The final practice

Day 1 of practice was one of the few times I've fished in an absolute blizzard. Our predictions of this cold winter Classic are coming true.

We had about 3 inches of snow during the day while we were practicing. It started at about 10 a.m. and snowed until 6 p.m. that night. At one point I was fishing a jig and trying to watch my line, but it was snowing so hard it got to where I couldn't see my anything. Snowflakes were falling, and there was too much other movement to try and pick out that little, thin strand of line. It became impossible. I thought I'd pick up a different rod so I reeled the jig in, put it down to pick up a jerkbait and I couldn't find my jerkbait rod; it was buried under snow. The way I found it was by snagging a hook on my glove while I was scooping the snow off the boat.

I did manage to stay warm, though. I feel like preparation paid off and I had a productive practice. We've got one more day of pre-practice left and it's going to be an important day. Every day you're out there you're getting little pieces of the puzzle and believe me, right now we're just finding little pieces. Fishing is so slow out there right now that if you practice at normal practice speed, you could blow by a mother lode of fish and not even know it.

I've really had to make myself slow down and practice like I would if it was actual tournament day. Guys that go into panic mode and run around too much are going to be in trouble. This is going to be a hunker-down event and execution is going to be critical. I guarantee you're going to hear stories at the weigh-in about somebody who lost a 5- or 6-pounder. A 12-incher is more important in a tough tournament than one where everyone is catching them. I'm going to focus on being slow and methodical and execute as flawlessly as I can.

All the festivities have started. We had the Bass Fishing Hall of Fame banquet last night and we have Classic Night tonight where all the anglers and sponsors of the Classic will be together with their families. It's a fun night and gives us a chance to catch our breath a little bit before the season starts.

One of the coolest things yet happened on Tuesday. I got to go to the Alabama Children's Hospital right here in Birmingham with about a dozen anglers. We got to visit a bunch of kids who had varying degrees of illness, many of whom were cancer patients. One thing that really touched me was a 5-year-old girl named Josie. I got to go into the dialysis center because she couldn't leave there to get autographs with the other kids. I wish everybody could've seen the smile on her face. It wasn't because of me; it's because she has joy in her life. It was an inspiration to me to see that, proving that circumstances are what you make of them. You can have joy even in the midst of immense suffering. It was a very special time for me. Getting to go up there and spend time with those kids has been the highlight of my week so far. I'm looking forward to finally getting this thing under way, so check back tomorrow and I'll report back on the final of practice.

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