2014 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by Diet Mountain Dew and GoPro
Lake Guntersville - Birmingham, AL, Feb 21 - 23, 2014

Is Skeet Reese the man to beat on Guntersville?

B.A.S.S.
Bassmaster Elite Series pro Skeet Reese has an impressive history on Lake Guntersville. This just might be his year to take home another Classic title.

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — The yellow jersey is the giveaway: You know even before the magazine slides completely out of the mailbox that the man on the cover of B.A.S.S. Times’ February issue is Skeet Reese.

For those not so familiar with his signature canary-yellow tournament garb, there’s the large headline: “Classic 2014: Is Skeet the man to beat?”

Some people believe so. One reason is the Auburn, Calif., Bassmaster Elite Series pro’s competition record on Lake Guntersville, the fishery for the Feb. 21-23 GEICO Bassmaster Classic presented by Diet Mountain Dew and GoPro.

Reese reigns as the most recent champ of a Bassmaster pro-level tournament on the big Tennessee River impoundment in northeastern Alabama. That win was in May 2010, when he busted the 100-pound mark — always a milestone in a four-day Elite Series event.

Now add in his runner-up finish in a 2009 Elite competition on Guntersville — again whacking 100-plus pounds.

While Reese acknowledges that such a history is a plus, he doesn’t see that it gives him a true advantage over most of the other 54 Classic qualifiers (other than being chosen to be on the cover of a major fishing publication).

“You have the best anglers in the world competing, so just about anybody can have the right tournament and win,” he said.“Winning there, it was my time for that week. But that doesn’t give me any better odds of winning the Classic. It’s a different time of year, different fishing conditions.”

But yes, the California pro who owns the 2007 Toyota Bassmaster Angler of the Year title is among the believers in a Reese repeat on Guntersville. The strongest source of his confidence is knowing that Guntersville fits his style of fishing.

“It allows you to fish fairly aggressively,” he said. “You know you’re on a body of water that’s got a great caliber of fish. You can go out there and fish for big bites. It’s not like you’re taking a chance. The lake’s full of 5- to 8-pound fish. It gives you more confidence when there’s the potential of catching big fish.”

Characteristically, Reese did not scout Lake Guntersville, while many qualifiers did before the off-limits period began at the end of December.

“I don’t ever pre-practice,” Reese said. “I’m familiar with running the body of water and have enough of an idea where I’m going, so I don’t have to worry about eating up hours trying to figure out navigation.”

What will count will be the four days Classic qualifiers will be given to practice on Guntersville just before competition begins, Reese said.

“That will be current, real-time conditions,” he said.

His strategy worked in the 2009 Classic on the Red River in Louisiana. He won even though he had had no more time on the river than the four days allotted to all Classic anglers just before the competition began.

Besides, he said, the freezing weather that settled on the South in January has changed Guntersville’s fishing.

“What the guys learned who went there in December or before probably won’t do them that much good. Areas of grass are dying off day by day,” he said.

“The fish probably won’t be as much (in the) prespawn like people thought they would be. As it looks now, it’s going to be a full winter bite. The lake would need a week of good, warm weather to get things moving again. And that could happen,” he said.

Another unknown is the flow of the Tennessee River on the three days of the Classic. Current speed and water color are two very important factors that affect the Guntersville bite, Reese said.

With heavy upriver rains, “They could be blowing mass amounts of water through the dams,” Reese said.

But given favorable fishing conditions, Reese said, a winning weight could hit the 80-pound mark, which would be a record for a three-day, five-fish-limit Classic.

“Twenty-five (pounds) a day is going to win it or at least keep you in it,” he said. “Yet there’s potential for 30-plus pound bags. I don’t know that we’ll see (the daily leader with) 30 pounds every day — but it’s possible.”

Reese reiterated that likely achievers of those kinds of big bags could be any of the 55 Classic competitors. Yet three names popped into his mind as major threats: Kevin VanDam (“If the fish are positioned right. He’s had great success there, too.”); Gerald Swindle (“I think he’s ready; he could have a good event.”); and Randall Tharp (“He knows the lake well, and he’s at the top of his game.”).

Fishing fans are invited to watch the Classic anglers take off from City Harbor in Guntersville at 7:15 a.m. CT. Daily weigh-ins will be in the arena of the Birmingham-Jefferson Convention Complex; doors will open at 3 p.m. CT. Next door, the Bassmaster Classic Outdoors Expo presented by Dick’s Sporting Goods will be open the same three days as the competition. There’s no admission charge for any Bassmaster event.

The Classic will be on ESPN2 March 1-2. The first of five episodes of The Bassmasters centered on the Classic will air March 1 at 10 a.m. ET. The Classic finale show rated a primetime slot on ESPN2: 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. ET, Sunday, March 2.

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