Become a knowledgeable fan, Part 4

The Bassmaster Classic is an event like no other. It’s about catching fish in a short period of time under pressure — mental pressure, physical pressure and fishing pressure. I’ve said that a lot of guys can win this thing but that’s only true if he keeps his head on and stays under control. For a rookie that can be tough.

The Classic is bigger than life. Rookies have pressure from back home. They want to do well in front of their fishing buddies. At the same time, there’s the pressure of winning the most prestigious event in all of bass fishing. I guarantee you that on the last day there’ll be several legends in the field. That can be intimidating for a newer angler. There’s also the matter of $500,000. Don’t kid yourself. That’s a lot of money. It changes lives.

Add a brutal schedule to what I just said. There are constant press interviews everywhere you go. I’m not talking about just Media Day. It’s everywhere. The same question is asked over and over no matter where you’re at. Everybody wants something. There’s no downtime. That can take a toll.

What I’ve mentioned so far are only the things off the water. On the water is just as tough. Every place you fish will be marked and catalogued by somebody. Every lure you tie on will be second guessed and every time you make a cast it’ll be in front of several spectator boats. Let one get away and the whole world knows about it.

Sleep can be a problem, too. Things get to you. It’s hard to put them aside and get a few hours rest. I’m not talking about fitful tossing and turning. I’m talking real sleep, the kind that rests and refreshes you. It’s rare.

Having said all that about the rookies, it’s important to realize that the Classic is no cakewalk for the pros, either. We have our own demons to deal with.

Some of the guys will have the pressure of multiple qualifications without a win. That can get old. Others will want to solidify their reputations as great anglers. There’s yet another group that wants to prove they still have what it takes to compete after years and years as a professional. For me it’s something different than all those things, something far more personal.

When I won back in 2003 my girls were little kids. They were excited and all but, in truth, they weren’t old enough to grasp what had happened. They were mostly happy because I was happy. That’s not true anymore. I’d like to win one for them now that they’re old enough to really understand what it means to have their dad stand on the stage with that trophy.

That’s important to me and I guarantee you that if I’m in the hunt on Sunday that’ll be what’s on my mind. And yes, it’ll make for pressure. I’ll not deny that. I just hope I’ve been around long enough to handle it.