GUNTERSVILLE, Ala. — Some stories played out as expected on Day One of the 2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by Diet Mountain Dew and GoPro, while in other cases the hype and expectations were not met.
There are still two days left, though, and if everything was preordained then they wouldn’t have to fish the tournament. The following are two of the Bassmaster pundits’ hints on the factors that might prove to be determinative.
Weather influences fishing more than any other factor, so it’s no major revelation that natural forces will shape the outcome of the Classic. But how will weather influence the rest of this derby? And to what degree?
Conditions at Lake Guntersville have been almost bipolar over the past week. During last weekend’s practice, anglers had to clear snow and ice from their boat decks before launching. A serious warming trend followed, and air temperatures soared into the 70s by Thursday. Surface water temperatures surged 10 degrees or more in a matter of days.
But just as everyone associated with the tournament was predicting a heavyweight slugfest, a cold front rushed through northern Alabama Thursday night, bringing heavy rain and thunderstorms and a 10-degree drop in air temperature. Despite Randall Tharp's leading weight of 27-8, Friday looked more like a middleweight bout with a lot of jabs and few power punches.
Conditions will stabilize on Days Two and Three. It won’t be as warm as it was prior to Thursday night’s cold front, but warm days and ample sunshine will continue to push water temperatures slightly upward. Will the lake’s bass inch closer to shallower water? If so, which anglers will find them?
2. Spectator boats and local angling pressure
Alabama is arguably the center of the bass fishing universe; people around here love their bass fishing. That was evident in the number of spectator boats following anglers on Friday. It wasn’t uncommon to see two or three dozen boats in a flotilla around some of the sport’s big names.
Likewise, there were scores of local anglers plying the lake Friday, some of them moving into the contenders’ areas as soon as the Classic anglers picked up their trolling motors and moved to new areas.
It’s almost certain the number of spectator boats and local anglers will increase exponentially over the weekend. Fewer people will be working, and moderating weather likely will entice more observers to take part in on-the-water action.
Will Classic contenders’ areas hold up to the pressure? Better yet, will an angler vying for bass fishing immortality and a huge payday be able to withstand the psychological pressure that comes with all that traffic?