Building the puzzle

Pre-practice for the 2013 Bassmaster Classic just wrapped up, and now it's time to start putting the pieces of the puzzle together. The Classic is not only the biggest event in the world, it's also the one we have the most time to prepare for. Sometimes that can be good, and other times that can be bad.

Putting in the time and research I did this past week is going to help in the long run, but there are many variables that have yet to be determined for this event. The biggest variable of all is the weather. Since there are no reliable two month forecasts, I'll take what I've learned both over the last week and the rest of my career and build several game plans for the event.

It's like putting a puzzle together with only half the pieces. You can get a general idea of what you are going to have when you're done, but you just never know what those missing pieces are going to do to the overall picture. Once the event gets closer, I can start to narrow the picture down and put two game plans together. Hopefully, I'll only need two — a Plan A and a Plan B. If necessary, I have the research to formulate a Plan C pretty quickly. I'll test Plan A and Plan B during the official pre-fish for the event. As of 12:01 a.m. Monday morning, we're officially off-limits, so my research moves to maps and the internet.

One thing I believe will be a big advantage for me is Lake Quivira, my home lake here in Kansas. Quivira fishes almost identical to Grand Lake, only a lot smaller. From now until I leave for the Classic, I can test patterns, tune baits and get myself into a groove so I can go into the event with a lot of confidence.

While out on Grand Lake last week, I marked over 1,000 waypoints. I idled for days and days and found all kinds of fishy-looking spots. This way if I find that the fish are on a particular pattern, I know I have a bunch more spots just like it already marked. One of the things I'll be doing between now and mid-February is going through those spots and grouping them into types — deep docks, shallow docks, deep brush, shallow brush, and so on. This will help me narrow down the fishing areas quickly during the official pre-fish period and during the event itself.

One thing I'm interested in seeing is the difference in media coverage for me now that I'm the Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Angler of the Year. The Bassmaster Classic has newspaper, magazine, television and internet media from all over the world. That's a great thing. Our sport needs it, and we anglers need it as well. I'm interested in seeing how much extra time will be requested of me now that I'm the Angler of the Year. I don't think this will affect my preparation, but I want to be conscious of my time and efforts towards the event while managing media demands. I'm excited to get out on the water and try to win AOY again after starting the season off with a great Classic finish.

Another great thing about being the Angler of the Year is that I know I am going to be the first boat out on Day 1 and the last boat out on the second day. Hopefully I can make that pay off.

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