The new Delta

I'm on the Louisiana Delta getting ready for the Classic. Is this place ever different! I feel like I've never been here before even though this is where I won the Classic back in 2003. The storms and the response to them have really changed things.

When I left home last Saturday, I thought I'd be spending this week reorienting myself to the area and developing a tentative pattern for next February. The reality is very different. Most of my time has been spent trying to figure out how to get from one place to another quickly and efficiently.

Canals, cuts and paths that I followed in 2003, don't exist anymore. Some are closed off with new levees, some are dry, and some places look like they never existed in the first place. It's been a real experience.

Other places I wanted to fish are nowhere to be found, or at least I have to find new ways into them. Sometimes I can do that in a few minutes, sometimes it takes several hours. Even when I do manage to get to them, they're so different that it was a waste of time to even look for the place.

I've approached it as if it was a new place I've never fished before — as far as navigation is concerned. That's a bigger deal than you might think. The Delta is like a massive maze that goes on forever. Because we have to travel so far to fish you have to solve the navigation puzzle early or you'll waste your fishing time screwing around looking for a way back to the weigh-in.

It's much like making notes on pads, maps and charts during practice except that I'm looking for ways around instead of looking for fish. The trick is to make sure I have what I need now so that when the real practice starts, I can spend my time looking for bass and trying to develop a couple of big fish patterns.

I'm going to stay down here until a week from today. That'll be the 10th and will make 12 full days on the water. If I don't have it figured out by then, there's no hope for me. I want to win this one. It'd be really neat to repeat on the same body of water.

On another subject — Becky told you we're having a baby. (Actually she's going to have the baby. All I'm going to do is cheer her on from the sidelines.) We're pretty excited about that. We had a great Thanksgiving, too, with lots of family, food and good thoughts. While I'm writing this, it occurred to me that Christmas is only three weeks away. I need to find time to shop on the way home.

Next week we'll talk some more. Until then be safe and catch a few late season bass.