Putting the pieces together on Guntersville

Folks who know me, know that I enjoy a good game of pool, but the handful of days leading up to the GEICO Bassmaster Classic on Lake Guntersville will be all about a different type of game – this one’s a puzzle.

Let me start by saying that I’m thankful I had a relatively smooth trip into Birmingham. I hit one patch of about 30 miles where there was still a good amount of snow on the road, but I rolled in Thursday at noon and got right to work unpacking my boat and switching over from the braid and flipping sticks I was recently using in Florida to the fluorocarbon and cold water baits I’ll need for Lake Guntersville.

I fished daylight to dark Friday through Sunday and I have to tell you, Friday was a slow start. I was surprised by the color of the water and the amount of current running through the lake. Let’s just say I wasn’t dealt any puzzle pieces that day.

Saturday was a lot better and I started picking up a few pieces. But then Sunday came and it was like I was on a different lake. That’s not surprising, because this time of year, what’s working one day can change the next. The thing that concerned me the most was that I got bit on about 7 different baits, but none of them stood out from the rest.

I’m a better fisherman when I have one rod on the deck because it’s just easier to know what to do. I’ll be trying to dial that in during the rest of practice.

I think that the recent bout of cold weather has had the fish on lockdown for a while and they’re just starting to loosen up and get going with their prespawn activity. That doesn’t happen overnight, but with the weather forecast showing warmer conditions this week, I think we could see a very exciting Classic.

Now, for that to happen guys are going to have to find some key areas that they can depend on for multiple days of fishing. In think the biggest thing about this tournament will be the Wednesday practice. What we find on this day is very likely to carry over into the tournament. The reason I say that is because we’re not only getting warmer days, but it looks like we’ll see relatively warmer nights as well.

Overall, warmer weather is always very important, especially in this prespawn period. But a lot of times, I think warm nights are more important than warm days because the water temperature holds steady. If you have warm days and cold nights, you lose a lot of that water temperature that builds up during the day. But when you have warm days and warm nights, that water is a lot more stable in the morning.

If I had to make a projection, I’d say that there’s going be a few guys who really smash ‘em and there are going to be several guys who really struggle.

The problem some guys might face is relying too much on what they found early in their practice. With the weather changing for this week, what I did the weekend before the Classic might not have much direct impact on the actual event. Of course, you always want to eliminate some things early on and I have definitely done plenty of that. But my plan for this week is to really get dialed in on some key areas.

I haven’t found the winning fish yet, so I have my optimism on hold for the moment. I think, for me, it’s going to have to be about finding the right grass and the right water. By that, I mean the greenest grass I can find and water with medium visibility – not crystal clear, but a good 2 feet of visibility.

Hopefully, I can find this scenario somewhere along the route these fish will take to their spawning grounds. I think these fish are really going to be moving during the Classic, so the guy that wins will be the guy that has fish coming to him. In practice, you may catch a couple fish in an area that may not excite you, but that could clue you in on a spot that might be loaded on tournament day.

What’s interesting is how the reality of this event kind of sneaks up on you. You get out there in practice and it seems like any other day, but you think “Man I gotta get busy, this is the Bassmaster Classic.”

You don’t look for “points fish”, you look for groups of fish where you can win. If you’re not feeling it, you have to keep moving.

I’ll tell you though, from the first day of practice, I’ve been in victory mode, meaning that I’ve been practicing with the intent of finding more than limits – I want the winning limits. This is the Bassmaster Classic – the biggest show in our sport – and I can’t afford to play it safe. In this event, you have to fish for the win.

That’s what makes this tournament different – it’s all or nothing. At the end of the day, I’d like to know that I went for it.