Before he earned his first Bassmaster Classic qualification, Marty Robinson worked five years as a Bassmaster Elite Series pro, and years before that at lower competition levels. That’s an investment he wasn’t going to blow for lack of preparation.
Over the past several months, by expending the same sweat that got him here, Robinson is as ready as any Classic rookie could be three weeks out from official practice, four weeks from the Feb. 24-26 competition on the Red River in Louisiana.
“I’ve tried to do everything I could to prepare,” he said. “I’m pulling everything out for this one.”
Robinson started by staying home (in Lyman, S.C.) and studying DVDs of The Bassmasters television shows from Classic 2009, the only other Red River Classic in Bassmaster history. He also read everything he could find on the Red River and the 2009 Classic.
Then he traveled to Shreveport-Bossier City, La., the Classic’s host cities, to scout the river. Twice.
“The first time I did a lot of looking around,” he said. “The second time I looked some more, but I actually fished some. I think I put a good bit of time in as far as trying to learn a body of water.”
He took pages of notes. When he returned home, he studied his notes and broke out the DVDs again.
“It’s surprising how much more I got out of them after I’d been to the river, how I could see details most people wouldn’t notice unless they’d just been there.”
All told, he watched each DVD seven to 10 times, he said.
He countered the hours of sitting in front of books and screens with running a few miles a day to get back into shape for physically demanding days on the water.
In the final weeks, he’s focusing on getting his boat wrapped — he’s still with Buckeye Lures as his main wrap sponsor — and a game plan for the official Classic practice days, Feb. 17-19 and Feb. 22. To help in the latter, he is keeping a detailed notebook, carrying it with him always so he can write down facts, inspirations and questions as they occur to him.
“I don’t want to say after practice, ‘Oh, I forgot to try this,’ or ‘I should have looked at that,’” he noted.
Robinson is also studying options for handling potential game changers, such heavy boat traffic, or rapidly changing river conditions or weather. Locking is a decision he’s already made. He’ll keep open the option of navigating one lock, between Pool 5 and Pool 4, but not two. That means he’s eliminated Pool 3, the longest trip from the launch site.
“Even if I get beat in Pool 3, I won’t have any bad feelings about my decision. I can’t imagine, on the first day of the Classic, having to sit through two locks, to deal with the stress of not starting to fish until two hours or more after takeoff,” he said.
Preparation wasn’t a matter of choice for Robinson. The Classic itself — high profile, high pressure, big stakes — dictates that course to a rookie, he says.
“Maybe the guys who’ve been to the Red River many times, or the guys who have been in a lot of Classics, don’t have to prepare for practice quite as much as I do. Maybe Kevin (VanDam) may not have to prepare as I do — though, obviously, Kevin’s got a mental preparation that works.”
VanDam, the defending Classic champ, will be competing on the Red for his third consecutive crown and fifth Classic win overall.
Robinson’s Classic prep has included his mental game. He has determined that a degree of risk-taking is a must for Classic success. That he cannot stumble the first day and expect to still be around on the third. That feeling comfortable on the river is all-important. That being ready will make a difference in all of the above.
“All the prep calms your nerves, and builds more confidence in your fishing,” he said. “The more confidence you have, the better showing you’ll have in the tournament.”