The first three

The first three practice days for the Bassmaster Classic are going to be really important. I have three good areas isolated and marked. I'll devote one day to each of the three areas. When I'm done, I'll know them like I know my backyard at home.

Before I start talking about that, however, I want to say that much of what I'm going to tell you will be a little vague. I hope you understand. I've worked really hard to find these spots and to try to win this thing. I can't give my information away — location, water depth, structure, cover, lures.

This is the Bassmaster Classic.

My overall goal each day is to see what the area is going to produce. I'll need bags of 3- and 4-pounders to get this thing going my way. If an area isn't capable of producing that kind of weight, I'll have to scratch it off my list.

If the fish are there, then I'll start trying to expand my bite. There are two ways I'll do that. The first is to find more fishing water. I'll do that with a very specific approach. It's worked in the past. I hope it works this time.

If I have an area that's maybe 50 feet long — or 50 yards for that matter — marked, I'll explore both ends of it as well as in front of it and behind it. The idea is to see if I can find a little more water that's worth a few casts. In a tournament like the Classic, that can be huge.

This is not likely to be a slugfest or a runaway event. I'd guess that there'll be several anglers within striking distance at all times. One more fish can mean the difference between championship status and also-ran status. I've know about both. Championship status is better.

At the same time I'm expanding my fishing zone, I'll be looking at alternative lure choices. It may be that they'll bite one style of bait but that another style would work better. And you always have to be ready for nasty weather. Some baits work better under certain conditions than others. You have to be prepared.

There are two reasons I'm going through all this with you. First, I want you guys to understand what's going on. Watching any contest is more fun if you are knowledgeable about strategy.

The other reason is that what I do might help you in your fishing. Think about your local tournaments and see if you can apply what I'm doing in the Classic to them. I know they're a lot different and that most of you don't do this full-time, but you can still learn something from what I do. Basics are basics. They never change.

Next week we'll talk about how I intend to use my last day of practice. Until then, ignore the cold and go catch some big winter bass!

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