No Classic pre-practice for me

Several Bassmaster Classic qualifiers are headed to Grand Lake this week before the off-limits period, but I decided to stay home.

Practicing works for a lot of guys, especially those who have never been there.

I tend to shy away from visiting these lakes too far ahead of the tournament. I’ve fished Grand many times, so I know it pretty well.

But it makes sense for guys like my nephew, Jonathon, who has never seen the lake and will benefit from getting a look at what’s there.

Most of the Elite pros know that catching fish now could be meaningless in February because conditions will change. Those who go will spend time graphing the lake, looking for key structure, deep brushpiles and promising docks. If you use your time wisely it can help.

I’m concerned that going early could clutter my mind. I rarely visit Classic lakes beforehand, preferring to wait for official practice so that I focus on the existing conditions we will face during competition.

That’s just what works for me. It’s been my experience that, when you practice ahead of time, you can’t clear your head of those places where you caught fish a few months before, and oftentimes, those places aren’t productive when the tournament rolls around.

The beauty of Grand Lake is it’s easy to get around. It only takes 30 minutes to run from the dam to the upper end of the lake, so I’ll cover everything I need to see during the three-day practice period. Plus, this year’s single practice day during Classic week will be very beneficial. In previous Classics held on bigger water, that one day of practice made it difficult to gain additional knowledge because there was so much water to cover.

On Grand, a guy can run some spots and check his pattern in the short time we are allowed on the water.

Unlike previous Classics decided by location, I expect this year’s event will be more of a pattern tournament, meaning the fish will likely be on points, bluffs, and channel swings, so an angler should be able to duplicate patterns at multiple locations. I doubt if it will be won on one spot.

I will definitely be thinking about the Classic as it gets closer. I have old maps from when I fished there 20 years ago and will be looking at them intently. While the Lakemaster and Navionic maps in our graphs will be a tremendous help during the tournament, there is no substitute for paper map study.

Also, modern-day electronic features, such as down-imaging and side-imaging, really help us save time on the water when practicing during Classic week.

In the meantime, Mark Zona and I will be emceeing the Ryan Newman Foundation Annual Charity Fishing tournament.

There will be a charity dinner the night before the tournament, held on Lake Norman, N.C. We’ve become good friends with Ryan and other NASCAR drivers who will be attending and it’s always a great time to hang with those guys. I’ll also be doing an autograph session at the Bass Pro Shops booth, at the weigh-in site, around 1:30 Saturday December 8. Stop in and say hello!

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!


Kevin VanDam's column appears weekly on You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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