can get an angler into Red River backwaters that are not accessible by a fiberglass bass boat, which is heavier and has a lower unit open to damage. On the other hand, the traditional bass boat rides easier and much faster, and its size and features make it an all-around better tool.
Another consideration: At a high-profile event like the Bassmaster Classic, anglers want to showcase the sponsors connected with their main rig and its wrap.
But then again, a new and expensive wrap job that’s gouged and peeling from the season’s first event will look dog-eared for the entire season.
Earlier this week, Classic qualifier and Bassmaster Elite Series pro Randy Howell of Springville, Ala., was packing his jet-drive aluminum rig for a trip to the Red River.
“It’s a good scouting boat. I can run around and jump stumps, and not tear up a nice fiberglass boat,” he said.
He said he would consider using the metal boat at the Classic, but conditions for the Feb. 24-26 tournament out of Shreveport-Bossier City, La., would dictate that decision.
“If there was a reason I thought I could win using it, I would do it,” he said.
Howell guessed that, like him, at least four or five of the 49 Classic competitors would have an aluminum boat in reserve, parked somewhere in the host cities of Shreveport and Bossier City. (Classic anglers can have only one boat each in the official boatyard.)
But not Elite pro Stephen Browning of Hot Springs, Ark., a self-described “river rat” who scouted the Red for two days in late November. Browning didn’t take a tin rig with him, nor does he plan to have one at the Classic.
“I feel like an aluminum rig limits what you can do,” he said. “Any time that you chose to do that, it’s an extreme gamble. You don’t have to have an aluminum boat to win the Classic. Skeet proved that to everybody.”
Skeet Reese won the 2009 Classic on the Red River, outfishing several anglers who ran aluminum rigs.
“I hope everybody but me brings one this time,” Browning said.