The Bassmaster Classic is one of the most comprehensively covered tournaments in the world, and the droves of reporters leave few stones unturned when it comes to getting the stories. But not all of the lessons can be learned just by watching the winner. There are plenty of things to be garnered by talking with others in the field. Here are a few gems to take with you the next time you're on the water.
I think the thing that I took away concerns warming trends. I went from having one bite in practice in Cataouatche to catching 56 pounds in three days. I had a feeling that area was going to be good because the weather was changing so fast. I had to adapt on the fly. When it really began to warm up, that solidified my plan to go there. This time of year you can't base anything on practice. You have to be able to read the weather and be able to adjust on the fly.
I think that recognizing and adjusting to the different changes that happened from practice through the tournament was my biggest lesson. We went from highs in the low 40s to highs in the high 70s. There was also a huge change in water temperature.
The biggest thing that was reinforced for me was that things can change overnight. I knew Cataouatche had potential to produce a big bag, but I had made up my mind too early about where I was going to fish. Looking back, I would have made the run to Venice on the Sunday practice to get comfortable with it, then fished Cataouatche on Wednesday when the warming trend started.
The lesson here is that you need to practice for where the fish are going to be in the tournament, not where they are right now. Don't' get discouraged if you only get one bite in an area that you think they're going to be, because you may get 10 on the day of the tournament.
Trust your instincts. You know, we say that all the time, and I thought I got to where I did it more, but I guess I've still got some learning to do. Everything told me that Tank Pond (where VanDam was fishing) was going to blow wide open, but I didn't trust myself. Instead, I went and fished what I thought was a safe bet and caught a few fish. This set up just like a few Florida tournaments I've fished. It was real, real cold, then they just flooded the bank, but I didn't go with them. You've got to trust what you already know. Hindsight is 20/20.
I absolutely learned to trust my instincts. I'm not just learning that now, but it was definitely reinforced at the Classic. If I had trusted them, I wouldn't have made the decision I made the first day, which was to run away from where I knew the fish were going to be. Obviously the conditions were a lot different than they were in practice.
I was in Cataouatche in practice but couldn't get anything going. However, I knew that area was going to be good during the tournament; but I ran away from it anyway to where I was getting bit in practice. If you don't trust what your instincts are telling you to do, it's going to mess you up every time.