It was snot-freezing cold at Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees on Saturday.
The low 20s and snow that greeted the 53 Bassmaster Classic anglers for the second day of the practice period elicited some eye-opening Facebook posts.
Perhaps Gerald Swindle summed up the situation best – “It’s official … snot freezes at the same temperature as water.” Leave it to Swindle to tell it like it is.
Crusty noses aside, others felt compelled to tell that the conditions weren’t ideal for a full day on the lake. Terry Scroggins was among those posting photos of snow dusting their rigs. The dashboard thermometer on his Toyota Tundra showed a temperature of 23 degrees at 7:59 a.m.
The snow was deep enough where David Walker was that he penned “Classic 13” on his deck with a gloved finger.
Defending Classic champ Chris Lane detailed the mission of battling frigid temps. A couple hours after leaving the water, the Florida native who now hails from Guntersville, Ala., site of next year’s Classic, said he hadn’t fully warmed up.
“It was brutal cold today, no ifs, ands or buts about it,” he said. “This is the Bassmaster Classic, so you get out there and work as hard as you can.”
He said that work is to locate fish and determine a winning pattern. And while by no means complaining, he said cold adds another element to that task.
“The hardest part is mentally trying to stay focused on what your job is when it’s that cold … especially for a guy from the far south, it can be a little bit of the distraction,” he said. “But bottom line is, accomplish your goal and that’s to go out and locate your fish and what they want to bite.
“Is it harder to stay focused in the cold? Quite frankly it is. Guys who are used to fishing in stuff like this, I think it’s a little bit easier on them. Guys who haven’t done it a lot have to become adaptive to it.”
That might include more layers of clothing, multiple pairs of dry gloves, more high calorie food, more mental fortitude.
“You have to prepare yourself for a full day of it,” Lane said. “It’s not like you can go out and fish for a couple hours, go get warm and come back. We’re out in it for 12 hours. You have to mentally prepare yourself.
“The one thing I find difficult is being able to fish the way you want to fish with that many clothes on. You have to wear gloves. They feel different, and not only that, but you have to focus on staying warm. Focus on your hands not freezing. If your hands are starting to get cold, get them warm before they get too cold.”
With ice forming on his rod, Lane said he had to dunk it in the lake after almost every cast early Saturday. It all can take away from his mission – “Trying to pattern a way of fishing to be successful in this event. The way that I do it is to go out there and determine what the fish seem to holding on, what depth they are at, what the fish seem to be biting and in what relation they are to the shore, the points, the creeks.”
Lane reported the water temperatures went from 42 to a high of 46, but he expects that to rise by competition days Feb. 22-24. The forecast calls for the area’s late February norms of lows in the 30s with highs climbing into the 50s.
Temps on Sunday, the finale of this three-day practice period before Wednesday’s final practice day, are expected to be in the 60s. The only days with chances of rain are Monday and Thursday, both off-days.
“You have to keep in mind if the water temperature gets to 48, 50 degress, the bite is going to be better,” Lane said. “It’s not so much the fish are going to move, because it’s still a long way away from where they’re heading, where they want to be.
“My overall weather assessment, with stable temps, the standard February temps, a little bit of a warming trend in water from what we dealt with in practice, it should be a really good event and you should still be able to catch fish in the areas you’ve located.
“I want to go in with high percentage of confidence that what I’m doing is going to give me potential to do well.”
Lane wants to make sure he isn’t left out in the cold.