Last week I promised to bring you up to date after my practice. Here goes:
I had a tough practice. The Red River has always been a "grind it out" kind of fishery for me. I don't expect to catch 30 a day here. I know some guys do but that's not been my experience. I look for five quality fish a day. If I get them I'm happy.
During the last three days I searched all the water in the system. Everywhere I went I saw a bunch of other boats. We all found the same stuff, or so it seemed. I'd love to say I found a secret spot that I'm excited about fishing but it wouldn't be true. I didn't.
And the water's down which makes it a difficult fishery to navigate; everything you want to do or try is time consuming. The backwaters are stump filled and tough to maneuver through without banging into everything and scaring the fish. With a lot of boats in the same area it's going to be even tougher to get in and out of them without causing a ruckus and wasting a lot of time.
Locking from one pool to another can take a lot of time, too. If you're going to lock it'd better be for a good reason because it's going to consume a lot of your valuable fishing time.
All this adds up to the fact that the Red River is going to fish small come Friday. There simply isn't enough water to handle the pressure like a big lake can. A lot of guys will be fishing the same areas. That can make for tough conditions and will require good, early decision making.
And I don't agree with some of the weight predictions I've heard. In my opinion it'll take 54 to 55 pounds to win, not 60. It's a tougher bite than many of us thought it would be last fall when we were thinking about coming here. I don't think anyone will average 4 pounds per fish — maybe in a different year under different conditions, but not this year.
Here's the deal, though. This is the Bassmaster Classic. It's not supposed to be easy. There's only one a year. We aren't here to fish for points or anything like that. We're here to win, to be the 2009 Bassmaster Classic champion.
The guy who claims that title will be the guy who makes good time management decisions up front. It'll be the guy who doesn't waste his time working his way into a stump field that doesn't produce or locking through to a pool that doesn't have the weight he needs.
Any angler who makes those kinds of errors will pay a heavy price. This year's champion will make good, early decisions; the kind of decisions that maximize all of his time and all of his effort during competition hours.