“But what about the weather?” That’s been the $500,000 question surrounding the 43rd Bassmaster Classic since the event was announced 15 months ago. A week ago, the extended forecast had us thinking the answer to that question was as comforting as your favorite Carhartt hoodie. We thought we were in the clear. Today … not so much.
Fishing fanatic and local Tulsa KOTV 6 meteorologist Dick Faurot just said this regarding Wednesday, February 20, the final official Classic practice day: “Temps will stay right around freezing all day Wednesday, bringing us a chance of freezing rain or light snow.”
“That’s fine,” responded 15-time Bassmaster Classic qualifier Shaw Grigsby. “In fact, it’d be really good if it were going to be sleeting or snowing on the first couple days of the actual tournament.”
Has this Floridian lost his mind? No. Not at all. He’s simply been here before. And a vest he pulls from the clothes rack in the back seat of his truck proves it. The vest has an old skool Quantum patch on it. Shaw has owned it at least 20 years.
Grigsby says the vest keeps him warm, while allowing his casting arm to move freely. And mostly, it’s a reminder that experience is invaluable to a game played largely on intuition, and without weather delays.
“I’d rather it’d be sleeting and cold, because that takes guys out of the competition mentally,” explains Grigsby, one of the most upbeat pros in the history of the sport. “I know. Because that’s pretty much exactly what happened to me in the coldest tournament I ever fished in my life – the 1991 Bassmaster Invitational on Grand Lake.”
Yes, ironically, with bass fishing’s biggest event of 2013 just hours away, freezing cold Oklahoma weather takes a front seat position again, 22 years after bass fishing’s original “Ice Bowl.”
Temperatures at Grand Lake were as low as 11 degrees during the 1991 Bassmaster Invitational. Tow vehicles skated down morning launch ramps at Shangri-La Marina, trolling motor brackets froze in place, rod lockers were frozen shut, and Grigsby faired very poorly.
“I did terrible in that ’91 event. I was intimidated by the cold to the point that I fished horribly,” said Shaw. “I’ve fished professionally for nearly 30 years, and to this day, I never compete in cold weather without thoughts of Grand Lake back in 1991 and 1992.”
And it’s those thoughts that will keep his competitive fire hot this week. “Rick Clunn made a comment to me at another super cold weather event soon after that ’91 tournament at Grand. Rick said he knew he was going to catch them – and sure enough he did. I knew right then that it was mental. I knew I had to learn to overcome tough weather in my mind, more so than the physical side of it,” said Grigsby.
When B.A.S.S. went back to Grand Lake in 1992, it was brutally cold again. Daytime high temps stayed below freezing, and the snow blew nearly sideways in a stout wind. But Shaw was way more mentally prepared. Admirably, he finished 2nd on a firetiger crankbait to eventual winner Jim Morton.
When it comes to Grand Lake and B.A.S.S. tournaments, things haven’t changed much in two decades. This past Saturday, during their second official practice day, Shaw and other 2013 Classic qualifiers experienced ice freezing in their rod guides as late as 1 p.m. They also admitted that when things weren’t too frozen to allow for a good cast, that Grand Lake’s largemouth bit – and bit well.
Looking a little further ahead, Dick Faurot is forecasting temps in the 20s at morning launch during this weekend’s competition days. But that’s fine with Grigsby. “Honestly, it’s like military training,” he concludes. “You learn through experience that you can tolerate way more than you think you can. It’s all mental. You can cuss the weather, or you can focus on the next cast. I choose to shut up and fish.”