NEW ORLEANS -- Brian Snowden is making miles -- headed west from Bayou Segnette, crisscrossing and shortcutting where he can on the final day of practice before the Bassmaster Classic.
"This Classic is going to be really, really different," he said. "So many different scenarios -- fog and wind and tides." That's the majority opinion here, with everyone wondering whether they'll be the hero of Venice or the guy who figured out how to catch them close by to win the Classic.
At this point, you can't know. Snowden powers on for about an hour and a half, with occasional no-wake slowdowns for the shipyards of LaRose and Houma, then full bore again through the backcountry with bald eagles and roseate spoonbills watching.
He'd rather travel these lesser canals where he can than crossing the big shallow lakes, where "you never know what's coming, they're always moving dirt around." He shuts down in a network of small canals and sloughs. The dead end canals have been the desired things this week, with the earlier cold temperatures. "The water in these dead ends has been sometimes 5 degrees warmer."
He gets to work in a canal he had scouted in December. He notes that the low water is hurting his fishing. "Look at all that wood that would be in the water if it would just come up a foot and a half." For all his Table Rock Lake credentials, Snowden has no problems flipping dirt shallow water. "I like it a lot," Snowden said. "It's nice to get bites you can really feel, versus trying to tell what's going on with your finesse stuff in 40 to 60 feet of water."
Brian grew up in Southern California, in Taft, near Bakersfield, and became bass addicted at an early age. "I got to fish places like Casitas and Castaic in their heydays … catching 11 pounders on topwaters, stuff like that." He began formulating the plan to go pro while still in college, transferring to Southwest Missouri State (now MSU) for his junior and senior years.
"That looked like the perfect place (Springfield) to go for a bass career -- easy drive to Table Rock, Lake of the Ozarks, Beaver, Truman and all the others." Plus he could work for and work on Bass Pro Shops. After 4 or 5 years he finally got the fishing sponsorship and "it's been good ever since." But things are slow this morning. The first canal yields three bites, but none of them are landed. Could be bass , could be grinnel or whatever.
The next canal and another hookup and this one is properly stuck. "Oh, that's what's been biting me." A three-pound redfish. This trip to the Bayou Black area is an experiment -- the search for an alternative, should the weather put a trip to Venice out of the question. Brian has practiced other days this week in Venice and feels good about his chances there. And by his reckoning, at least half the field is planning to make the two-hour trip to Venice and hoping to get back on time.
As the day wears on and more canals are fished, it looks like the Bayou Black experiment may be an exercise in eliminating water from the plan. It looks like Venice for Brian Snowden. He's coming off his best year yet on the Bassmaster Elite series, only missing the top 12 and postseason play by a few points.
He has a reputation as an unfailingly nice guy who quietly gets the job done. But there's a good deal of ambition there, too. You can tell it when the conversation turns to the sports No. 1 man, Kevin VanDam. "What so impressive about him is that he never loses his focus -- he always does his job flawlessly, no matter what's going on around him -- a hundred spectator boats, ridiculous demands on his time, whatever."
It's obvious that Brian Snowden has a firm idea of what gets you to the very top level in this sport, and he's getting there. And if he becomes the second California native to take a Classic trophy in Louisiana in two years, he'll be there a lot faster.