This is a tournament where someone may take an atypical approach and leave the other competitors scratching their heads when it’s all over, saying, “Why didn’t I think of that?”
Time of year, rapidly changing conditions and relatively unfamiliar waters lend themselves to creative thinking. Every one of these 52 Bassmaster Classic competitors knows that and has spent some practice time looking for the buried treasure, so to speak.
“Oh, yeah, I’ve looked for it too,” said four-time Classic champion Kevin VanDam. “It might be in the far reaches, either in the upper end of the system or the lower end, probably in Tellico.”
When Josh Bertrand was asked if he could remember a specific tournament recently where that happened – when one angler went left and everyone else went right – he answered immediately, “Takahiro (Omori) last year at Lake Martin. Same time of year. Everyone went down (the lake). He went up and found a little oddball deal. I’ve already thought about that for sure.”
It was the first Elite Series tournament last year, held Feb. 8-11 on Alabama’s Lake Martin when Takahiro Omori ran upriver about as far as he could go and found a mother lode of bass holding in a current break behind a small island. In what was overall a tough tournament, Omori won by seven pounds over second-place Roy Hawk.
Has Bertrand spent time looking for something like that on the Tennessee River and Fort Loudoun and Tellico lakes?
“Oh, absolutely,” Bertrand said. “We have a lot more practice time for this event than you do during a regular tournament – four full days – so you have time to do that. And I think a lot of guys probably did. Someone probably found it.
“The current is the x-factor. If someone found a spot where the current was doing something special and was overlooked, that’s the way to do really well.”
VanDam knows another way to do really well here – catch five keeper smallmouth bass per day – not that VanDam is going to attempt to do that. With the 18-inch minimum length limit, 15 smallmouth bass weighed-in over the next three days would be hard to top.
“If somebody totally committed to smallmouth and could catch a limit of them every day, they’re going to win,” VanDam said.
Bertrand concurred with VanDam about the smallmouth. And both anglers were in agreement about the downside of that plan.
“It’s a super dangerous game,” Bertrand said. “It would be easy to straight blank.”
We’ll soon find out if anyone as cracked the code at the 2019 Classic.