By practically anyone's account, this year's Bassmaster Classic could be one of the most exciting events in years, with a lot of fish being caught by a lot of fishermen. The Red River is in excellent shape. At least one five-bass, 28-pound catch has recently been reported, and as the prespawn season continues, action should only improve.
Over the years, the Red has humbled a lot of pros because of its changing moods, but this time, barring everything except a severe, prolonged cold spell during the Classic itself, I don't believe mood changes are going to be a real factor. Not many pros are actually going to spend much time fishing the river itself, and if they do, they're not going to win. Because it's prespawn, this one should be all backwater fishing.
It ought to be won in Pool 5, too, which is the pool where the pros will launch. Some will lock down into Pool 4, but I think those that do are handicapping themselves. Those who've spent much time on the Red River know Pool 4 tends to have a very early or very late bite, and running and locking through often uses up this time. You can catch a 20-pound sack in Pool 4, but instinct tells me this Classic is going to take at least one 25-plus-pound sack, with two other big catches. That's tough to come by down there.Pool 3? Forget it. It's too far to run and locking through two dams twice is too big a risk in this event. Still, I expect quite a few pros will end up in Pool 4, and one or two will defy the odds and try Pool 3 ... at least once.What's going to happen, then, in Pool 5? I'd look for a lot of spinnerbait and shallow crankbait action first, backed up with flipping. The backwaters here are stable, and visibility in different areas ranges from 1 to perhaps 4 feet or even better. The various backwater sloughs and lakes are filled, as everyone knows, with both standing timber and laydowns, which is why power fishing should be the winning ticket.
The flippers will have to adjust slightly, slowing down presentations more than they usually do, just because of the way these bass behave. That's hard to do, and anyone who depends solely on the long rod here is in for three long days.All of this said, then, here are some anglers to watch:
Kevin VanDam — VanDam doesn't have any particular advantage here, except that he's KVD, he's in his fishing prime, and you watch him anywhere he's fishing. Obviously, he's a master with spinnerbaits and crankbaits, but he'll need to slow down rather than use his customary run and gun style.
Rick Clunn — Like VanDam, Clunn is a master crankbait and spinnerbait angler, and he fished extra hard last season to qualify for this Classic once he learned the location. It suits his style of fishing, and he had a very good pre-practice so he's more motivated than I've seen him in awhile. Will his 1984 all-time Classic winning weight record of 75-9 fall? I don't think so.
Bobby Lane — This Florida pro is poised to win big, and he's more than capable of hoisting the hardware in Shreveport. He loves spinnerbaits and flipping, but, more importantly, he takes what the conditions give him and doesn't force fish to bite. That's how you win. He's also excited, after finishing third in the first Southern Open of the year — by fishing the same 15 spawning beds for three consecutive days.
Mike Iaconelli — Iaconelli knows how to win, and I think he's mentally ready to win again. Like VanDam and Clunn, he can and does analyze conditions very well and adjusts quickly, and besides, he absolutely loves shallow cranking. He's also won here before, the 1999 BASS Federation Championship that put him in his first Classic.
Fred Roumbanis — This Oklahoma pro (by way of California) is not quite the long-shot many might think. He's an Elite winner, topped the 100-pound barrier way back in 2006 at the first Amistad event, and he's been to the Classic before. Yes, he also likes crankbaits. If he stays calm, he should be around for the third day weigh-in.
What about the river rats like Greg Hackney, Scott Rook and Bill Lowen, or anglers with extensive Red River experience, like Kelly Jordon, Alton Jones and Todd Faircloth? You can take your pick, because any of them could easily win here.