No pre-Classic practice for KVD

The promotional season is winding down for the holidays, and it’s a time for me to ramp up thoughts about next March’s Bassmaster Classic.

I know some of the guys are at Grand Lake practicing right now before it goes off limits on Jan. 1. Although I will be making a cameo appearance with Zona at Bass Pro Shops in Detroit, I’ve chosen to stay home over the coming weeks.

Even though I’m not at Grand, I am prepping hard. I’m getting my gear ready, stocking up on the lures I anticipate will work when I get there and making sure I’ve covered all the bases in tackle and equipment needs.

I’m really excited about this Classic and believe it’s in my wheelhouse based upon how the lake lays out, the potential to use the techniques I have most confidence in, and more importantly, how the lake fishes.

Grand is more of a pattern lake than a “spot” lake, meaning once you dial in the pattern, you can run a variety of spots doing the same thing and catch bass. It’s what I do best, as I readily admit I’m not as effective if I have to find one spot and sit on it for long periods waiting for the fish to bite.

I weighed the option of pre-practicing Grand before the Classic cut-off, but chose to not do it. I’ve been there multiple times, and I know the lay of the lake and feel it’s best for me to wait until the Classic practice begins.

I don’t fault those who do. It probably works well for them, especially those anglers unfamiliar with the lake.

But it’s best for me to wait until the official Classic practice so that I’m fishing current conditions and not cluttering my mind with other thoughts I may have developed had I gone prior to the cut-off.

I learned that the hard way a few years ago when I pre-practiced Lake Guntersville.

Although I’d been to Guntersville many times, I went prior to that Classic with the intent of looking and scouting new areas that had grass. I thought it would save me some time when the official practice began. I found some great sections of hydrilla, milfoil and eel grass beds and felt good about what I had learned.

But it’s hard for me to not fish during the pre-practice. I like to catch them as much as anyone.

And I did. I got on some good ones at Guntersville that December and it severely affected my approach when the tournament began.

When Classic practice opened, I discovered that a lot of the areas I found had changed. Unfortunately, I was hard-headed and stayed in those areas too long during competition. I caught fish, but not the quality that it took to win.

I know better than to get caught up in preconceived notions, but it’s hard to avoid. While anglers think familiarity with a lake is a benefit, it can also be a handicap. When you fish a body of water often you keep thinking about places you’ve caught them in the past, and it makes it harder to keep an open mind and fish the current conditions.

You have to find a balance between your historical knowledge and the conditions you face that day. It’s a conflict all veteran anglers battle and I’ve decided it’s best for me to stay off the water until it’s close to competition.

It’s something anglers should consider when fishing a familiar lake; force yourself to put aside your history and fish the current conditions. It’s not easy, but keeping an open mind will lead you to more fish on a given day.

And remember, it’s all about the attitude!

Kevin VanDam's column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on FacebookTwitter and Instagram.