There is a uniform of sorts here at the ramp this morning among anglers, media and fans alike.
Paul Riegle, who runs the service trailer for Bass Cat Boats, favors Mike Iaconelli to win.
I know much has been made of the weather already for this event, but allow me to make a little more of it. It. Is. Cold. Weather Channel says it’s 27 but feels like 17. To this Texan it feels like 3. I’m covering my seventh straight Classic and this is the first time I’ve seen this forecast: “Next Six Hours: Mostly sunny with temperatures rising towards the low 30s.” Boats and trailers are leaking water that’s freezing on the ramp behind them.
The fans are pouring into the takeoff area, and the anglers are finally showing up as well. I just met a guy who has to be one of the most enthusiastic spectators here. Brad Byrd, 42, of Amarillo, Texas, drove eight hours through the night to arrive at the launch site at 3 a.m. "I was the first car here," Byrd said. "In fact, the gate was still locked." Byrd said he has followed recent Classics at Bassmaster.com, but this is his first to attend in person and he didn't want to miss anything.
Matt Lee's dad is standing on the dock with their retriever Nessie, who is fully outfitted with an Auburn University coat. Is she unhappy? "Oh no. She'd be in the water if I'd let her." For the record, Dr. Lee (a veterinarian) is fully bedecked in Carhartt. He said Matt is relaxed and confident.
Thanks, Tulsa! Thanks also to Dave Mercer for sending this along.
There are already a few hundred spectators out lining the barrier fence by the boat ramp. Most are from Oklahoma, Nebraska;Missouri and Arkansas but I found the Spences from Lafayette, La. This is their third Classic, the other two in their home state. Are they rooting for someone from near home? Quite the opposite. They're Palaniuk fans and think this weather plays to his cold water experience.
I just spoke with Peggy Kiefer of the Grove Sun. She's covered lots of tournaments on Grand Lake, but Wednesday was her first time riding with a pro. She was in Ish Monroe's boat and said that "the only thing that got cold was my hands. I had gloves but I had to take them off to take pictues." How about some hazard pay?
The most popular people this morning are three ladies in a tent serving coffee, hot chocolate and "more coffee." They're all shivering, though. "They promised us there'd be a heater," said Alicia Pimental. She's still cheerful, but with temps dropping that may not last long. Coffee works, but it becomes a struggle when nature calls.