Classic ruminations

Like most of you I've been thinking about the Classic. What I'd like to do over the next few weeks is talk about the venue, give you my thoughts about the anglers and then we'll see how I did.

Let me start off by saying that Lay Lake in Birmingham, Ala., is a fine Classic venue. It offers diverse fishing habitat which will allow the anglers to fish to their strengths. Given the quality of the competition at this year's Classic, that almost certainly means an exciting event.

I suspect that the water will stay cold. That means that spotted bass will play an important role in the tournament this year. Because they bite better in the cold they might be the dominant species. But that's not for certain. Largemouths tend to bunch up at this time of year. If somebody gets on Lay Lake's green bass — and knows how to make cold water largemouths bite — they could bring in some serious weight. I do have one additional thought about it, though. Lay Lake has been the site of several major tournaments over the years. A few of the guys have history there, and a handful more can darn near call it their home lake. Other anglers have never seen the place, much less fished it. That seems a bit unfair.

Now, I know the first thing I'm going to hear — that the home field advantage doesn't exist in bass fishing. In fact, it's traditionally been a jinx. That may have been true in the past but it seems to be changing. A number of guys have won on their waters in recent years. Modern anglers are much less susceptible to history. They don't allow yesterday to trap them. I confess to longing for the old days when the anglers got on a plane, flew to someplace unknown to them, and fished as best they could with a few rods and minimal tackle. That seems to me to be a better test of fishing skill. I sometimes fantasize about doing a little of that in the Elite Series. At the same time I'm a realist, as well as a businessman.

That system worked in the early days when Ray Scott had a handful of anglers and there was almost no press coverage. At the time, it might have been the perfect system. There's no way to do that now with all the money and press involved, however. It just wouldn't work. Can you imagine a Classic without a year of preparation; without the print and film media involved; without a place for everyone to stay; without a word of sponsor publicity; and with guys dragging stringers of giant largemouths — dead as a doornail and stiff as a board — up on the bank towards the scales? Next week I'll give you two groups of anglers to watch — one from my head, the other from my heart.

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