Deb Johnson: BASS Reporter's Notebook

Can a pro angler cook a turkey?; What's going down on the bayou; Poche looking forward to the 2011 Elite season; A true Thanksgiving; and … Plan on it

Deb Johnson

Can a pro angler cook a turkey?

Yes, and it comes naturally. Any pro angler worth his or her seasoning salt possesses the talents and skills to tackle turkey day in the kitchen. Consider that a lunker is traditionally required to feed the family hordes at Thanksgiving dinner. Who knows lunkers like a pro knows lunkers?

We mean here, of course, a bird of 15 to 20 pounds, not a big fish. Pros release lunker bass (or, if in Texas, donate them to the Toyota ShareLunker Program of the Texas Freshwater Fisheries Center). An important first step in turkey prep is washing the bird. Here an angler would not be all wet. He or she certainly would know to rinse the turkey using cool, aerated water.

Overheated and stale water, whether in a livewell or out of a kitchen faucet, is anathema to a pro, a fact to which several pros can sadly swear. Trussing a turkey — i.e., stitching up those two big cavities and pinning down the wing tips — would be second nature to a pro, given all their rigging and knot-tying expertise.

And a pro would be an ace at making such decisions as which pound-test line to use, and which is the perfect knot to provide holding power against a sizzling, spitting turkey. Pros also would know that a fizzing needle can, in a pinch, double as a flavor-injector. (We do not mean a used fizzer.) Decision-making is a skill pros employ every minute on the water, so they could handle the big Turkey Cook-Off Question, hands-down: to grill, oven roast or deep-fry?

We can't say which way every pro would go, but we do know Bassmaster Elite Series pro J. Todd Tucker would head for his Big Green Egg (that's his sponsor). Finesse experts, who would instinctively know to keep the heat low and slow, likely would elect the oven or grill. Just-retired Elite Series pro Guy Eaker would not deep-fry his turkey; slim and trim, he hasn't eaten a fried anything in years. (It works for him — he turned 71 today, Nov. 23.)

There's another step in the turkey-fixin' game that almost every pro knows about, and that's basting. After all, the juicing-up process for a turkey is about 1 percent, give or take, from coating a bait with a bass-attracting scent.

Don't forget that a pro knows the importance of making the cut. That's the kind of knowledge that comes in handy at carving time. And now (tongue fully out of cheek) for the ultimate reason a pro and a Thanksgiving turkey are perfect together: Because their work so often means peanut-butter-and-jelly sandwiches consumed in a motel room, pros crave a splash-out meal shared with their loved ones. There isn't one pro alive who wouldn't give thanks for that.

Down on the bayou

The labyrinth of bayous that make up the Louisiana Delta suggest one thing to the 2011 field of Bassmaster Classic anglers: Scout, or regret the lack of prep come competition time. The 50 qualifiers for the Feb. 18-20 competition have until Dec. 13 to visit the Classic fishery. After that, they are barred from the water until the four official practice days of Feb. 11-13 and Feb. 16.

Anglers have been known to schedule their scouting trips up against the cutoff date; it's now less than three weeks away.

The closer they can cut it, the better the chances that conditions will be more like what they'll see during competition. Multiple scouting trips are the approach being taken by Classic rookie and Bassmaster Elite Series pro Greg Vinson of Wetumpka, Ala. He had never fished the Delta before last week, when he spent several days running the water and sampling the bite. "I wanted to learn as much as I could about the layout — what's deep, what's shallow, what types of cover I have to choose from," he said. "It was warm — warmer than what it probably will be in February — so I had nice, comfortable rides while I was making long runs to look at different areas."

Vinson said he feels more confident now that he's seen where his first Classic will take place. He drew parallels to the California Delta, where he successfully figured out a tidal fishery to finish 13th at the 2010 Elite Series event. He said the Louisiana Delta also fished somewhat like Florida lakes, on which he's fared well. He plans to return to the Delta after Thanksgiving, and a third time closer to the cutoff date.

"There's a lot more I want to look at," he said. "I want to get in as much time as I can between now and Dec. 12."

Poche looking forward to the 2011 Elite Series season

Keith Poche of Troy, Ala., says he expects his 2011 Bassmaster Elite Series season will be just as difficult, just as rewarding and just as much fun as his 2010 rookie year. "I had a blast," he said. "I learned so much about fishing by being on the water and hanging out with the guys who have been doing this for years. And I learned a lot about myself.

"I didn't expect to bust wide open the first year or two," added Poche, who qualified through the 2009 Bassmaster Southern Open circuit for his first Elite Series year, and through the 2010 Elite Series for the upcoming Elite Series season. "I'm willing to pay my dues and keep working hard next season." He recently got a peek at one 2011 stop that's new to the Elite Series schedule, West Point Lake out of LaGrange, Ga.

He was in town to make a presentation to local businesses at a program organized by the LaGrange-Troup County Chamber of Commerce, which is hosting the Elite Series event. What he saw of the lake renewed his knowledge of the fishery, which he hadn't been on lately. "It's a pretty lake. It's got chunk rock with bigger rock upriver, and sandy points, but not many docks — there aren't many houses on the water," he said.

West Point Lake is an impoundment of the Chattahoochee River, which runs along the western Georgia border. LaGrange hosted a 2010 B.A.S.S. Federation Nation Divisional Championship tournament there, as well as pro events in 1986 and 1987.

Plan on it

The 2011 B.A.S.S. Daily Planner & Fishing Guide is now available for purchase at www.Bassmaster.com. Like previous versions, the new edition includes antique lure photos and descriptions, plus week-at-a-glance appointment pages with ample writing space, to name just two of the features within its 160 pages. The cost is $14.95 plus $4.95 shipping and handling.

A true Thanksgiving

"It's about taking a few days off, relaxing with family and enjoying each other's company." — 2010 Bassmaster Elite Series pro Mark Burgess of Norton, Mass., whose will spend Thanksgiving with his wife, brother and other family members.

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