Byron Velvick fished his first Bassmaster Classic last year. It didn't go the way he had envisioned. In practice, Velvick believed he had found the winning fish. They were schooled in a relatively tight spot that complemented his style of fishing. Everything looked good.
During the pre-tournament festivities he was polite and respectful. But to those who know him, his self-confidence was obvious. He was relaxed and ready to compete. Byron Velvick was a man on a mission. And then, like a lightening bolt striking from a clear blue sky, disaster struck.
"I headed to my spot on the first day fully expecting to nail them. Instead, it was like I was fishing the Dead Sea. Nothing; no movement, no shad, no bass — no nothing," says the California native who now calls Texas home.
"I didn't have the slightest idea what had happened or what to do about it. I let the Classic get to me. I fell apart. By Saturday afternoon I had slipped to 48th place out of 51 anglers.
The best anglers — true competitors — take something away from an experience like that. Rather than let it defeat them it makes them stronger, both professionally and personally. Velvick is one of those anglers.
As he prepares to fish his second consecutive Classic, suffering from a bulging disk in his back that causes his arms to go numb and his hands not to close properly, he's upbeat and strong in his approach. Confident but philosophical at the same time, he knows what it takes to fish a Classic, but doesn't take that knowledge for granted.
"I'm not going to lie about it, or try to put a good face on it. I didn't have a very good practice. The weather was horrible, the fishing was tough and I was bothered by this disk thing the whole time I was out there. What I know about Lay Lake this week you could write down on a matchbook cover.
"Nevertheless, I'm optimistic. Hey, I'm in the Bassmaster Classic. I'm going to launch on Friday morning and just go fishing. That's my strength. I had three Top 12 finishes last year after bad practices. I see no reason why I can't do the same thing here. I learned the price of falling apart last year. I'm going to do my best to never let that happen again.
"Don't get me wrong, though. I'm not predicting a great Classic. That would be foolish. No one knows what's around the corner. All I'm saying is that it's possible. I have a completely different mindset this time. I'm not going to let a little adversity get me down, no matter if it's my back or a tough bite. Once that happens it's all over."
(Velvick spent Thursday afternoon in the hospital seeking treatment for his back. Until the tournament starts we don't know if his back and hands will hold up to the serious demands of competitive angling. Time will tell.)