Bryan Schmidt is fishing his first Bassmaster Classic. He qualified for the Classic by winning the BASS Federation Nation Championship. He is from Olney, Texas. About 3,500 people live there. Many more people will attend the weigh-ins for the Bassmaster Classic than live in his hometown. You would guess that nerves are running high through Bryan's whole body this week. You would guess right.
On the official Classic practice day, I got the chance to ride with Bryan Schmidt. It was a chance to experience some of the emotions for a first Bassmaster Classic and the official practice day. He talked very openly about his emotions and his experience level. The day starts early and ends late.
The chartered bus leaves the hotel where the contenders are all staying at 5 a.m. It's rare that someone is late. Bryan gets on in the middle of the pack. He usually sits next to one of the other Federation qualifiers on the 15-minute ride to the boat ramp. The secured boat yard is there. Once the bus arrives, Bryan and the other contenders get off the bus, grab some part of the catered breakfast and prepare their boat for the day. That is where he found me waiting to ride with him.
The day is a practice for everyone. The volunteers launched the anglers, including our rig. We lined up on the docks in order and were called out by the announcer. Bryan felt comfortable tied up next to another Federation friend. Surrounded by two of the nine Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Anglers of the Year would have been intimidating for him. Once his name was called, he headed out on the river where he could get to fishing.
Schmidt admitted to not being very confident with what he had found in pre-practice. He qualified last November for the Classic. He spent the next five weekends — until off-limits — on the Red River since he lives 5 hours away. During his three practice days last week, he did not get many bites so he did not have much confidence. He was smart on this practice day. He changed baits and fished in an area where he had the most confidence. Bryan got more bites in his official practice day than any day last week.
After the boats are returned to the boat yard, the anglers frantically work to get tackle ready. They also get interviewed by the media before the have to take the bus back to the hotel. As soon as they get to the hotel, it is a quick turn around and out to Elite Night. Elite Night is a sport coat required cocktail party and dinner that BASS provides for the contenders, Elite anglers, and BASS sponsors. Ray Scott, Tom Ricks and reigning Angler of the Year KVD spoke to the audience. Again the bus takes everyone to the experience and returns everyone including Bryan Schmidt to the hotel a little before 10 p.m.
Only time will tell how Texas' Federation representative will do in the biggest tournament in bass fishing. He has more confidence in his lure choices and some areas on the fishery. That is a big part of the game. Bryan also admitted that our many conversations during the day made him feel more comfortable and less nervous. He does not feel his skill level is up to a pro but has only been bass fishing for about 6 years. Bryan already has a nice resume of tournament accomplishments. The BASS Federation Nation and Texas should be proud that he is representing them in the Classic.