Prototypically pumped!

It's hard to believe I'm about to fish my 23rd Bassmaster Classic. It's something I'm very proud of, but it hardly seems possible that so much time has gone by so quickly. That's what getting older is all about, though, and this is the time of year I tend to reflect on life, family, relationships and career.

Of course, it's also time to think about the upcoming Classic on Grand Lake O' the Cherokees out of Tulsa. The Classic is the high point of the entire year for me, and I look forward to it both as a competitor and a fan. Grand is a terrific lake, Tulsa is going to be a fantastic home for the championship, and I'm expecting the 2013 Bassmaster Classic and Classic Expo to be among the best ever.

But the venue isn't the only thing that excites me about the tournament. I'm also psyched about the competition. Our off-seasons are short in the Bassmaster Elite Series, but it's been a while since we've had a tournament, and my competitive passions are getting fired up. Even though the Classic is a couple of months away, I'm starting to prepare my tackle and equipment.

If you've never been there, Grand is a big, open lake that's going to fish a lot differently than our last few Classic venues. While the last couple of Classics were "location" tournaments where the winners found the best spots and stayed on them to win, I think this Classic will be won with a true pattern. I expect to see anglers fishing some of the same areas, but with dramatically different approaches. Whoever can put the right pattern together is going to be taking home the hardware.

I'm also pumped about the new baits I hope to have in my arsenal for the Classic. Strike King and I have been working together on four new baits for 2013, and three of them could be real factors in the Classic. They're all in the second prototype stage, and that's where a new lure really starts to take shape. With each generation, we get a little closer to our goal and a little closer to a bait that you'll want to tie on the end of your line.

It's at this second prototype stage that you have something solid to work with and develop. The first generation prototype is often far different from what you had in mind. It's a challenge to communicate the initial concept for a bait to a designer. Once you have a tangible sample, though, you can begin to make the refinements that will ultimately make a bait different and special.

We're working to get to that point now. My second generation baits just came in the mail, and I can't wait to try them out. At the moment, there's a thin sheet of ice over the pond in my backyard. If the sun can just get on the water a little more, it should open up enough for me to make a few casts.

And though I may just be casting in my pond, my mind's probably going to wander to Grand Lake and the upcoming Classic. Maybe one of these new baits will help me to a good performance. Maybe it'll be just the right tool for those bass next February.

I want to get these baits on the fast track so I can have some fishable models by February. This is where work really mixes with fun for me.

Next time, I want to talk a little about how the Classic Expo and winning bass fishing's greatest tournament can impact the success of a lure and its manufacturer.

Remember, it's all about the attitude.

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