I’ve been doing a little Bassmaster Classic reconnaissance while healing from hernia surgery.
The other day I was on Bassmaster.com studying the Classic qualifier list. I like to know my competition and haven’t paid much attention until now.
I’m blown away by the quality. This could be the toughest, hungriest bunch of Classic anglers yet.
When I assessed who has the potential of doing well on the Red River next month, I realized that just about everyone is a major threat. It’s full of river rats, shallow water experts and guys who can catch ‘em everywhere.
You’ve got six former Classic winners with a total of nine Classic championships, seven former Toyota Tundra Bassmaster Anglers of Year with a total of 14 titles and all of last year’s event winners.
Let’s not forget Greg Hackney, a great angler and likely favorite because of his familiarity with the river. Add into the mix guys like Keith Poche, Greg Vinson, Randy Howell, Terry Scroggins, Chris and Bobby Lane, Jeff Kriet, Ish Monroe and Brent Chapman who have developed into first-rate anglers capable of winning a big one.
You’ve got Marty Robinson, John Crews, Bill Lowen and Fred Roumbanis who could pop their first major win right here.
And then there’s David Walker, Keith Combs, Ott DeFoe, and Brandon Palaniuk who may have been listed as “rookies” in last year's Elite Series, but they have proved they have the tenacity to be tough in any competition.
Others, like Tim Horton, Kevin Wirth, Dustin Wilks, Todd Faircloth and Aaron Martens have the necessary Classic experience. That means a lot in a big event like this.
I’m not selling the Federation Nation qualifiers short, either. Any one of them could be a threat to win, and remember that Jamie Horton and Chris Price are making their second Classic appearances.
That’s huge. The Federation has the toughest route to the Classic. There’s no luck involved; you have to be good to get there once. They did it twice.
You might think the Classic would be the easiest event since you only have to beat 48 guys in three days.
It’s not. This is the most difficult event in bass fishing. There are so many variables —things you don’t face in any other event. You’re under constant media scrutiny. The crowds are huge. There’s little time to clear your head, and the pressure can be overwhelming. One strategic mistake and you’re done.
The Classic is a career-changer for whoever wins and the $500,000 can set up his family for a long time.
This group of Classic contenders is hungry to win and makes no bones about how much they want to beat me.
I’m cool with that; I thrive on it.
I’ve finished in the top five of every Classic since 2004 —except for one —on this same Red River in 2009. You have no idea how badly I want to make amends.
But first I have to recover from surgery. I’m restricted to lifting no more than 10 pounds until I’m 100 percent. I need to get there fast.
That Classic trophy weighs far more than 10 pounds. There’s nothing I’d love more than to hoist it over my head.
Remember, it’s all about the attitude.