Rubber Meets the road on the way to the Classic

The long drive to the Classic for a competitor is never long enough.

About the author

John Crews

John Crews

Virginia pro John Crews is a nine-time Classic qualifier and is a one-time Bassmaster Elite Series champion.

The long drive to the Classic for a competitor is never long enough. In other words, it seems like you are never completely mentally prepared to fish the Super Bowl of bass fishing. Ever since the last time you were able to see or fish the Classic waters, it has been preparation time for you and the Classic. Then comes the time to get in your tow vehicle and head to the venue for real. The rubber literally is going to meet the road.

As the Classic angler heads to their accommodation of choice for the practice period immediately before the Classic week, we think about every detail. Did I remember my reliable Power worms? Is the plug in the boat? Did I bring my tournament jerseys? Am I over-thinking this? The list goes on and on — at least for us that are a little more obsessive-compulsive.

Rental houses are my accommodation of choice. Whenever possible my roommates and I like to stay in houses, but we have to settle for cabins, condos or hotels when we can't find houses. Some do the camping thing. We have to try to keep our routines the same so we can perform at a high level. This is the Classic. We don't want to chance anything, especially the routine.

All the anticipation and significance of the Classic makes keeping a routine very difficult. It's hard to stay in sync. Anglers get up earlier. They are on the water well before light. There's no sleeping in by anyone. Most contenders put their boats on the trailer after dark. This level of intensity is stepped up over the rest of the tournament trail. Half a million reasons to step it up makes you do it.

During my first official Classic practice period, I went nuts. It was summertime in Pittsburgh. I spent 5 days on every inch of the Classic waters. I was on the water before sunrise, and I fished every day until dark. One day I got caught in an upper pool just before dark. As luck would have it, my friends, Iaconelli and his Uncle Don, got stuck with me. Did I mention the horrendous thunderstorm after it got dark? We had to wait until a barge and tug locked through so we could lock down through two locks and put our boats on the trailer. It was 10 p.m. before I put my boat on the trailer. The next morning was tough but it was Classic practice. I put in before light again.

Now the official practice is closer to Classic competition days, but it is shorter. That means cramming more casts into less time. There's no time to waste in unproductive waters. Sleeping is not so good until the long days on the water begin. Once the official practice is over, every angler has to know that they made the best use of their official practice time. Nothing can be left to chance now that the rubber is burning up the road.