MUSKOGEE, Okla. — Rick Clunn has always been outspoken about his preference for little to no practice time. In the AutoZone Sooner Run this week, he finally got his chance for as close to no practice as the Elite Series has ever had.
"I've always wanted to just go to a lake and have no practice," Clunn said. "That would be the best scenario of all. This is probably the most level playing field we'll have all year."
After two days of practice on a flooding Arkansas River, the field found out they would be moving to Fort Gibson and get only one day to unlock the lake's secrets. For Clunn, one day is plenty.
"I think we over practice a lot of lakes," Clunn said. "It will never be the way it was when we had the mystery Classics, but I miss those days."
For Clunn, the shortened practice has injected some fun back into the tournament schedule.
"I fished my worst tournament this year at Guntersville as far as fun goes," Clunn said. "This one might turn out to be the most fun I've had in awhile."
Some anglers bemoaned the change from the Arkansas River, but Clunn didn't question the decision after seeing how bad the river was getting.
"That river was absolutely the most dangerous conditions I've seen in my life," Clunn said. "We were fortunate to have a good lake like this so close."
With only one day on the water prior to the start of competition, the learning process is ongoing. Clunn caught 13 pounds, 11 ounces, which put him in 39th place after Day One.
"I started on one spot I found and caught them fast, so that gave me the freedom to expand my water," Clunn said. "I'm sure everyone figured out more today, so I expect the same to be true tomorrow."
Aaron Martens also prides himself on learning a lake without help and figuring out the fish quickly. Like Clunn, he has enjoyed the twist here this week, but he attributed that to the last-minute change of venue rather than the shortened practice.
"This lake is small so for a short practice, it was perfect," Martens said. "I wish they would do all the tournaments that way — not knowing where we're going. I'm not sure how that would work, but I think it would be the ideal situation to go into a lake blind with only three days to practice."
The reason he would rather have three days on a brand new lake is because a lot of times, the more subtle offshore structure takes time to locate.
"Usually, I can find them quickly," Martens said. "But this lake has a lot of stuff that takes time to find. It has a lot of easy stuff too and that's what I've been fishing."