A true Classic showdown

With the GEICO Bassmaster Classic behind us, it’s time to focus on Bass Pro Shops Spring Fishing Classics being held around the country starting this weekend.

All of the Bass Pro Shops’ pro staff will be making appearances at retail outlets, and I’m sure one of the hot topics will be the Classic at Guntersville.

In fact, I’m headed to the Leeds, Ala., store tonight before heading to Nashville for a Bass Pro Shops appearance on Saturday.

Anglers visiting these stores will find good deals on tackle, and I’m sure one of the hot items will be the baits people were fishing in the Classic.

I know I will be answering a lot of questions about my Classic performance, which was certainly disappointing. I knew going in that it would be a tournament of adjustments and that the fish would be transitioning from winter to spring fairly quickly. I was on top of that, but to be honest, I just didn’t execute. I was around fish but couldn’t find that concentration of aggressive ones that would fully commit to the bait or when they did, I couldn’t get them in the livewell.

Although the Classic fell short of shattering records as many of us expected, it delivered one of most dramatic Classic finishes on Sunday.

My hat’s off to Randy Howell for his incredible come-from-behind win. Don’t think for a second he did that with blind luck; he used his history and knowledge of the lake as well as his understanding of how conditions were changing, made the right decisions and had the day we all dream about having at the Classic.

Conditions were changing fast during the event. That was due largely to a squaw line of storms that dumped a lot of wind-whipped rain on Guntersville the night before the first competition day. When I got to the lake on Friday, the water level rose 8 to 10 inches and the warm rain was pushing water temperatures higher.

When that happens, you get a wave of fish that move up to spawn overnight and the bite gets funky. I got bites, but was hooking only one fish for every three strikes I got. The fish were just swatting at it; some got hooked and others came unbuttoned.

Other anglers were more fortunate to find that little stretch where the water was clearer and the fish were more aggressive.

I fell behind early and had to play catch up. The day goes fast when you’re faced with that; if you make the right choice in the beginning, it goes a long way to improving your day and your success.

I hoped for 8-10 bites a day and that five of them would be good ones. It didn’t work out that way.

Randy timed it right by landing on those bridge corners when the fish were moving through. While the shallow fish were in the spawn mode, his were prespawners that were moving in that direction.

His catch and the overall quality of fish weighed in shows just how good Guntersville can be. The bass averaged 3.6157 pounds, breaking the former Classic record of 2.9259 pounds set in 1980 on the St. Lawrence River.

Also, the fans who tuned into the online Classic coverage were treated to the most in-depth and widespread in history. With GoPro cameras mounted on every boat, viewers were treated to exciting action from a larger number of anglers. The influx of video coverage and GoPro use is going to change our sport and give the fans unlimited access to tournament action. It’s taking us a step closer to live coverage of amazing fish catches – and the best is yet to come!

Remember, it’s all about the attitude!

Kevin VanDam's column appears weekly on Bassmaster.com. You can also find him on Facebook and Twitter.

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