Thinking positive

I'm still on the Delta getting ready for February. I wish I could report I'm catching a lot of big ones, but the truth is I'm spending about 80 percent of my time eliminating water. That's not all bad, though.

If I can put areas out of my mind before the official practice days, that'll help me pinpoint more bass just before the Classic. A lot of guys don't realize that not finding bass — or the habitat that you're looking for — can be positive because it narrows down your search areas when it really counts.

We always say that you can't catch them if they aren't there. That's one of the few absolute truths in this business of fishing. We need to keep that in mind all the time. I'd much rather spend my time trying to figure out how to make them bite than trying to figure out if they're there. Looking for fish in competition is almost always a bad thing.

There are reports of a good bite in the area I fished in 2003. I haven't spent much time there, so I can't say for sure, but even if that's true, it may not be much help. That whole area will be crowded when the competition starts. I don't think this Classic can be won in a crowd. I want new areas, new spots and new bass.

Keep in mind, however, that everything I'm talking about is based on what I'm seeing now. It's December, and it's been cold — low 30s in the mornings — and that makes a big difference. Come February, the bass will likely be on the move. That means we're all looking for what we think we'll need, not what we know we'll need.

At the same time, we have the changes in the Delta that I talked about last week. None of us know for sure how they'll affect fish movements in February as this place starts to warm up. That's one of many unknowns that every angler in the Classic will have to confront. The guy who does that best will probably win.

But hey, that's fishing, and I love it. This is a never-ending learning experience. The problem with learning at the Classic, though, is that you only get a few days once every year. It's do or die, and nobody wants to die.

As I write about all this it makes me realize that the hawk is back on my shoulder. He's reminding me that this is the biggest show in all of professional bass fishing and that I'm not here to catch bass. I'm here to catch the biggest and the heaviest bass. It's about winning. He's saying, "Go for it Ike, go for it. You can do it. Don't let anyone — least of all yourself — talk you into trying to catch a limit."

I sure hope that bird knows what he's talking about.