2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by Diet Mountain Dew and GoPro
Lake Guntersville - Birmingham, AL, Feb 21 - 23, 2014

5 things to watch Wednesday

"This lake changes so much," said Lee, who estimates he's fished 30 or 40 tournaments here over his 22 years. "You've really got to be on your game. This lake isn't like Smith Lake or lakes like Hartwell and Lanier, which don't change that much. I'm going to fish places during the tournament where I didn't get bit in practice.

"I don't think it will 'fish small.' I think there will be guys scattered from one end of the lake to the other."

4. Unexpected Confidence — Wednesday will decide who enters the event with an extra confidence boost. Bassmaster.com writer/editor Steve Bowman is covering his 26th Classic. He won't ever forget hopping in Bryan Kerchal's pickup truck to visit with him after the last practice day before the 1994 Classic at North Carolina's High Rock Lake. Kerchal had finished dead last the year before at Alabama's Logan Martin.

"I think I've got a shot," Kerchal told Bowman that day in '94.

Did he ever. The late Kerchal, who died in a plane crash later that year, beat the rest of the field, becoming the only B.A.S.S. Nation qualifier to win the Bassmaster Classic.

"Somewhere in this field, a dark-horse will emerge that will be a factor in this year's tournament," Bowman said. "It happens every year."

All these anglers are very, very good. None need much of an advantage to be competitive with the Kevin VanDams, Skeet Reeses and Mike Iaconellis of the bass fishing world. It's Wednesday's practice session when a big bass catch here or there might provide a clue for an unlikely contender. And especially if the fish are moving shallow, that's all it will take — one key clue or two — to be in the thick of things on Sunday.

5. The Intangibles — You'll hear frequent mentions of the word "focus" this week, and Wednesday will determine who will and won't be able to maintain it. There are plenty of distractions at a Bassmaster Classic. A big crowd of observer boats on the water is probably the most significant one. Birmingham is known for having as many bass fishing fans per capita as any state in the U.S. Wednesday will provide a hint of what's to come during the tournament. Some of these anglers, specifically Kevin VanDam, who deals with an armada following him at almost every event, know how to handle fishing in a crowd better than others.

The 90-minute drive from Birmingham to Guntersville increases the likelihood of other distractions, like fender-benders and traffic jams. It doesn't take much of the unexpected to throw a man off his game.

Last year's Classic champion, Cliff Pace, planned to take the daily stress off by having his father-in-law drive his truck-and-boat trailer from Grand Lake to the Tulsa weigh-in site every day. It worked like a charm.

"I'd get in the passenger seat of the pickup and sleep all the way back to Tulsa," Pace said.

That daily routine left Pace as refreshed for Sunday's finale as he was when the tournament began.