BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — When it comes to preparing for the Bassmaster Classic, few anglers are as regimented as Missouri's Mark Tucker.
On Monday's day off, Tucker did the usual boat and tackle work, but also began to get his 49-year young body in shape for a grueling week on the water. Getting ready is a two-part process consisting of working out and eating properly.
"For the next three or four days before the tournament starts, I will start carb loading," Tucker said. "When you are fishing for a half-million dollars, you don't stop to eat. Today I just got back from eating sweet potatoes, oatmeal and other complex carbs. That will help me get through competition days."
Tucker estimated that he burns close to 4,000 calories per day of fishing, so eating three or four meals a day becomes necessary.
"I'm going to have to go to the store tomorrow and get some yogurt and bananas to eat on tournament morning," Tucker said. "I'm pretty strict on how I eat. If you're not, you might make it through the first tournament day, but the next day you will burn out."
If he can't get carbohydrates in time, Tucker will stock up on fatty food like cheese and peanut butter. Some form of food is essential for Tucker.
"For myself, I know how I operate on an empty stomach and I don't like it," Tucker said. "It makes me mean, so I want to feel good. Also, with it being cold, you can get the chills out there on the water and you don't keep your body temperature up like you would on a full stomach — that's a big plus to fishing on a full stomach."
Tucker was on his way to the gym Monday night to work on his upper body. He likes to get a full body workout, but the nearest gym to where he was staying didn't have the right equipment.
On the Elite Series, Tucker would go to the gym every morning at 4:30 a.m. before getting out on the water. For the Classic, he plans to spend some time over the next few days getting some blood flowing.
"Even though you don't get to go train like you do at home, you still get some muscle memory and get some blood in there," Tucker said. "It beats not doing it. I could just lay here and eat. Tomorrow, we are not going to have a whole lot to do in the morning, so I would like to do legs, squats and calf raises."
In the offseason, Tucker spent 2 to 2.5 hours a day exercising but will tone that down slightly when he takes to the road. The grind of the back-to-back tournaments of the Elite Series can wear the body out if an angler exercises too much.
As a former competitive body-builder, Tucker knows a thing or two about the right approach to working out and he insists that food and exercise go hand in hand.
"My problem is, I eat so well, I don't have a lot of fat on me, so when I start burning all those calories on the water, it starts taking off the muscle," Tucker said. "I could lose anywhere from 8 to 9 pounds a week of muscle if I don't stock up on the fat and carbs."
On Sunday night, Tucker began working on his tackle and boat, which freed up some of his time Monday so he could eat a big breakfast and lunch and concentrate on other things besides his tackle. Working ahead the night before took some of the pressure off.
"What helps is having the weather like this," Tucker said. "You can eliminate a lot of tackle, so you are a lot more at ease. You don't have to remember a million things and have to tie them all on. You can go fishing without a deck full of rods."
Tucker also spent some time Monday washing his truck and boat, as well as working on anything that needed touching up. Preventative maintenance is important for keeping his equipment in top shape.
When Tucker kicks off his seventh Bassmaster Classic Friday, his boat, body and appetite will all be ready to tackle any challenge from Lay Lake.