Special Bassmaster tournament announcement
Visit Bassmaster.com Wednesday, Jan. 19, at 2 p.m. EST for a special video announcement by Jerry McKinnis, an owner of B.A.S.S., concerning 2011 Bassmaster tournaments.
Kevin VanDam was on his father's small Michigan lake for a day of ice fishing. Forget those sit-and-wait, heated ice shacks. His technique was to move fast, to hunt for the fish. This, mind you, was relaxation. "It's the first time I've been out all winter," VanDam said via cell phone from the ice. "I've been so busy I haven't had a chance to do any fishing.
I'm trying to tune my skills for the Bassmaster Classic by ice fishing." He was joking, of course, at least in part. It is unlikely that hard-water fishing in Michigan could help the defending champion prep for his 21st consecutive Classic appearance, Feb. 18-20 on the Louisiana Delta out of New Orleans.
The part he wasn't joking about was being busy — much too busy for a scouting trip to Louisiana. As one of the sport's superpros, VanDam's time is much in demand. He's the reigning Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year — 2010 was his sixth AOY title — and a three-time Classic winner. He took his first Classic title in 2001 on the Louisiana Delta.
Interestingly, when the Classic returned to the Delta in 2003, VanDam ended 34th in a field of 61, which stands today as the lowest Classic finish of his life. What happened in 2003 that he will avoid this time around? Nothing. In a Delta Classic, that's just how a competition can come down. "In 2003, the area that I chose was the same area that I'd fished in 2001, but it just was not happening at all.
The problem I ran into was that there were a couple other guys in the area I was in, and it was just too small. By the time you try to make an adjustment, it's too late." There are few, if any, chances for corrections on the Delta. "That's the nature of that fishery," VanDam said. "It's one of those that has good fishing, but the fishing areas are far apart. If you make a wrong decision or have a breakdown or anything like that, you can be in a world of hurt in a hurry." He hasn't been back to the Delta since 2003. Like all of the Classic competitors, he'll begin to hunt fish during official Classic practice days, Feb. 11-13 and Feb. 16. He has a practice plan.
As he described his plan, he interrupted himself. "Believe it or not, I'm fishing for bluegill, and I just caught a bass," he laughed. "It's the second one today! It's all I catch!" He paused. "Good problem to have, huh?"
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Casey Ashley of Donalds, S.C., has agreed to perform on the 2011 Bassmaster Classic stage Friday, Feb. 18, the first day of the 41st world championship. "It'll just be me and a guitar sitting up on the stage," Ashley said.
"I'll sing three or four songs before the weigh-in begins." One of the songs likely will be "I Am A Fisherman," the tune he debuted when he competed in his first Classic in 2008. Since then, between fishing tournaments and public appearances, he's been working on more songs for a CD he hopes will be ready in time for a summer 2011 release. Free and open to the public, the Feb. 18-20 weigh-ins will be at the New Orleans Arena.
For more information about the Classic, go to Bassmaster.com/Classic.
The promise of this week's Toho Open
Although windblown and wet, James Charlesworth was happy. He was back on Florida's Lake Tohopekaliga — his favorite fishery — and headed once again into a Bassmaster tournament. Charlesworth said wind roughed up Toho early on Monday, the first day of official practice for the Jan. 20-22 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Southern Open, the season opener.
Then came the lightning and hard rain. At one point, he said, visibility was almost zero. He decided to hunker down in a safe spot and wait it out. Charlesworth, 37, first competed as a pro in a Bassmaster event in 2002. Climbing up through the Open division, he qualified for the 2007 Bassmaster Classic and Elite Series.
After the 2007 season, he returned to his former career as a surgical consultant with a medical device company. He moved from St. Cloud, Fla., to northern Virginia for his work, but kept his home near Lake Toho. He got back into Open events in 2009. In 2010, job demands, wedding plans and buying a home in Virginia kept him out of Bassmaster competitions. But Charlesworth could not resist jumping back in when B.A.S.S. expanded the Open winner's prize package for the 2011 Open season to include a 2012 Classic berth. The fact that the season opener would be on the lake he loved also helped to sway him. "It's exciting to have the Classic opportunity," he said. "I want to get back to the world championship. I can't think of a better place to do it than on this lake, my favorite lake." He knows Toho.
The bass on Monday were still in prespawn mode, he said, but the combination of rising water temperatures and a Jan. 19 full moon holds promise that the big spawners will move up. That means great catches are possible during the Thursday-Saturday tournament. "We're catching the lake at a very difficult time, but it's about to explode and be amazing," Charlesworth said. Bassmaster.com will cover the Toho competition with daily standings, videos, reports, photos and live streaming videos from the weigh-ins. Weigh-ins are free and open to the public. On Thursday and Friday, Feb. 20-21, weigh-ins will begin at 3 p.m. EST at Big Toho Marina, Kissimmee, Fla.
The final weigh-in will begin Saturday, Feb. 22, at 4 p.m. EST at the Bass Pro Shops location in Orlando at 5156 International Drive.
For visitor information from the local host, visit the Kissimmee Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The newest sponsor deals
Jeff Kriet, Kevin Short and Ryan Said are among the Bassmaster Elite Series pros who signed new deals with sponsors last week.
Said has Ram trucks behind him for his rookie debut. He is a Chrysler Group engineer from Wixom, Mich., who earned a berth in the 2011 Elite Series and 2011 Bassmaster Classic by topping the points in the 2010 Bass Pro Shops Bassmaster Northern Open circuit.
Kriet has a new agreement with Detroit, Mich.-based Uncle Ray's chips and snacks.
Short joins fellow Elite Series pro Mark Menendez as a pro for Lew's, the venerable reel brand recently acquired by Lynn Reeves and based in Springfield, Mo. Full reports on new sponsorship agreements for Bassmaster Elite Series pros can be found in the "Pro News" section on Bassmaster.com.